May 21, 2004; S Padre Island; TRIP REPORT

by | Jun 16, 2022

Aboard  the Osprey II

Subject: May 21 Pelagic Trip report

Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 14:25:29

From: John C Arvin

South Padre Island Pelagic, 21 May 2004

Sponsored by World Birding Center

There was an air of excitement as dawn broke over the Gulf of Mexico on the first pelagic of the season. For it was just nine month’s earlier (Sep 2003) when a most memorable trip produced an amazing Yellow-nosed Albatross, one of the most sought after birds in North America. So despite moderate seas that occasionally shaped five-foot swells, expectations ran high as we ventured to the edge of the continental shelf.

This  day would not produce any Texas rarities, but birders were treated to great looks at several seabird species. Highlights of the trip included:

* four   Masked Boobies, several of which circled close to the boat. One of the boobies made a spectacular plunge dive, leaving nothing but bubbles on the   surface as it arced through the blue waters. * Camera shutters were clicking as we approached point blank an “early season” Audubon’s Shearwater   resting on the surface. With stiff wing beats, it finally did fly off revealing dark undertail coverts, an important field mark in distinguishing  Audubon’s from the similar (but very rare) Manx Shearwater. Audubon’s Shearwaters are not usually expected until July.

* A   lone Band-rumped Storm-Petrel was spotted gliding effortlessly near the bow of the boat. As often happens, it quickly disappeared after zigzagging   between wave crests. A quick but close encounter of our most expected  “summer season” seabird.

*   Close study of 17 Bridled Terns, including juveniles and adults, most of which were seen near large weedline rafts of sargassum.

* A  magnificent view of a Magnificent Frigatebird! This coastal species is rarely found in deepwater, 100 fathoms (600 feet) or deeper, yet this individual was   soaring over water with a depth of at least 2,000 feet!

The following is a list of seabirds seen:


Rounding out our list was an assortment of coastal terns that are rarely seen in deep water, including Royal (several), Sandwich (several), and Black (hundreds) Terns. One sizable pod of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins kept us entertained for several minutes while riding the boats bow waves on our way out to the edge of the shelf.

With such a nice variety of seabirds so early in the season, one can only imagine what awaits birders during the peak months from July-September. By the way, we still have room on both the July 16 and Sep 24 trips. Come and join us!

The July 16th Pelagic trip will leave from the dock at the Destination Resorts RV Park immediately south of the Queen Isabella Causeway on South Padre Island. Show up time is 05:15 for orientation; we depart the dock at 06:00. Leaders will be Brad McKinney, Eric Carpenter, John Arvin, and Sean Smith. July is perhaps potentially the most interesting time of year off the lower Texas Coast, so we urge all interested birders to join us for another deep sea adventure.

John Arvin



Masked  Booby (4)

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (1)

Storm-Petrel  sp. (2)

Audubon’s Shearwater (1)

Magnificent Frigatebird (1)

Bridled Tern (17)


Here is a map of the trip track as recorded by my GPS.


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