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2024 Trips Announcement:
Hi Seabirders and Texas Pelagic Fans,
I am pleased to announce that I am planning to run 2 trips in 2024. Reservations are NOT yet open. Reservations should open by the end of the year.
- August 21 – 23, 2024; 48 hours; aboard the MV Fling from Freeport, the third trip on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast since 1999.
- Sat. Sept 14th, 2024: 14 or 16 hour; aboard the Kingfisher from Port Aransas;
2023 Trips Summary:
Hi Seabirders and Texas Pelagic Fans,
There were two Texas Pelagic trips successfully run in 2023.
- August 23 – 25, 2023; 48 hours; aboard the MV Fling from Freeport, the second trip on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast since 1999. THIS TRIP WAS CANCELLED DUE TO A LACK OF PARTICIPANTS
- Sat. Sept 16th, 14 hour; aboard the Kingfisher from Port Aransas; TRIP REPORT
- Sept 27 – 29: 48 hour; aboard the MV Fling from Freeport. TRIP REPORT
NEW FOR 2024:
I have chartered the MV Fling out of Freeport for one 48 hour trip and the Kingfisher from Port Aransas for a 14 or 16 hour trip. After searching farther east on the continental slope of Offshore Texas for the 48 hour trip in Sept 2023, the 2024 trips will return to an offshore dome known as the 500 Fathom Hump, an area that has yielded good numbers of pelagic species and marine mammals in the past. To get to the 500 Fathom Hump requires a 16 hour trip from Port A. It can also be easily reached by dawn of the first day on the 48-hour trip. There are also other deep-water domes beyond the 500 Fathom Hump that have never been birded by a TX Pelagic trip, that could be explored on the 48-hour trip.
The Sept 27-29, 2023 found the first ever Red-footed Booby for a TX Pelagic trip, a species I had been expecting (hoping) to find on a Texas Pelagic for some time. It’s a very rare but increasingly found seabird for Texas. This trip also yielded 11 pelagic seabird species which ties the record for the number of pelagic species seen on one trip on July 26, 1997. Other great finds for 2023 trips included a Great Shearwater and Manx Shearwater. Also seen in 2023 were many of the regular Texas Seabirds we are more accustomed to: Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, Audubon’s, Cory’s, and Scopoli’s Shearwaters; Bridled Terns, Masked and Brown Boobies, Pomarine Jaeger, tons of Magnificaent Frigatebirds, Red-necked Phalarope, Sabine’s Gull.
The list of rarities found on TX Pelagics over the years is impressive: Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown Noddy, Yellow-nosed Albatross, South Polar Skua, Black-capped Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Arctic Tern to name a just few. I’m even holding out hope for very-rare birds like White-tailed Tropicbird, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel or who knows maybe an exotic shearwater / petrel? Two exceptionally-rare ‘accidental’ first Texas record seabirds were found in Texas Waters in 2022;, a Wedge-tailed Shearwater!!! and a Trindade Petrel!!!
Texas Pelagic trips are always more about quality than quantity. Many Texas first records have been added on TX Pelagic trips over the past 30 years, a trend I suspect will continue.
Trip Details and Schedule for 2024:
|TRIP DATES 2024||Aug 21 - 23||Sept 14|
|REGISTRATION DEADLINE||April 1||July 1|
|DEPARTURE TIME||7:30 pm||5:00 am|
|RETURN TIME||~6:00 pm||7:00 pm|
|TRIP DURATION||48 Hours||14 or 16 Hours|
|BOAT||MV Fling||Kingfisher (requested)|
|REGULAR FARE||TBD / person / single bunk||TBD / person|
|REGISTRATION STATUS||NOT YET OPEN||NOT YET OPEN|
A Note on Fares
The REGULAR FARE, shown in the Payment Form below, does NOT include tips to the Crew. It is customary for the crew to receive a TIP of between 15 – 20 % of the cost of the trip.
Any reservation CANCELLATIONS beyond the “Registration Deadline” will not be refunded unless your seat is resold and the trip is full when we sail. Your fares are transferrable to anyone you choose as long as they are not already a signed up and paid participant.
I have priced the Freeport trips so they can sail with less than a full boat. A FARE CREDIT or REBATE will be offered for the Freeport 48 hour trips if these boats are full when we sail. The amount of the rebates depends on the final number of participants.
Why Longer Trips:
More bang for your buck! Because Texas has a very wide continental shelf. It is narrowest at 43 nautical miles off of South Padre Island and gradually gets wider to the north where it is 66 nautical miles to the shelf edge off of Freeport. This means that on average it takes about 4 – 6 hours of cruising each way through the shallow waters of the continental shelf to reach prime deep pelagic waters beyond the shelf edge which is the habitat favored by most of the seabirds we seek. These shelf waters are usually less-productive for pelagic seabirds, so a 12 hour trip has about 8 hours of that time are less-productive for true pelagic seabirds. Jaegers, boobies, frigatebirds and the occasional shearwater are found over the shelf, but we prefer to maximize our time in water greater than 600 feet deep.
With any trip over 12 hours Coast Guard regulations requires the boat to have a second captain on board. This boosts the price of the charter. But the added few hours of time in prime deep water habitat makes up for the added cost in our opinion. On a 12 hour trip only one-third of the time is in prime deep water habitat, While on a 14 hour trip 43% or on a 16 hour trip 50% of the time is in productive deep water habitat. More time birding in the right deep water habitat, less time (percentage wise) commuting across the shelf equals more productive trips. It’s as simple as that.
The same logic applies to the new 48-hour ULTIMATE TEXAS PELAGICS. The first night while we’re sleeping is spent cruising over the shelf. We awaken well rested at dawn already in prime pelagic depth waters. Breakfast is served in an hour or two. We have the entire day of maybe 14 hours of daylight cruising in search of seabirds and other marine life in progressively deeper waters, farther and farther from shore, perhaps up to 150+ miles from shore. The second night is spent drifting and sailing in very deep water. A night while we’re drifting there is also the opportunity to observe marine life that migrates up from the abyss to feed in surface waters. The second morning we again awaken in very deep water and gradually work our way back to port crossing over the shelf-edge around noon, and arriving at port around 6 PM.
Overall the 48-hour Ultimate Pelagics spend a total of about 20+ hours in deep pelagic waters, or about the same as five 12-hour trips or more than three 14 hour trips. All this for almost the same cost as three 14-hour trips, without having to traverse the shelf 6 times.
I found our first 48-hour trip to be much less exhausting than the 14-hour trips. I didn’t have to wake up at about 2:00 AM to meet the boat at 4 AM. Then wait for 2+ hours for the sun to rise. It was nice to have a real galley with good meals served. For residents of the Upper Gulf Coast it’s an easy drive to Freeport and no hotel stays are necessary. Since the boat embarks at 7:00 PM people from most of Texas would be able to forgo a stay in a hotel before the trip as well, increasing the savings.
TexasPelagics.com is dedicated to promoting public pelagic birding trips and advancing the knowledge of pelagic birds in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas Coast. This website is the single location for the archiving of pelagic trip records and pictures of the Birds and Animals seen in Texas pelagic waters.
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