Port Aransas Aug 31, 2018; TRIP REPORT

On Friday August 31 we ran our third Port Aransas Texas Pelagic aboard the Kingfisher party boat from Deep Sea HQ. This was also our first Texas Pelagic in almost 2 years since no trips in 2017 managed to get enough participants to run. So it was satisfying to have a ‘GREAT’ day for seabirds. Not only was the weather about perfect with only 2 ft seas early in the day ‘calming down’ to 1 foot seas by the afternoon, but the seabirds put on a great show.

A Brown Booby at 7:30 AM was almost the first bird we saw and it followed the boat for about 30 minutes. The booby was foraging for flying fish that the boat scattered from its path. It made numerous chases and dives after many flying fish narrowly missing its prey many times before it finally managed to snag a few flying fish meals. It was exciting to watch this action at close range. The booby was often so close pacing with the boats speed that people could get selfies with the booby from their smart phones. At one point another Brown Booby or two approached the stern to investigate us but didn’t hang around long. I guess the booby had finally had its fill of flying fish and eventually flew off.

As usual we saw a large number of flyingfish. There are a few different species in the Gulf but frankly I never try to identify the species. Maybe a few of the seabirders who spent some time photographing them can work on identifying the species in their photographs. However I did see one flying fish I’ve never seen before it was a small “Sargassum Flyingfish” and is was orange as the Sargasso we often see. Well after a bit of searching I discovered this is actually the juvenile stage and early life stages of the ‘Blue and Silver Atlantic Flying Fish’ – sometimes called the ‘Four-wing Flying Fish.

We continued to see Cory’s & Audubon’s Shearwaters, Band-Rumped Storm-Petrels and a Bridled Tern in ones or twos up until 11:45 AM when we came up on our first sizeable flock of Sooty Terns (25) along with Cory’s (6) and Audubon’s (5) Shearwaters. We stayed with this flock for a while and everyone had good views until it dissipated. This was close to our farthest point offshore which was 89 miles from Port Aransas and in over 3,000 feet of water.

At 12:45 PM we found a second larger flock of seabirds that at first they were sitting on the water. As we approached they took flight and we counted 40 Sooty Terns and one BROWN NODDY that was hanging out with them. There were also Audubon’s (8) and Cory’s (10) Shearwaters. Bridled Terns (2), Royal Tern (1) and Black Tern (1) within this big flock. We were able to follow this flock for over 20 minutes and some birds were at close range many times so everyone was able to get great views and pictures.

By 2:00 PM we turned towards Port Aransas for the long cruise home. But there was still more pelagic to come. For the entire day there were numerous showers and a few T-storms scattered around us but our course had avoided all the rain except for one line of showers on the way back to shore that we passed through for 10-15 minutes.

At 3:00 PM Justin spotted a “Jaeger” sitting on the water. It immediately took flight and lots of folks got photos and were soon chimping their cameras to figure out it’s ID. It was eventually identified as a Long-tailed Jaeger, presumably the rarest of Texas’ jaegers. About 10 or so minutes later the same jaeger was back and this time it was after a passerine we had spotted. We watched in amazement (or horror depending on your point-of-view) as the jaeger attacked and killed the hapless Yellow-breasted Chat. The jaeger then proceeded to pluck it’s feathers and start to eat the poor little birdie. It was a natural history spectacle that not many of our seabirders have seen before.

Continuing on two pods of dolphins found us and both came jumping our way for some playful bow riding. The first pod was about 6 Pelagic Bottlenosed Dolphins that only stayed with the boat for a couple minutes. Later the second pod was about 20 + Atlantic Spotted Dolphins that were both bow riding and wake surfing for about 10 minutes. Of course dolphins are always a crowd pleaser and the Atlantic Spotteds were lifer mammals for many on board.

We finally passed a few shrimp boats anchored along our course towards shore but they help only a few of the usual shrimp boat gang of Laughing Gulls, Royal and Sandwich Terns.

