Aug 19, 2006; S Padre Island; TRIP REPORT
Aboard the Osprey II
Subject: SPI Pelagic Results from 19 Aug 2006
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2006 12:35:31 -0500
From: William B McKinney
Texas seabirders aboard the Osprey were treated to a wonderful trip yesterday. Calm winds and flat seas provided the backdrop of a very enjoyable pelagic, providing excellent viewing conditions for six or the seven pelagic species seen throughout the day. As expected for mid-August, shearwater numbers were on the rise while storm-petrels were scarce (generally storm-petrel numbers peak in June and July). On this trip, there was rarely a dull moment. Experienced Texas seabirders could not remember a trip when birds were so nicely spread out over a 12-hour trip. Mirror-smooth blue water allowed sharp-eyed birders to spot numerous tuna schools along the deepwater curve (45 miles offshore). Associated with these tuna schools were small flocks of Sooty Terns, Audubon’s and Cory’s Shearwaters, and an amazing six whale sharks. One of the whale sharks lumbered within a few feet of the boat allowing for stunning views.
Before the sunrise the boat was cruising through clear oceanic waters as flying fish were soaring just a few miles beyond the jetties. At 7: 20 am, with the SPI skyline clearly visible, we came upon the first seabirds of the trip: two very cooperative immature Masked Boobies near a shrimp boat. Fifteen minutes ater we had two immature Magnificent Frigatebirds pass close by the boat, joining a third bird above a nearby shrimp boat.
On the way out to the deepwater curve, a pod of pelagic bottlenose dolphins entertained us with their bow riding skills while minutes later two passerines, Northern Waterthrush and Bank Swallow challenged our landbird identification skills. By the end of the day, we added Barn and Cliff Swallow, Ovenbird, and a probable Wilsonia warbler (Wilson’s or female Hooded) to the list of passerines.
After a smattering of coastal species on the edge of the continental shelf, including Royal, Sandwich, and Black Terns, we came upon the first of many Sooty Terns and Audubon’s and Cory’s Shearwaters as we reached the deepwater curve (around 10:45 am). Although both subspecies of Cory’s Shearwater have been documented in Texas waters, the Atlantic race seems to be much more common than the Mediterranean race. It is very difficult to distinguish the two races in the field, however, photographic analysis of the underwing pattern may allow identification to subspecies. The three Cory’s Shearwater images on my camera seem to show the dark primary pattern typical of Atlantic Cory’s, but it is possible that some of the fine bird photographers onboard (Gary Hodne, Andy Garcia and others) might have images suggesting Mediterranean birds.
Bird activity remained high through the mid-day hours as we trolled around the numerous tuna schools. At 1:15 pm, we finally identified a Bridled Tern amongst eight Sooties. The slightly smaller size and browner plumage of Bridled Tern was clearly discernable in flight. Just minutes later, our lone Band-rumped Storm-Petrel afforded excellent views as it flew in front of the boat for several minutes. The bird’s strong and steady flight style coupled with repeating intervals of shearwater-like gliding was typical of the species. As if the good seabirding wasn’t enough, several birders got to reel in their first blackfin tuna or dorado on the afternoon run back.
Thanks go out to all involved in supporting Texas pelagic birding trips. Special thanks go out to Travis Audubon Society, Stan VanSandt who organized a great trip,
The fantastic leader crew of Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, Petra Hockey, and Dwight Peake, and all of the wonderful participants who made the trip so enjoyable. It seems likely that Travis Audubon will be involved in one or two trips next summer, so those interested should check with Stan in the coming months.
FINAL TRIP LIST :
TOTAL PELAGIC SPECIES – 7
TOTAL PELAGIC SEABIRDS – 91
Cory’s Shearwater (20)- all but one bird was in deepwater
Audubon’s Shearwater (29)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (1)
Masked Booby (3) two immatures and one adult; relatively shallow shelf waters
Magnificent Frigatebird (3)- shelf waters
Bridled Tern (1)
Sooty Tern (34) mostly adults but also a few nice all-black juveniles; all associated with tuna schools
LANDBIRD MIGRANTS Sp:
Bank Swallow (1)
Cliff Swallow (1)
Barn Swallow (1)- landed on the boat and trailed us for several hours
Northern Waterthrush (1)
Probable Wilsonia warbler (1)- Wilson’s or female Hooded
Great Egret- two or three
Little Blue Heron- small flock and another lone bird
Cattle Egret- one
MARINE MAMMAL Sp: –
whale shark (6)
blacktip shark (1)
dorado- we caught one, beautiful fish
blackfin tuna- numerous; we caught nine
bonito- numerous; we caught and released several
flying fish- numerous throughout the day; from 5 miles-52 miles out
TRIP PHOTO ALBUM
Album 1 all photos © GarettHodne.com
OCEANOGRAPHIC AND WEATHER CONDITIONS:
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