Nov 2, 2015; S Padre Island; TRIP REPORT
The final Texas Pelagic trip of 2015 happened on Monday, November 2nd. We were very fortunate to experience very calm almost glassy seas of 2 foot to 1 foot by days end, after several weeks of very rough seas offshore . The previous two weeks included the passage of the remnants of Hurricane Patricia and the gale force winds from the cold front over the previous weekend both of which stirred up 13 foot seas.
With daylight savings time over we were now departing the dock in daylight. Which afforded us the opportunity to stop at several shrimpers over the shelf which we would typically pass in darkness during the summer. Very luckily at our first shrimp boat only about 10 miles offshore Mary Gustafson spotted a Sabine’s Gull in addition to the usual contingent of hundreds of Laughing Gulls, Royal and Sandwich Terns. At first it was hard to pick out of the big gull and tern flock feeding on our chum, but eventually it flew higher than the other gulls circled the boat a few times making it easy to find. A few late Franklin’s Gulls were also spotted here.
The next several shrimpers yielded only the regular gulls and terns but held large pods of pelagic Bottlenosed Dolphins. We were a bit surprised (ok disappointed) no jaegers were found during the chumming at any of the shrimpers since this tactic had worked so well earlier in the season. We found our fist cooperative Masked Booby between the third and fourth shrimpers on the shelf. The fourth shrimper had 2 Magnificent Frigatebirds resting on its rigging. They soon took off once the chum stirred the gulls into action. Watching these Magnificent birds float over the sea with their acrobatic maneuvering to steal from the gulls is quite a sight.
Our first Audubon’s shearwater was spotted right at the shelf edge and a second Audubon’s was seen further out in deep pelagic waters. These would be our only 2 shearwater’s of the day.
Fortunately we found a school of breaking Black-finned Tuna, unfortunately however the only seabirds associated with this large school were about a dozen Common Terns, instead of the usual contingent of tropical terns, shearwaters and storm-petrels we usually find over a tuna school. If there was a Whale shark present, like there usually is, it must have stayed deep below the surface.
We didn’t find any further pelagic species on the shrimpers on the return cruise in towards shore. We were treated to a large pod of about 70 Atlantic Spotted Dolphins bow riding and wake surfing for a few minutes. Maybe the most unusual was a Pyrrhuloxia perched on one shrimper that a few people spotted well offshore.
I want to thanks all our leaders, especially those from the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. And I want to thank Michael Marsden for asking us to run a Texas Pelagic for the RGVBF and for all our participants for signing up. While we didn’t have a large number of seabirds, I know many or most of the participants saw a lifer or two or more on the trip. And it’s always great to get a nice Texas rarity like the Sabine’s Gull. Also thanks again to Capt Bobby, and his crew for doing a great job.
Below is a summary of all the bird and animal species seen on the trip.
Texas Pelagics Organizer / Leader
FINAL TRIP LIST :
PELAGIC SEABIRDS 4 Species
Audubon’s Shearwater 2
Magnificent Frigatebird 3
Masked Booby 2
Sabine’s Gull 1
Laughing Gull 727
Franklin’s Gull 3
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 1
Common Tern 40
Royal Tern 295
Sandwich Tern 32
sulid (sp) 1
sterna (sp.) 2
LANDBIRDS / MIGRANTS
Egrets SN / GR 3
Duck sp 26
Heron sp 3
Tree Swallow (?) 1
passerine sp? 1
White-winged Dove 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Audubon’s 1
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin 70
Bottlenose Dolphin – PELAGIC 64
Black-finned Tuna 1 caught / Large school
Flying Fish numerous
unid billfish 1 splash seen
Here is a map of the trip track as recorded by my GPS.
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