Aug 8, 1998; Port O’Connor; TRIP REPORT

by | Jun 20, 2022

Aboard the Chip XI
Subject: August 8 Pelagic
Date: Sun, 9 Aug 1998
From: Dwight Peake
Our pelagic luck this year finally changed for the better yesterday. It took quite a while, the seas had been flat for the entire past week until the first cold front in over two months passed over and kicked up the seas. We started the day with seas too rough to head directly south to our goal of reaching the edge of the warm core eddy sitting off of the coast from Corpus to SPI-at least everyone on board stayed dry. By 11 am the seas began to calm and we headed south-we had to pass through what I call the “Dead Sea”-the area we normally target off of Port O’Connor has only crystal clear featureless water and no birds where we usually have many.

This area is a low sea surface height area on the altimeter map:, then on the page with Blended TOPEX/Poseidon and ERS-2 Altimeter Data, choose the latest sea surface height anomaly map.

At this point I was very worried that we could not get to the eddy edge before we had to turn back-on the July 20 trip we went to N27deg 3min and didn’t get to the edge of it-if we did not get to the eddy edge, I was sure the day would be a bust!

Around 1 pm, our trusty Captain, Gary Geisel, started suggesting that we needed to turn north soon so I asked him to turn southwest while I plotted our course back. We found that Colt 45, an offshore seamount was too far. We headed south a few minutes longer we ran into our first Sooty Tern flock! We then came the most spectacular display of fish schools breaking the surface that I have ever witness-the schools were breaking from horizon to horizon and the Sooty Terns and Audubon’s Shearwaters were in hot pursuit.

Unfortunately, we had to speed past several Whale sharks in the schools because we spotted a white Sterna tern in with the Sooties. We followed the flock from school to school watching this bird-it had a short black bill, extensively white forehead, wedge shaped eye mask, white secondaries, and translucent primaries consistent with a first summer/second calendar year bird-if accepted, the third state record-2 out of the 3 on these pelagic trips-of Arctic Tern! If I could I would watch the Sooty Tern spectacle every day.

We did have to head home, however, and almost immediately after turning towards Port O’Connor 2 Masked Boobies flew by giving all great looks. Of course, Forest Roland had decided that nobody was watching enough for high flying birds, so he took it upon himself to do it-shortly thereafter, he found a high flying large white bird. It had long wings with long black outer primaries, a wedge shaped tail, and flew strong and fast with a wing beat appearing to use mainly the outer wing area-WOW! the second TROPICBIRD (probable Red-billed) seen on these trips.

The ride home on calm, following seas was wonderful. We were escorted by several pods of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. We even saw the fabled “green flash” at sunset! By the way, the July 20 trip apparently missed the eddy edge by about 10 nautical miles. Also, these trips are so far offshore that we are out of cell phone range, Chuck.

The September 5 Port O’Connor trip will be the last from Port O’Connor and the last public pelagic trip scheduled for a Saturday for some time to come. We need many more people to sign-up if it is to go.

The September 20-23 36 hour pelagic from Freeport will travel to the eddy edge area also and will have a lot more time available to work the area. This trip, on a very comfortable boat, has several spaces open. I am working hard to arrange trips on boats which area more comfortable than the trusty but spartan Chip XI that is taking pelagic birders to great birds for its 5th and last season. The last two trips this year need participants who want to see great birds, unfortunately, if these trips don’t get enough participants, don’t expect any public pelagic trips to be available next year.
Dwight Peake
Galveston, Texas
Houston Audubon Society



Tropicbird, probable Red-billed
Band-rumped Storm-petrel
Masked Booby
Magnificent Frigatebird
Audubon’s Shearwater
Sooty Tern
Bridled Tern (seen by 2 persons while everyone else was watching the Arctic)
Arctic Tern


Atlantic spotted dolphin
Bottlenose dolphin (offshore variety)

Whale shark
yellow-finned tuna
black-finned tuna

Map of the trip track is unavailable.


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