Testimonials from Participants and Leaders

After our last Texas Pelagic on August 29th, 2015 I posed this question to anyone on The Texas Pelagics Facebook group page:

Garett Hodne: I have a question for the group, especially to those of you on the August 29th Texas Pelagic: Now that you have seen a Whale and a Whale Shark and had such a spectacular trip are you more excited than ever about taking your next Texas Pelagic trip or are you ready to give up Texas Pelagics figuring it can’t get any better? We had a discussion about this on the boat. Someone suggested that if you saw everything on one trip then you’d have no reason to come back. I didn’t think it worked that way.

Bert Duplessis: My first ever Texas Pelagics trip yesterday (Sat 29 Aug) out of S. Padre Island certainly exceeded my expectations!  Being a newbie of course every pelagic species except the Frigate-bird was a lifer!  Can’t beat that!! 

But beyond that I was very impressed with the overall organization, with the boat itself (plenty of space even with a big camera) and most importantly with the quality of the leaders.  The information which was imparted about each sighting – particularly by Mary Gustafson – was amazing.  Really made the outing a superb educational experience. 

Thanks for your personal input as well, your concern for the well-being of the participants was very much appreciated.

I will definitely be back, although it might be a while due to other commitments.

Robin Zurovec: Omg! I am more excited! I want more! I still really want to go to the camels head. I still can’t believe l got to see all those goodies.

Think of how many. more things there are to see!

Don’t forget about the Great Shearwater! That was a beautiful bird. 4 masked boobies flying by

Sheryll Barker: ^What Robin said^

Kelly Walker: There’s no way to see “everything”!!! How many has Debi Love Shearwater been on? I bet she hasn’t seen it all and I know she still has her PASSION!

Kelly Smith (Leader): The last few pelagics have given me 250 melon-headed whales and sperm whales, a tropicbird, a Jaeger-Sooty Tern-Sora trifecta in one photo, a booby selfie, more Leach’s Storm-Petrels than I ever thought I would see, and a Whale Shark. That is just on the last five or six trips. No reason to stop going now. Can you imagine if I had thought we wouldn’t top the last three trips of last year and had skipped out on the last trip?!

AND I am finally getting to meet some of the people I am Facebook friends with, but have never met in real life. Even when the birding is slow, the conversations and camaraderie are great!

Garett Hodne: Kelly Smith I like the way you think. The more trips you go on the more you will see. And there are still a lot of mammals we haven’t seen yet, that we know are out there.

John Karges: Every trip is different (based on my massive sample size of n=3) and each holds promise of discoveries or truly remarkable sightings. Also, because of the novelty of the pelagic realm, there’s a fear of missing out, not that I could have gone on all trips this year. Someone should have once said, “a dry hook catches no fish”.

Then there’s the social aspect, as Kelly’s mentioned, the camaraderie, we’re all in the same boat.

A bunch of like-minded enthusiastic naturalists sharing the anticipation and then thrills, much more accentuated on the sea than on land somehow. True friendships that have formed, from casual FB acquaintances or new introductions to the awe I have for skilled pelagic birders who know those birds too like they know peeps and confused fall warblers, all good peeps. And the prospects of reunions on the next trip is another joy to anticipate.

Let’s find a Mola Mola like they do on the Left Coast, given that you can skip a rock out to the continental shelf from shore there.

Mary Gustafson (Leader): I’ll be back!

Susan Strasevicz: It was my first Pelagic and I would go back! The birds were amazing and seeing all the extras – whales, etc., just made it more special. All of the leaders did such a great job and were very helpful. Thank you all for such a great first time!!

Rick Laughlin: Heck, Sarah and I were on the 08August trip with much less excitement… And we came home and signed up for the September trip! There’s a 0% chance of seeing a whale shark with our butts on the couch! Not to mention the chance to be on a boat with other like-minded yahoos looking for freaking birds in the middle of the ocean!

Garett Hodne: Well Rick and Sarah Laughlin September is the best month, so we just never know?

Rick Laughlin: So your saying we’ll definitely have a whale shark? Or we’ll most certainly have a whale shark?

Garett Hodne: You just never know?

Linda Rockwell: I’ve done pelagics on in Kaua’i. Looking forward to TX first in November!

Ruben Rangel: I’m in

Carlton Collier: Every pelagic is like a box of chocolate. There is always a possibility of something new showing up on the Texas coast.

Debi Love Shearwater: Look, if you take all my days at sea and smash them all together, you’ll come to 5 YEARS. So, that’s 365 x 5 – minimum. The thing I can tell you is this: YOU CAN’T STOP, YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT ALL. YOU’LL NEVER GET TO THAT. I’ve covered all of the world’s oceans & most of the seas, from one end of Earth to the other. BUT: on 6 September, I saw something at sea and could not figure out what is was. Now, that alone is questionable, because I should be able to figure out everything. So, we checked it out, of course. Turned the boat around. It turned out to be the head remains of a HARBOR SEAL with GREAT WHITE SHARK teeth marks in the carcass. The shark had bitten that seal in half right in front of us, but we did not see the action. THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING OUT THERE FOR YOU. NEVER DOUBT THAT.

Garett Hodne: The oceans are just too vast and beyond imagination!

John Karges: The ocean is a desert with its life underground and the perfect disguise above (excepting seabirds and flying fish)

Garett Hodne: John isn’t that a song?

Cindy Machac: It was our first ever……We Loved It … Out friends couldn’t believe we were going that far out without fishing poles/rods ! …… & are looking into buying a boat that can get us out there whenever we want !

