Sept 28, 2013; S Padre Island; TRIP REPORT

by | Jun 16, 2022

From: Brad McKinney
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2013 19:24:26 GMT

Trip report for South Padre Island pelagic, 28 September 2013 Challenging weather conditions, including choppy 4-6 foot seas and 20+ kt. winds, made a slow and rough journey out to deepwater. Due to recent storm activity in the Gulf of Mexico, there were few shrimp boats, and the few we came across held few birds, although we did have nice looks at Common Tern amongst the many Royal Terns on the way out. Unfavorable currents in the latter part of September pushed the blue oceanic waters well offshore, which we didn’t reach until 11:35 am when we were already on the 100-fathom curve. Despite all of this, we had a great group of birders and tireless leaders who pulled together to make this trip a good one. By the end of the day we managed a hard-earned five seabird species, including Cory’s (3) and Audubon’s Shearwaters, Bridled Tern (2) Masked Booby and two unidentified jaegers.

A brief recap: At 7:45 am, we had a distant jaeger harassing a Royal Tern at the stern. With our prime objective being to get out to deepwater, we chose not to chase this bird but to continue east. A distant Magnificent Frigatebird was also seen early on, along with several groups of bottlenose dolphins. At 8:38 am we had our first Cory’s Shearwater gliding swiftly over the shallow continental shelf waters. Analysis of photos may determine the race of this bird as Mediterranean or Atlantic Cory’s. The vast majority of the Cory’s Shearwaters seen in summer and fall in the western Gulf of Mexico breed on several islands in the Mediterranean Sea and are sometimes referred to as Scolopi’s Shearwater. The link below is of the second Cory’s Shearwater, a Mediterranean Cory’s, seen just off the 100-fathom curve about 50 miles out. Close examination of the underwing shows white primary shafts bleeding into the black outer black border. This feature was virtually impossible to see in the field given the distance and viewing conditions.   Trip Leaders and participants may be able to provide photos which may pin down subspecific identification of the first and third Cory’s Shearwaters.

As leader Mary Gustafson pointed out on the microphone, the wind conditions were ideal for the Cory’s to perform amazing looping arcs known as dynamic soaring. The second Cory’s made a dozen or so of these wheeling arcs, which are rarely observed on Texas pelagics. The typical flight style of Cory’s Shearwater is a more relaxed flight action with long glides. Also making an appearance in deepwater was a lone Audubon’s Shearwater which made one close pass across the bow and a fairly distant Bridled Tern. On the way back, we had a Masked Booby, another Bridled Tern, another unidentified jaeger species, and a close flyby Cory’s Shearwater just a couple of miles from land. Also seen throughout the day were loads of flying fish and two far off sea turtles, which could have been one of several species.

On behalf of all the trip leaders thanks to all for supporting Texas pelagic trips, and we hope to see many of you on next year’s trips. Special thanks to Eric Carpenter for organizing this year’s trips once again!. Thanks to trip leaders Eric Carpenter, Mary Gustafson, Petra Hockey, John O’Brien, and Randy Pinkston for a job well done.

Good seabirding!

Brad McKinney, Rancho Viejo



Cory’s Shearwater (3)

Audubon’s Shearwater (1)

Magnificent Frigatebird (1)

Masked Booby (1)

Jaeger sp. (2)

Bridled Tern (2)

If I missed anything notable, please forgive me and I will update.

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


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