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Port Aransas July 23, 2016 TRIP REPORT

Share The July 23rd Texas Pelagic was the first trip from Port Aransas since 2003 over 13 years ago and it was FABULOUS! This was our first time onboard the Kingfisher boat in Port Aransas and I knew right off the bat that the boat exceeded my expectations. As soon as we cleared the harbor Captain Marvin throttled up the Kingfisher and we could all tell the Kingfisher was moving faster than we usually do. My GPS confirmed that we were exceeding 16 knots just as advertised. That’s only a couple knots faster than we we’re used to but it is definitely noticeable on the water, and over the course of 16 hours it means we can cover a lot more water and make it to the shelf edge faster. Calm 2 foot seas made for an easy and fast ride towards the shelf edge. In the predawn hours a distant thunderhead flashed bright with lightening and rain storms were off in the distance but as the morning progressed these all dissipated. We were already over 40 nautical miles offshore around daybreak and David and I were betting on what would be our first seabird of the day. Neither of us were right though as it turned out to be a Leach’s Storm-Petrel at 6:53am. Then the first flying fish started scattering from the boats bow and by 7:24 am we had a nice flock of 12 Cory’s Shearwaters obligingly sitting on the water. From all the photo’s already posted to the Texas Pelagics FaceBook group I appears that most or all of these were Scopoli’s Shearwater which is likely to be a future split from the nominate Cory’s Shearwater that is more typically found off the East Coast of the US. The seas were gradually getting smoother as the morning progressed and remained in the less than 2...

S Padre Is June 4, 2016 TRIP REPORT:

Share We kicked off the 2016 Texas Pelagic season from South Padre Island with about 2-3 foot seas as we cleared the jetties. There was a large squall line about 30 miles to the north of us that was moving away from our location. To our north lightening flashed in the far distance from the huge line of thunderstorms that extended from north of Port Mansfield hundreds of miles to past Houston according to weather radar. This was part of the same huge low pressure system that has been rotating counterclockwise over Texas for more than a week bringing record rainfalls and flooding to large parts of the state. This was fortunate for the time being but the trip was still somewhat weather challenged. As sunrise approached we found ourselves in a half and half weather pattern. To the south of us the skies were clear. As we progressed eastward towards the shelf edge the skies to the west of us gradually clouded up as another band of storms formed gradually heading in our direction. The only birds we saw over the shelf were a few Royal Terns and a couple Black Terns. No shrimpers were present because the shrimp season hadn’t started yet, so there was little reason to linger anywhere over the shelf. We didn’t spot our first seabird, a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, until we were well beyond the shelf edge at 10:14 am. This was followed by another half dozen storm-petrels some of which were close enough to ID as Leach’s and Band-rumped, while others stayed just a bit too far out to be sure if they were either Leach’s or Band-rumpeds. We had a bit of excitement at 10:24 when a wheeling and arcing shearwater put on its best imitation of a Pterodroma petrel. The winds had starting gusting to over 20 mph then as a...

S Padre Island TEXAS PELAGICS – Oct 10, 2015 Trip Report

Share There was a stiff north wind blowing as we waited at the dock preparing to sail on our 5th Texas Pelagic trip of 2015. The wind kicked up the bay waters into an unusual chop since we were on the windward side of the bay with north winds and the Osprey was rocking in its dock. The day before south Texas and the Rio Grande Valley had been treated to an extensive area of heavy showers that washed through the region and had moved offshore on Friday night. The current wave height was still under 3 ft at buoy 42020 and the forecast was still calling for 2-3 ft seas. Capt Bobby said to me in passing “You let me know if it’s too rough when we get out there.” I questioned him “Do you think it will be?” He replied “I don’t know maybe this is just a local squall?” Well I didn’t like the sound of that. So we proceeded out and once we cleared the jetties it was still only about a 3 foot swell. So far, so good. As the day dawned the sky was very dramatic with distant rain showers mostly off to the south and east, interspersed with patches of clear sky. Sunrise added a beautiful illumination to the clouds and highlighted the scattered rain showers. We cruised through two brief showers and just to the north of another larger shower. Nine different flocks of distant migrating ducks flew by heading south. Some were identified as Blue-winged Teal, others were just too far away. Also small flocks of migrating Great Blue Herons and Cattle Egrets were heading south. As the sun rose higher we were treated to a complete double rainbow off the stern that persisted for what seemed like an hour. Then we found our first seabird of the day at...

