Sept 20, 1997; Port O’Connor; TRIP REPORT

by | Jun 20, 2022

Aboard the Chip XI
Subject: Sept. 20 Port O’Connor Results
Date: Sun, 21 Sep 1997 15
From: Russell Graham
No weedlines, no large sargassum mats and only 1 feeding-frenzy school of fish (which is where the only flock of Sooty Terns was located) hampered our trip but we ended on a high note! Unless noted otherwise, the numbers below are the unofficial maximum number (seen at one time by myself) for each species.

Note: Juvenile Sabine’s Gull (first spotted by Dwight Peake and seen by all) among a feeding-flock of Black Terns with only about 30 minutes of daylight left. I believe this is only the second pelagic record for Texas (the first being 25 Oct 1964 off Galveston).
What a great way to end the trip! Congrats to Petra on her “lifer” Sabine’s Gull. (We’re both having pelagic withdrawals already!)
Russell Graham
Dallas, Texas

Subject: Sabine’s Gull
Date: Sun, 21 Sep 1997
From: Russell Graham
There is some controversy regarding the age of the bird seen on Saturday’s pelagic. Several people on the trip apparently believe the bird was a basic-plumaged adult. In my original post of the results of Saturday’s trip, I called the bird a juvenile. I now believe that both IDs are wrong.
When Dwight first spotted the bird, he ID’d it as an immature. {Unfortunately, his e-mail is not working right now and he can not comment electronically.} When I got on the bird, I was immediately struck by its bi-colored bill and an extensive black hood (along with the diagnostic wing pattern). My first thought was an adult molting into basic plumage. Then I noticed the black band on the tail (a field mark of a juvenile bird). After consulting several reference books, I think the bird was a 1st summer (2nd calendar year) bird. This is the only explanation that I can think of that fits the field marks and the timing of molt in Sabine’s Gulls. The only thing rarer than an adult Sabine’s Gull in Texas would be a basic-plumaged bird. Most, if not all, adults molt after leaving North America. Incidentally, I have been on numerous pelagics off California and have seen thousands of Sabine’s Gulls over the years but I have never seen a basic-plumaged adult.
Here’s my description in a nutshell:
Black bill with yellow tip. Incomplete hood (much more extensive than the dark nape of a basic-plumaged adult). “Wing wedge” and back were not concolor gray as would be expected for an eclipse adult. The “wing wedge” was brownish and the back was gray. Tail had a dark band. Any thoughts?
Russell Graham
Dallas, Texas



Cory’s Shearwater 1*
Audubon’s Shearwater 14*
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel 3
Magnificent Frigatebird 3
Masked Booby 1 (total of 2)*
SABINE’S GULL 1 (see note below)

Bridled Tern 3
Sooty Tern 32


Black Tern 30*

Blue-winged Teal 7
Barn Swallow 1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin 5
Bottle-nosed Dolphin 2
Short-finned Pilot Whale 40 (bow -riding!)

Map of the trip track is unavailable.


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