Sept 22, 2018 S. Padre Is TRIP REPORT
I was obsessively watching the marine weather forecast in the week leading up to this past Saturday’s TX Pelagic from South Padre Island and NOAA had been consistently forecasting 2 to 4 foot seas for Thursday through Saturday. A frontal system in West Texas wouldn’t be reaching the Gulf Coast until early next week, but by Wednesday the winds and seas started increasing from 1 foot to 4+ feet ahead of the front.
So on Friday as I (and everyone else) was preparing to leave for the 400 mile drive to S. Padre Island I was happily surprised to see that Friday morning’s 4:00 AM marine forecast for Saturday was revised and now predicted seas of 2 feet or less! Someone on the night shift at NOAA thought the front had stalled to the west. Well that marine weather forecast turned out to be a “False Alarm”. On Saturday at 4:30 AM as 47 seabirders gathered at the Osprey dock we were looking at seas that would start out in the 4 foot + range. Anything over 5 feet and we usually wouldn’t run trips. It was forecast to calm down by midday however so we went ahead. Similar to the last trip from Port Aransas for about one third of the participants this would be their first Pelagic experience, I always hope they aren’t disappointed.
Seabird activity started early soon after sunrise with 4 Magnificent Frigatebirds and a Parasitic Jaeger at the first and only shrimp boat we visited on the way out. The morning’s activity continued with a lone Cory’s Shearwater and then a Masked Booby that circled the boat a few times to see if we were at all interesting giving everyone great views and photo ops. A few singles and a pair of Audubon’s Shearwaters gave decent views. A Brown Booby came in to investigate us allowing for great photo ops again but just as quickly flew off.
We reached our farthest point out of about 60 nautical miles offshore around 11:00 am. The steady seabird activity of the morning was encouraging, but then sightings slowed down after 11:30 AM. The return ride was rather slow with only a couple distant Bridled Terns and a few Least Terns providing any excitement. It wasn’t until our third shrimp boat at 3:06 PM on the cruise in that there was much of interest other than Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls. There were initially 2 Magnificent Frigatebirds perched on the shrimper but the chum that John doled out got all the gulls and terns into a brief feeding frenzy and eventually we tallied 8 Magnificent Frigatebirds coming in from other shrimp boats to see what all the excitement was about.
The ride in was much easier than the ride out as the following seas had now calmed down to about 3 feet. So even though we managed to find 7 seabird species, we only had 23 individual seabirds. The Magnificent Frigatebirds, Masked and Brown Boobies put on great shows though. For those seabirders on board for whom this was their first pelagic experience I recommend giving it another try for hopefully better weather and more seabirds next time.
I want to thank Captain Bobby Dunkin and his mates for doing a great job as well as the Osprey team for working with us for 18 years to help keep Texas Pelagic trips running. And of course all our leaders whose hard work helps everyone on board: in alphabetical order: Brad McKinney, John O’Brien, Justin Bosler, Mary Gustafson and Randy Pinkston.
FINAL TRIP LIST :
TOTAL PELAGIC SPECIES = 7
TOTAL PELAGIC SEABIRDS = 23
Cory’s Shearwater – 1
Audubon’s Shearwater – 4
Magnificent Frigatebird- 13
Brown Booby – 1
Masked Booby – 1
Bridled Tern – 2
Parasitic Jaeger – 1
MARINE MAMMAL Sp: – 1
Pelagic Bottlenose Dolphins – 5
NEARSHORE SEABIRD Sp: – 4
Laughing Gull –
Least Tern –
Royal Tern –
Sandwich Tern –
LANDBIRD MIGRANTS Sp: 6
Peregrine Falcon – 1 perched on drilling rig
Duck Sp. – 4
Black and White Warbler – 1
Red-winged Blackbird – 1
passerine sp. – 1
Here is a map of the trip track as recorded by my GPS.
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