Aboard the Osprey II

Subject: September 19, 2009 SPI pelagic summary 

Date:  Sun, 20 Sep 2009 17:31:04 GMT

From:   Brad McKinney

Like the two previous pelagics this summer, today’s trip off South Padre Islandhad calm seas and great birds, and produced yet another Texas rarity. Dawn  broke with a spectacular sunrise as the pelagic crew headed out to deepwater. It wasn’t long before both Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins greeted us near the first shrimp boat, which held Royal, Sandwich and Common Terns.

Continuing  eastward we encountered numerous migrating heron/egret flocks flying southward and several Black Terns sitting on flotsam while flying fish  streaked across clear blue oceanic water. We also were accompanied by a maleWilson’s Warbler, which followed us for a better part of an hour, and even landed on the heads of leaders Dwight Peake and Randy Pinkston before flying off only to return again and again. Although there were fewer migrants than   the August trip, we encountered a few landbirds, including a pewee sp., another Wilson’s Warbler and a few swallows. As we reached the second shrimp   boat, just five or so miles from the 100-fathom deepwater curve, we had a flyby Masked Booby and five Magnificent Frigatebirds perched on the shrimp   boat. Just minutes after pulling up beside the shrimp boat, a dark shearwater wheeled in near the stern and landed just 50 feet from our boat. After leader Eric Carpenter quickly shouted Sooty Shearwater, we all had extended looks at this fantastic bird. If accepted by the TBRC, this would be the 15th record for the state and just the second for the Lower Coast, the last being from January 1992.

After reaching deepwater, the birding was relatively slow although we had a smattering of expected Cory’s Shearwaters (8), a couple of Bridled Terns, at   least a couple dozen Black Terns perched on floating debris, and great looks at an adult Masked Booby before working our way back across continental shelf   waters. Most of the migrating Black Terns were found well offshore compared three weeks ago when birds were still locked in to coastal waters.

On the return trip we visited the same shrimp boat that had the Sooty Shearwater five hours earlier and were treated to more dolphin displays with at least three mother/youngsters pairs, more magnificent views of frigatebirds, and brief looks of a probable 1st year Arctic Tern. Unfortunately, the tern in question was seen by just a handful of sharp-eyed observers before disappearing off the stern of the boat. As of yet there are no identifiable   photos of the tern although it is possible that some may still surface.

On the way in we also had decent looks at a Pomarine/Parasitic-type jaeger. Photos   of the jaeger and other great birds and cetaceans will be posted in the next   few days at Texas seabirding website

Weather permitting we should have a great opportunity to study jaegers on the November 15 pelagic. Many, many thanks go out to Cate Ball of SPI World   Birding Center for organizing this summer’s trips, pelagic leaders Eric Carpenter, Mary Gustafson, Petra Hockey, Dwight Peake, and Randy Pinkston for their excellent guiding skills, Gary Hodne for his photography and maintenance of the Texas seabirding website, and especially to all the participants who are participating in the ongoing expansion of knowledge of the status and distribution of seabirds off the Texas coast. Thanks so much   for your support!

We hope you can join us on the year’s final pelagic of the year on Nov 15. For more details see,

Seabird list:

Cory’s Shearwater (8)


Masked Booby (5)

Magnificent Frigatebird (9)

Jaeger species (1)

Bridled  Tern (2)


Good  seabirding!

Brad McKinney Rancho Viejo

Link to Photo Gallery: All photography copyrighted ©Garett Hodne 2009.

Link to Photo Gallery #2: Copyrighted © by other contributors as noted.

Thanks to Brad McKinney, Chris Harrison, James   Giroux, John O’Brien, Mike Austin, Scarlet Colley and Tommy Power for  contributing many great photos! !


View 2007 – 2009 Texas Pelagics Tracks in a larger map

Click on the box in the upper left of the map to view the map legend.

Click on each Pelagic Course and the data label will appear with the date of the trip.



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