Subject: South Padre Island Pelagic Report November 15, 2009
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2009
From: Mary Gustafson
Once again the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival hosted a pelagic trip on the Osprey II out of South Padre Island.
Seas were churned up leaving the harbor after an early morning thunderstorm moved through, and they never calmed down all day.
Photos are greatly desired, please send photos to Gary Hodne for the Texas Pelagics website. Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The day started with a Magnificent Frigatebird that flew by the stern giving us good if not long looks at the only Frigatebird of the day.
Franklin's Gulls were mixed in with the Laughing Gull flocks on the way out. We spent some time at a shrimp boat about 20 miles out and
saw a Parasitic Jaeger beating up on the Laughing Gulls. We glimpsed another unidentified distant jaeger as well.
Oddly three Redhead fly by us before we got to the next shrimp boat, no idea what they were doing so far offshore. A huge adult
Green Sea Turtle caused us to turn the boat around for a better look. The turtle was amazingly confiding and easy to spot in the
rough seas (over 6 foot by now). It would be great to see some photographs of this huge turtle to double-check the at sea identification!
The second shrimp boat had another Parasitic Jaeger harassing the gulls. An unidentified Sulid (probably Masked Booby) was
spotted in flight by a very few people but not identified. There were many sharks under the shrimp boat, mostly small
black-tipped sharks but some other species.
About 40 miles out we came to a third shrimp boat with some Sandwich and Common Terns in attendance as well as the expected
Bottlenose Dolphins. Now in 8 foot seas that were making birding difficult and in waters nearly too deep for the shrimpers,
we turned around and headed in. We were able to relocated the Green Sea Turtle, still loafing near the same shrimp boat.
A Northern Gannet flew by and was seen by 2 birders.
Red tide has been a problem in the South Padre Island area for several weeks. The red tide in the nearshore waters seemed
to really limit the bird activity. I had hoped we could sort through flocks of gulls and terns on the way in, but the very
limited numbers of birds had us back to the dock early.
Those in the vans from the RGVBF were treated to a pair of Aplomado Falcons perched on telephone poles along US 100 on the
return trip to the Harlingen Convention Center.
Thanks to all the leaders and spotters on this trip, Gavin Bieber, Eric Carpenter, Cameron Cox, Jon Dunn, Richard Gibbons,
and Brad McKinney, and the great folks from the Osprey for their hard work on this and all the other pelagics.
Mary Gustafson Mission, Texas