Aug 16, 2014 S Padre Island; TRIP REPORT
Hi Pelagic Birders
The second Texas Pelagic of the 2014 season got under way in the predawn Saturday with a full boat of pelagic birders. The winds and seas in the Gulf of Mexico had been very calm all week although the NOAA forecast was calling for an eventual increasing pressure gradient due to a low pressure system moving into West Texas sometime over the weekend. Well unfortunately that happened about dinner time on Friday as the winds abruptly increased to about 20 knots, and the seas rapidly went from 1-2′ to 4′. Still as we cleared the jetties the seas we still a gentle 2′ but gradually increased to about +4′ as we proceeded due east out to deep waters.
Sunrise seemed especially laser bright this morning in the cloudless sky. Blue waters were reached within about 2 hours about 20 miles offshore and about 8:00am we reached our first shrimp boat. There was an unusually large swarm of Laughing Gulls, Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns visible from a good distance. But before we reached the boat an immature Masked Booby flew overhead making a bee line for the shrimpers by-catch. As we neared the boat a male Magnificent Frigatebird was spotted perched on the rigging. Soon another 2 adult Masked Boobies were seen and they made several close overhead passes as they circled our boat. A possible shearwater was spotted in the distance among a large flock of Laughing Gulls resting on the water a couple hundred yards from the shrimper but we could never refind it. A pod of a dozen or so Pelagic Bottlenose Dolphins came over from the shrimper to investigate our boat and showing off for us with some big leaps into the air.
Not long after leaving the shrimper another Masked Booby and frigatebird were seen. Then out of the intense sun glare Eric Carpenter had a bead on what would turn out to be the best bird of the day, a Brown Booby. It was seen two times briefly but was lost in the sun glare as it headed away to the east.
We cleared the shelf edge around 11:00am. Flying fish were especially numerous in the ultra-blue deep sea waters as were numerous lines of sargassum. We set 3 chum slicks in a line about 4 miles apart as we headed towards the 2,000′ depth contour, then turned to retrace our steps over them. Unfortunately this time they didn’t attract any seabirds. But at the first slick the most unusual and amazing sighting of the day was a Swallow-tailed Kite heading south high over the deep waters of the Gulf. No one could quite believe it,
The return trip was mostly devoid of birds except for one Common Tern and a pair of Sandwich terns that followed the boat for hours, snatching the occasional flying fish. Clearly one of the terns was much better at it than the other, so we presumed a parent was teaching it’s offspring how to master this difficult skill of catching flying fish.
In summary the lack of shearwaters and storm-petrels was somewhat compensated for by the Booby Bonanza. I want to thank our team of dedicated leaders: Eric Carpenter, Brad McKinney, Mary Gustafson, Petra Hockey and Randy Pinkston and also the captain and crew of the Osprey. If anyone has photos of the seabirds, Swallow-Tailed Kite or any other things of interest please share with us on the Texas Pelagics Facebook page. Thanks to everyone for coming.
Ps: There is still (at least) one more Texas Pelagic this year on September 20th. This trip has been filled and there is a waiting list.
There is a chance we may run a late season Texas Pelagic in October although no plans have been made yet. If anyone might be interested in an October trip let me know so I can gauge the interest.
FINAL TRIP LIST :
TOTAL PELAGIC SPECIES – 3
TOTAL PELAGIC SEABIRDS – 7
Masked Booby – 4
Brown Booby – 1 imm.
Magnificent Frigatebird – 2
NEARSHORE SEABIRD Sp:
Laughing Gulls – 100’s
Common Tern -1
Least Terns – 2
Black Terns – several
LANDBIRD MIGRANTS Sp:
Swallow-tailed Kite – 1
Cave Swallow- 1
Cliff Swallow – 1
MARINE MAMMAL Sp:
Pelagic Bottlenose Dolphins
Baby Sea Turtles
Here is a map of the trip track as recorded by my GPS.
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