S Padre Island TEXAS PELAGICS – Sept 19, 2015 Trip Report

Share After seeing 8 foot seas recorded by NOAA Buoy 42020 on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning it was a relief to see a forecast for only 2 to 3 foot seas for Saturday. And following such a phenomenal trip three weeks ago everyone at the dock was hoping for a repeat performance today. With an early 5:30 am start we sailed a good hour in pitch blackness. In the dark the seas seemed rougher than 3 feet and were probably more in the 4 foot range with the occasional 5 foot swell. A brief sprinkle of rain right at first light awakened those trying to sleep out on the open upper deck. Luckily for us as within a minute or two our just awakened sharp-eyed leader Kelly Smith spotted our first seabird the only Cory’s Shearwater of the day before sunrise. It was very close to the boat and passed right in front of the bow just feet away to the delight of the bow crowd. After a beautiful sunrise the seas were calming down some and by 8 am were more in the 3 foot range and would continue to calm down throughout the day. It wasn’t long before we had our first 2 Audubon’s Shearwaters. We would continue to see single Audubon’s Shearwaters at regular intervals up until 2pm. A distant Masked Booby seemed uninterested in coming over to investigate us like Boobies usually do. Looking at Dwight Peak’s photos of the distant bird at maximum zoom we wondered if it may have been an immature Northern Gannet? (Awaiting photo confirmation of that.) A flock of our first 6 Bridled Terns signaled our arrival in deep pelagic waters over 600 ft. As we passed the shelf-slope break at 9:00am I announced for everyone to be on the lookout for whale blows. Shortly thereafter as if on...

S Padre Island TEXAS PELAGICS August 29, 2015 Trip Report

Share Leach’s Storm Petrel Bonanza Sets New Record for Highest Number Ever Seen in Texas. Hi Seabirders, The end of August is a great time for a Texas Pelagic trip and when the weather cooperates, like it did this day, I just know good things can happen. We had to adjust the trip times and shorten it by 2 hours due to Osprey’s owners concerns about maintenance issues. So we wouldn’t be able to reach the hoped for objective of the Camel’s Head. Never-the-less with 14 hours we would have a lot of time in ultra-deep pelagic waters and would make it out to 3,000 ft waters depth. As of 4:00am Buoy 42020 was reading about 2 foot seas and the forecast was for 2-3 ft seas for the day. It would never get over 2 foot seas for the day. As we cleared the S Padre Island jetties in the full moonlit night you could hardly tell we had reached the open Gulf by the wave action. But gradually the 2 foot seas lulled a number of tired birders to sleep at various nooks all over the rubberized deck. As the first hints of a lightening sky appeared birders began to ready themselves for the day ahead. We were treated to a beautiful moonset and about 30 minutes later a beautiful sunrise. Shortly after sunrise the first birds of the day Royal Terns flew by then like a fighter plane in hot pursuit a Pomarine Jaeger harassed them off into the distance. The next bit of excitement would come in the form of 6 Atlantic Spotted Dolphins that caught up with the boat for a brief bow joy ride. We reached the shelf edge drop-off around 9:00am and as soon as we did things really started to happen. Our first group of 4 Storm-Petrels all were Leach’s. A...

S Padre Is TEXAS PELAGIC August 8, 2015 Trip Report

Share August 8th’s Texas Pelagic yielded a record number of Leach’s Storm-petrels for Texas.  The second Texas Pelagic for 2015 encountered seas that were a bit rougher that some of us would preferred, but never-the-less we had a good day at sea. Seas in the morning were about 3-4 feet with the occasional 5 footer that made captain Bobby throttle back every few minutes to ease over the larger waves as we headed due east into the southeasterly seas. The skies were cloudless and the temps a balmy 85 degrees. What was very notable for the day was what really couldn’t be seen. A well-developed cold core eddy was impinging on the shelf edge directly east of South Padre Island and was what we were headed for. It was bounded to the northeast and southeast by warm core eddies spun off the Gulf’s Loop current probably many months earlier.  As we passed by a few shrimp boats on the way out over the shelf we came across our first 2 Pomarine Jaegers of the day. One very cooperative dark-morph Pomarine gave us a nice show as it chased and harassed Royal Terns for their breakfast of shrimp boat by-catch.  We arrived in deep waters at the shelf edge around 10am. And almost as soon as we did we had our first flock of Storm-Petrels. The flock was flushed off the water as we approached and scattered in every direction. What was amazing was the large number of Leach’s Storm Petrels, it seemed most of what was photographed turned out to be a Leach’s, rather than the default Band-rumped Storm Petrel. During the next 4 hours we encountered three separate flocks of Storm-Petrels and while it’s hard to say for sure it seemed that the majority of them were Leach’s. We counted a total of 21 Storm-Petrel’s with at least 6...

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