But will still go on at least 1 Pelagic trip per year with your group !

Graham Floyd: I would quit while you are ahead

Garett Hodne: You seem to be in the minority, didn’t you get seasick?

Andrew Donnelly: I’m not sure it can get any better than that trip. But that doesn’t mean you give up on it. Honestly, I was a little burned out on Texas pelagics after a couple of really slow trips, between that and summer travel and the whole kid thing I hadn’t gone on one for 4-5 years. But I am thinking that I’ll be back as much as possible in the future. And really as much for the non-bird critters and the opportunity to work on seabird ID. There’s nothing quite like being out on the open ocean looking for whatever mother nature heads your way.

Cameron Carver: I’m really sad that I have been too busy with work to make any Texas pelagics. I would go on every one of them if I could.

Stennie Stirling Meadours: I definitely want to go on more….does a birder stop birding after they see good birds? Need I say more! Plus, I share Petra’s passion for being at sea. I’m now hoping to go on another this season.

Colette Micallef: Endless Possibilities Birds, Mammals, and Fish and if you missed out on those, Moon setting, Sun Rising, Sun setting Beautiful Water and a vast amount of knowledge from some Awesome Leaders. Like Cameron said, I would go on every one of them if I could.

Gary Eugene Binderim:  I will be back, It’s fun and I have a lot to learn about Pelagic Birds.

Eric Carpenter (Leader): Doing the Texas pelagic over and over is an extreme case of local patch birding. I have found some correlation between folks that work their local birding patch/area heavily/repeatedly and those that come back for more of these trips, even after having been on some of the really good ones.

John O’Brien (Leader): I’ve been out on a lot of really slow pelagics, both in Texas and elsewhere. I’ll be back on every trip I can possibly go on. There is just always the chance for something new. I’ve spent, cumulatively, more than a year at sea, but the whale shark was new for me. The genus Mesoplodon was not, but the species we saw almost certainly was. I can’t wait to go out again!

Gil Eckrich: I had a whale shark on my first pelagic, and I want MORE…

Candy McNamee: I’ve missed them this year due to schedule conflicts. But ditto on what Cameron said…I’d be on everyone if I could!

Garett Hodne: Yes we missed you this year

Lee Hoy: I was on the trip with the Greater Shearwater sitting among three (3) Whale Sharks and I still wish I could go on them all.

Phyllis Frank: We saw nothing new except the not completely identified whale and still keep coming back:)

Garett Hodne: Nothing new except the whale? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Phyllis Frank: You are correct:) shhh…don’t tell my sister the editor!

Liz Deluna Gordon: I have an intense desire built for these trips after all these stories.

Bert Wessling: My first of many Gulf pelagics was 18 years ago on the Chip XI and it had a lot of great birds including 40 bow riding short-finned pilot whales and a Sabine’s Gull. The August 29th pelagic was an epic trip, but epic trips just show some of what is possible. There is so much more out there and like previous epic trips this just makes me want to go back for more!

Erik Bruhnke (Leader): The memories and experiences from past Texas Pelagics are truly special. It’s hard to not talk the past Texas Pelagic experiences while conversing with other birders. With persistence, like any form of birding there are the slower times (soaking up the beautiful scenery) and there are the breathtaking times (like this past trip, an above and beyond experience). That pod of 250 melon-headed whales that Kelly refers to is something that she and I reminisce about often. To say this past trip was a success is an understatement too, from the many birds, whale, and fish. It’s been a thrill meeting so many fun people on these pelagic experiences. I can’t wait for more Texas Pelagic trips!

Petra Hockey (Leader):   I consider myself a true pelagic addict. The blue water draws me out again and again and not even a crushed vertebra kept me from going on pelagics for more than 9 weeks. Just being there is mesmerizing. I don’t think that I have missed anything (birds, mammals, fish) that has been seen on Texas pelagic trips but I can’t wait to get out there again.

Ted Drozdowski:   My first Texas pelagic was the wayward trip on Aug. 16, 2014. The Aug. 29 pelagic certainly exceeded my expectations. Although I enjoy the trips thoroughly, the answer is yes I will be more less likely to go now. With that being said, my plan is to still go on one Texas pelagic every year, and each year during a different time frame. What keeps me from going on multiple trips per year is the 1000 mile round trip from Dallas, and scheduling conflicts with work. If I lived closer, I would definitely hit more than one a year. It was a fantastic trip!

Rich Kostecke:   I concur with the bulk of these comments and sentiments. The August 29th trip was perhaps the 5th Texas pelagic I have been on, though it was my first in a few years. My absence on these trips for a few years was mostly related to time and money, not interest. I had previously been on some great trips (Yellow-nosed albatross, tropicbird, Greater Shearwater, etc.), and the results of those trips just made me want to come back for more. And while not all trips may be as productive as the one we had on the 29th, there is always the possibility of seeing something new (bird, fish, or mammal species, behavior). And, for me at least, it is just as much about the entire experience. Being out in the Gulf is a unique nature experience. Even the common, expected species are ones that I don’t get to experience regularly, so it is always nice to see them. I also find pelagic birding to be interesting and challenging; it stretches my abilities and experience. So, it not just about ticking things off and then having done so being done with it. I enjoy the whole aesthetic of the pelagic birding experience. And that will also keep me coming back for more.

Garett Hodne: Thanks everyone for all the great feedback. I’d like to use all your comments on a testimonial webpage I plan to create on my website www.TexasPelagics.com. If that’s not ok with you just let me know.