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S. Padre Is Sept 22, 2018 TRIP REPORT

I was obsessively watching the marine weather forecast in the week leading up to this past Saturday’s TX Pelagic from South Padre Island and NOAA had been consistently forecasting 2 to 4 foot seas for Thursday through Saturday. A frontal system in West Texas wouldn’t be reaching the Gulf Coast until early next week, but by Wednesday the winds and seas started increasing from 1 foot to 4+ feet ahead of the front. So on Friday as I (and everyone else) was preparing to leave for the 400 mile drive to S. Padre Island I was happily surprised to see that Friday morning’s 4:00 AM marine forecast for Saturday was revised and now predicted seas of 2 feet or less! Someone on the night shift at NOAA thought the front had stalled to the west. Well that marine weather forecast turned out to be a “False Alarm”. On Saturday at 4:30 AM as 47 seabirders gathered at the Osprey dock we were looking at seas that would start out in the 4 foot + range. Anything over 5 feet and we usually wouldn’t run trips. It was forecast to calm down by midday however so we went ahead. Similar to the last trip from Port Aransas for about one third of the participants this would be their first Pelagic experience, I always hope they aren’t disappointed.  Seabird activity started early soon after sunrise with 4 Magnificent Frigatebirds and a Parasitic Jaeger at the first and only shrimp boat we visited on the way out. The morning’s activity continued with a lone Cory’s Shearwater and then a Masked Booby that circled the boat a few times to see if we were at all interesting giving everyone great views and photo ops. A few singles and a pair of Audubon’s Shearwaters gave decent views. A Brown Booby came in to investigate us allowing...

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...

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...

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