Sept 17, 2016; S Padre Island; TRIP REPORT

by | Jun 16, 2022

We had a lot of birders onboard today for which this was their first day of pelagic birding., more so than is usual. Half of today’s group was from the Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society from Harlingen, Cameron County. I was hoping they would have a good trip. Clearing the jetties in the dark the seas seemed in the forecasted 2-3 foot range. As we progressed further offshore however I could tell we were struggling against southerly seas that made the ride a bit rougher than it would have been if the same seas were from the prevailing southeast. After a couple of hours I decided to head a bit more east north-east to ease up on the battle against southerly waves.

Almost the first bird of the day at 7:59am was the infamous Parasitic Jaeger that had most of us thinking it was a Long-tailed Jaeger until we got home and could study our photos in a bit more detail on our computers. Never-the-less this bird flew right over our heads on the bow than circled the boat a number of times allowing everyone to get great looks and photos. Continuing offshore we had a number of passerines passing by. We were able to identify a few as Eastern Kingbirds, Barn Swallows, Purple Martin and late in the day Baltimore Orioles.

Continuing towards the shelf edge we had one Cory’s Shearwater on the shelf and another off the shelf edge which we reached at about 10 am. At around 11am I decided to turn north and contour the deep waters at around 2,000 foot of water depth. Seabirds were still in short supply and Eric was giving me the “Come on, What’s up??” look. Finally as we turned back toward the shelf heading west we at last picked up a big flock of seabirds that included about 35 Cory’s Shearwater, 6 Audubon’s Shearwaters, 4 Bridled and 3 Sooty Terns. We were able to get pretty close to most of these birds allowing everyone extended close up views and hung with them for about 15 minutes. This was definitely the highlight of the day. From the post trip photos at least a few of these Cory’s were identified as the Borealis ssp.

On the cruise back in towards the dock over the shelf we passed close by to 3 shrimpers but they didn’t yield anything more than the usual assortment of Royal, Sandwich and Common Terns and Laughing Gulls. A few small mixed flocks of Black and Least Terns were also encountered over the shelf.

Marine mammals were rather sparse and we only encountered a couple small groups of 1-2 dolphins of both Bottlenosed and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins although they didn’t stick around very long at all.

For those of you that like numbers the seabird species number for this trip are about average, while the number of seabirds seen is just below the average but well above the geometric mean, thankfully we found that one big flock of birds.


I wish to thanks all our leaders who continue to do a great job on our Pelagic trips: alphabetically; Brad McKinney, Dwight Peake, Eric Carpenter, Kelly Smith, Mary Gustafson and Petra Hockey. Also to all our dedicated pelagic birders who come out on these trips often multiple times a season and to all our new pelagic birders I hope these trips have whetted your appetite for more Texas Pelagic adventures next year. Finally to our Capt Johnny and Crew Dillon and Fabian for working with us to try to make these trips enjoyable for everyone on board.

I am very much looking forward to 2017’s Texas Pelagic season and whatever new adventures and exciting finds next year may bring.

See you all out there next year,
Good seabirding,
Gary Hodne
Organizer of
The Woodlands, TX


Cory’s (Scopoli’s) Shearwater – 37
Cory’s (Borealis) Shearwater – 3
Audubon’s Shearwater – 6
Sooty Tern – 3
Bridled Tern – 5
Parasitic Jaeger – 1
jaeger (sp) – 1

Laughing Gull -39
Least Tern – 35
Black Tern – 36
Common Tern – 9
Royal Tern – 49
Sandwich Tern – 19
sterna (sp.) – 2
tern sp -35

Cattle Egrets – 6
Eastern Kingbird – 2
shorebird sp – 1
passerine sp – 5
Barn Swallow – 1
Purple Martin – 2
swallow sp – 1
Baltimore Oriole – 1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin – 1
Bottlenose Dolphin – PELAGIC – 2
unidentified dolphin sp. – 4

FISH – 2
Flying Fish – Y
unid billfish – 1

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


It is just over 2 months until the first scheduled Texas Pelagic of 2016 is set to sail. It’s hard to think about the long hot summer while Spring Migration is in full swing here on the Texas Coast. The June 4th trip is purposely schedule earlier in the Pelagic season than most previous Texas Pelagics have been run for a very good reason. This time period is when many rarities show up in the Pelagic waters off the East Coast. As one of our leaders John O’Brien stated ” I am particularly keen to get an early season trip in because that is the time that corresponds to a very interesting diversity of Pterodroma in North Carolina. We can always hope.” It is the height of the season off North Carolina when Brian Patterson runs daily trips for over 2 weeks straight, during what he calls his “Spring Blitz”. This trip coincides with the end of this “Spring Blitz” because we feel it offers good possibilities for real rarities in Texas;

Wilson’s Strom-Petrel is most likely to be found during this time frame, like one was found by Petra Hockey on June 11, 2015.

Manx Shearwater and Black-capped Petrel are a real possibility in late Spring.

We need a lot more people to sign-up within the next month if we are going to be able to run this trip. I’m hoping it appeals to those who have a sense of adventure and exploration and want to take a chance on finding a real rarity for Texas in a season that has seen very little birding in true Texas Pelagic waters

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