In summary we collectively tallied 9 seabird species and 123 individual seabirds; a very good total for both numbers. 123 individual seabirds ranks in 10th place amoung the 70 Texas Pelagic trips that I have records for all the way back to 1990. And 9 seabird species or more have only been found on 9 Texas Pelagic trips out of 70.

I want to thank all of our participants who came out with us today, and especially welcoming the 17 birders (now seabirders) for whom this was their first or maybe only second experience birding offshore. From what I read on the Texas Pelagics FB group posts everyone enjoyed the experience, and it was a perfect day. Of course many of the newbies got many life birds (and mammals) today as well, always a nice bonus. I hope we’ve converted at least a few of you into pelagic enthusiasts who will want to come out with us again, and maybe multiple times.

As an aside, for many Texas birders Texas Pelagic trips are their first experience with pelagic seabirding and a good place to try out your sea legs. We offer what can be a great pelagic experience that is closer to home than traveling to either coast. Many of our Texas Pelagic seabirders become so enthralled with pelagic birding that they eventually travel far to either US coast or even to other continents to experience pelagic birding around the world. That is my personal experience too.

Finally I want to thank our pelagic leaders in alphabetical order: Arman Moreno, John O’Brien, Justin Bosler, Mary Gustafson and Petra Hockey whose tireless dedication helps make all our trips a success. And I want to thank our Captain Marvin, Second Captain Jon McIntyre, and Mate Peewee for doing a great job as well.

FINAL TRIP LIST :

TOTAL PELAGIC SPECIES = 9
TOTAL PELAGIC SEABIRDS = 123
Cory’s (Scopoli’s) Shearwater – 22
Cory’s (Borealis) Shearwater – (? – I’m not sure how many Cory’s were positively ID’d as Borealis)
Audubon’s Shearwater – 17
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel – 6
Magnificent Frigatebird- 1
Brown Booby 3 or 4
* Brown Noddy – 1
Sooty Tern – 67
Bridled Tern – 4
Long-tailed Jaeger – 1 (taking down a Yellow-breasted Chat and eating it on the water)
shearwater sp. – 1

*- Texas BRC review species

NEARSHORE SEABIRD Sp: – 6
Laughing Gull – 18
Least Tern – 2
Black Tern – 154
Common Tern – 1
Royal Tern – 18
Sandwich Tern – 4

LANDBIRD MIGRANTS
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron – 5 (some ID’d these as Little Blue Herons or Tricolored Herons, but I think sopmeone has photo’s of YCNH)
passerine sp. – 1
Least Sandpipers – 5
Yellow-breasted Chat – 1
Swallow sp. – 1

MARINE MAMMAL Sp: – 2
Bottlenose Dolphins – 6
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins – 20+

FISH Sp.
Flyingfish – at least 2 Sp.

Good seabirding,
Gary Hodne
Organizer of www.TexasPelagics.com
The Woodlands, TX

Tons of photos from our participants and leaders have been posted to the Texas Pelagics Facebook group. to view them and / or join the group  Click here

I’ll be adding a few graphs and maps of weather, sea and oceanographic conditions later.

GOOGLE MAP OF GPS COORDINATES OF 2018 TRACKS and SIGHTINGS:

Click on the box in the upper right of the map to view a larger map.

Click on the box in the upper left of the map to view the map legend.

Click on each Pelagic Course and the data label will appear with the date of the trip.

EBIRD LINKS TO SIGHTINGS FOR PARTICIPANTS ONLY:

To accept this checklist into your eBird account, click on the link below:

https://ebird.org/shared?subID=UzQ4ODY4MDU2&s=t

https://ebird.org/shared?subID=UzQ4ODY4MDU2&s=t

https://ebird.org/shared?subID=UzQ4ODY4MDU1&s=t

https://ebird.org/shared?subID=UzQ4ODY4MDUz&s=t

https://ebird.org/shared?subID=UzQ4NzMzNzQy&s=t

https://ebird.org/shared?subID=UzQ4ODY4MDUy&s=t

You will then be able to view, edit, or delete it. Learn more about eBird’s checklist sharing process at

http://help.ebird.org/customer/portal/articles/1010555-understanding-the-ebird-checklist-sharing-process

Leave a Reply