Aug 8, 2015; S Padre Island; TRIP REPORT
August 8th’s Texas Pelagic yielded a record number of Leach’s Storm-petrels for Texas.
The second Texas Pelagic for 2015 encountered seas that were a bit rougher that some of us would preferred, but never-the-less we had a good day at sea. Seas in the morning were about 3-4 feet with the occasional 5 footer that made captain Bobby throttle back every few minutes to ease over the larger waves as we headed due east into the southeasterly seas. The skies were cloudless and the temps a balmy 85 degrees. What was very notable for the day was what really couldn’t be seen. A well-developed cold core eddy was impinging on the shelf edge directly east of South Padre Island and was what we were headed for. It was bounded to the northeast and southeast by warm core eddies spun off the Gulf’s Loop current probably many months earlier.
As we passed by a few shrimp boats on the way out over the shelf we came across our first 2 Pomarine Jaegers of the day. One very cooperative dark-morph Pomarine gave us a nice show as it chased and harassed Royal Terns for their breakfast of shrimp boat by-catch.
We arrived in deep waters at the shelf edge around 10am. And almost as soon as we did we had our first flock of Storm-Petrels. The flock was flushed off the water as we approached and scattered in every direction. What was amazing was the large number of Leach’s Storm Petrels, it seemed most of what was photographed turned out to be a Leach’s, rather than the default Band-rumped Storm Petrel. During the next 4 hours we encountered three separate flocks of Storm-Petrels and while it’s hard to say for sure it seemed that the majority of them were Leach’s. We counted a total of 21 Storm-Petrel’s with at least 6 of them positively identified as Leach’s from a quick review of the onboard photographs. It’s highly likely that there were many more than that and hopefully we can arrive at a better number through a review of all the photographs and the time stamps of the photos. This is quite remarkable in that the highest number positively identified before on any one Texas Pelagic is 2. We were all wondering if this was due to the cooler waters in the cold core eddy that we encountered off the shelf edge?
We also encountered two Masked Boobies, and one of them was kind enough to sit on the water allowing us a long time to study it at close range.
The ride back in was noticeably calmer going with the seas and it also got calmer as we got closer to shore. We tagged every shrimper on the long ride back and most of the shrimpers just had the usual entourage of Royal Terns, Laughing Gull and an occasional Sandwich Tern. But about mid shelf we came upon a group of 3 light morph Pomarine Jaegers shaking down the local Royal Terns for whatever they would cough up and turn over. The Jaegers also rested on the water in a tight group and allowed us to observe them, but not too close as they kept flying off.
We were joined by a pod 7-8 of bow-riding Pelagic Bottlenosed Dolphins for a brief time on the ride back in as well.
While 4 Pelagic species is below average for a Texas Pelagic it was incredibly notable that we had so many Leach’s Storm Petrels!
I want to thank our leaders for yesterday: Brad McKinney, Arman Moreno, Dwight Peake, Eric Carpenter, Erik Bruhnke, Kelly Smith and Mary Gustafson. And also our Captain Bobby and mates Dillon and Clay. And thanks to all our participants for exploring offshore Texas with us.
FINAL TRIP LIST :
TOTAL PELAGIC SPECIES – 4
PELAGIC SPECIES sightings :
Leach’s Storm-Petrel – 6 (Probably more)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel – 10 ?
Unid. Storm-Petrel – 5
Masked Booby – 2
Pomarine Jaeger – 5
Laughing Gulls – 50’s
Royal Terns – 100’s
Sandwich Terns – 20′
Black Terns few
Barn Swallow – 1
Pelagic Bottlenosed Dolphins – 15
Here is a map of the trip track as recorded by my GPS.
Weather and Sea Conditions at NOAA Weather Buoy 42020 north of our course
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