Texas Pelagics 2017 Schedule Update.

Hi  Pelagic Fanatics,
Registrations for this year’s Texas Pelagics trips have been very slow so far this year.  I guess I need to do a lot more reminding our seabirding enthusiasts that the time is at hand to make your plans for this summer’s Texas Pelagics trips. At this point we are however far too undersubscribed to be able to run the July 22nd Texas Pelagic that was planned from Port Aransas, so this trip has been cancelled. I have also decided to make the August 26th trip from South Padre Island a 12 hour trip instead of a 16 hour adventure. The updated schedule can be found here: https://texaspelagics.com/2017-schedule/ 

WHY GO ON A TEXAS PELAGIC? Short answer – they are a lot of FUN!!
If you talk to any of the Texas Pelagic leaders and regulars they’ll probably tell you some of the most amazing bird and wildlife encounters they’ve ever had in the state of Texas occurred on a Texas Pelagic.  Our experiences from 2015 and 2016 indicate that with more frequent coverage by pelagic trips we are much more likely to have a few exceptional Pelagic birding days in the season. This is probably due improving our odds of hitting favorable current, wind and sea conditions for seabirds that occur every so often in the deep Gulf off South Padre.
If you’ve never been on a Texas Pelagic this is the year you should try one or two. If it’s been a long time since you’ve been on a Texas Pelagic come back this year and see how much fun they can be. If you’re afraid of seasickness try using the Transderm Scop patch (prescription needed) and enjoy a day at sea with our great pelagic leaders and groups. These trips are also a great way to spend a hot summer weekend out birding where it is definitely cooler offshore than it is onshore. If you’re still unconvinced check out the testimonials from our participants and leaders here: https://texaspelagics.com/testimonials/
SEABIRDS:  If you’ve never been on any Pelagic birding trip than you will certainly see a few life birds. Or if you’ve never been on a Texas Pelagic than you can expect to see a few new birds for your Texas Life List. The seabirds we seek to find are typically never seen from shore and except for their nesting grounds on remote oceanic islands, they spend their entire lives far out at sea, usually beyond the edge of the continental shelf. For a state with the tropical Gulf of Mexico for Pelagic Birding, Texas has amassed a respectable list of Pelagic species over the years. Here is a list of the regular Pelagic Seabirds we encounter annually in good numbers though not necessarily all of these species on every trip.
1. Cory’s (Scopoli’s) Shearwater
2. Cory’s (borealis) Shearwater
3. Audubon’s Shearwater
4. Leach’s Storm-Petrel
5. Band-rumped Storm-Petrel
6. Magnificent Frigatebird
7. Masked Booby
8. Sooty Tern
9. Bridled Tern
10. Pomarine Jaeger
11. Parasitic Jaeger

In addition we frequently see a nice seabird rarity for Texas. All of these species in the list below, except one, have been seen on a Texas Pelagic.
1. Yellow-nosed Albatross – (once)
2. Black-capped Petrel
3. Great Shearwater – (almost annually)
4. Sooty Shearwater
5. Manx Shearwater
6. Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  – (not yet)
7. Red-billed Tropicbird
8. Brown Booby – (lately more than annually)
9. Northern Gannet (rare on Texas Pelagics because we don’t go in the winter)
10. Red-necked Phalarope
11. Red Phalarope
12. Black-legged Kittiwake
13. Sabine’s Gull
14. Brown Noddy
15. Arctic Tern
16. South Polar Skua – (once)
17. Long-tailed Jaeger

A full rundown of the species list for Offshore Texas Pelagics can be found at: https://texaspelagics.com/pelagic-sea-birds/tx-seabirds/  . The links on this page will take you to detailed report pages listing the Seasonal Occurrence and Geographic Distribution for most of the seabirds seen in offshore Texas
Even though the warm tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico are not as productive as the waters off of Cape Hatteras or California we can still on occasion get a nice number of seabirds. Multiple trips over the last few years have seen over one hundred seabirds of up to 10 species.
MARINE MAMMALS: In addition to the seabirds there is always the possibility of Marine Mammals and fish to observe. It is the very rare trip that doesn’t have some sightings of marine mammals. Dolphins of some species are seen on nearly every trip. Whales of some species are seen on about a third of Texas Pelagics trips. Sperm Whales have been sighted on 4 separate trips over the last 3 years, again on about one-third of the Texas Pelagic trips.  Here is the complete list of marine mammals encounter on Texas Pelagics over the years.
1. Bryde’s Whale
2. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
3. Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
4. Clymene Dolphin
5. Spinner Dolphin
6. Rough-Toothed Dolphin
7. Bottlenose Dolphin – PELAGIC
8. Bottlenose Dolphin – INSHORE
9. Risso’s Dolphin / Grampus
10. Short-Finned Pilot Whale
11. Melon-headed Whale
12. Sperm Whale
13. Pygmy/Dwarf Sperm Whale
14. Cuvier’s Beaked Whale
WHALE SHARKS, FISH and OTHER MARINE LIFE:  And if the seabirds or marine mammals aren’t enough to get you excited maybe Whale Sharks, tuna schools, other large sharks, sea turtles, various billfish and flying fish all of which are frequently seen would get you excited. We have had frequent encounters with Whale Sharks, like the August 2011 trip where an absolutely monstrous Whale Shark actually bumped into the boat. Check out the photos of it about half-way through the slide-show from that trip at:  https://www.texaspelagics.com/trips/20110827/index.html
These are NON-PROFIT trips that I am organizing and running. So maybe I’m crazy, but it’s a labor of love. All our leaders pay a slightly discounted fare as well. I have struggled to break-even on these trips over the last two years because Osprey significantly increased their charter costs and the charter costs from Port Aransas are even higher. In 2015 and 2016 I priced the participant fares such that I needed to have the maximum number of participants on all trips just to break even on the charter cost. It turned out this was an unsustainable pricing model as I ended 2016 with almost an $800 personal loss. I cannot afford to personally subsidize these pelagic trips.  For 2017 I am trying a different pricing model. I have priced the participant fares so the trips will break even with about 5 participants less than the maximum number the boat will hold. This gives me a little bit of breathing room. If the trip gets SOLD-OUT my plan is to offer modest refunds to all participants based on the fare they paid. People who sign-up early and pay the discounted fares will get proportionately larger refunds.
Leaders for these trips will include Brad McKinney, Dwight Peake, Eric Carpenter, John O’Brien, Mary Gustafson, Petra Hockey, Randy Pinkston, Arman Moreno and myself.  Each of these leaders are passionate about Texas Pelagics and have more experience on them than anyone else in the offshore Texas Gulf of Mexico. They all work hard not only to find the birds but also to make sure everyone else gets to see them well and enjoy their time at sea. These trips are also very educational with the excellent commentary provided by our leaders.
More information on these trips and on Texas Pelagics (including photos from previous trips and what species can be expected) can be found at this informative website:
Also there is a Facebook page for Texas Pelagics.
And a Facebook group for Texas Pelagics.
Please check these out for more information as well.
I hope you’ll join us.
Gary Hodne
The Woodlands, Texas

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