Aug 14, 2021 S. Padre Island TRIP REPORT

by | Jun 13, 2022

The August 14th Texas Pelagic trip was our first trip onboard the Isabella Boat from South Padre Island. I have to thank Capt Phil from the Osprey for alerting me to this charter boat after he informed me that the he no longer wanted to run our pelagic birding trips on his Osprey boats. Over the last 20 years we ran 51 Texas Pelagics from South Padre Island aboard one of the 2 Osprey boats.

So when I contacted the good folks at Breakaway Cruises they were delighted to be able to run our Texas Pelagics from their boat. I’m sure we’ll be running many more trips onboard the Isabella in the future. The Isabella has a huge open upper deck that easily accommodates 30+ birders with a clear 360 degree view. The lower deck is all open with a large bow area and plenty of viewing spaces. The interior under the upper deck is sheltered from the rain and can fit all 50 passengers under its shelter as we found out during a brief thunderstorm, but is open on the sides allowing for a clear view to port or starboard. As far as I heard everyone on board was quite pleased with using the Isabella as our future pelagic boat from SPI.

The Isabella is a catamaran and its cruising speed is about 15 knots, faster than the Osprey’s 12 knots. It tends to rock more forward to back than a single hulled boat like the Osprey but is much more stable side to side. I noticed this especially when we cleared the inlet in about 1+ foot seas but it felt more like we were in 3 foot seas from my perch in the front of the upper deck.

The weather forecast at the beginning of the week on Monday Aug 9 was for 2-4 foot seas and it stayed that way all week up until Friday when it was changed to 2 ft or less! As we cleared the jetties there were four distant thunderheads generating localized squalls in the distance. We were able to thread our route around all these on the way out with barely a few drops of rain. One of the squalls almost generated a waterspout. In fact the seas never were greater than 2 feet for the whole trip and closer to 1 foot most of the time. The winds were a calm 5-10 knots except as we approached a few localized squalls when they picked up to 15+ knots in the downdrafts surrounding the squalls.

On the shelf we stopped at several shrimp boats to bargain for a few buckets of shrimp and by-catch in exchange for beer. The crew kept the shrimp and used some bycatch later as chum. The shrimpers were loaded with the usual mob of Royal Terns with a few Laughing Gulls and Sandwich Terns mixed in. And there were large pods of both Atlantic Bottlenose and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins at the shrimpers undoubtably waiting to feast on the bycatch. Soon a Brown Booby also circled us for a close look. At the second or third shrimper there were also several Magnificent Frigatebirds either perched on the rigging or harassing the terns and gulls for their breakfast.

Our first true seabird came as we neared the outer shelf around 8:00 AM when a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel was called out, but later inspection of a few fuzzy photos revealed it to be a Leach’s. The morning continued with multiple Band-rumped’s, Audubon’s Shearwaters and a few Leach’s Storm-Petrels as well. As we crossed the shelf edge into waters as deep as 2,200 to 2,500 ft deep we were picking up more Band-rumped Storm-Petrels with a few Leach’s mixed in. There were several small groups of Audubon’s Shearwaters some flying and a few sitting on the water. And a second Brown Booby flew up the wake.

After a small group of storm-petrels was seen John O’Brien laid out some chum of menhaden oil and beef fat but it failed to bring in any more petrels. A few people got to see a Cory’s Shearwater but the word failed to get out quickly enough for everyone to see it. We did get as far out as 61 miles before it was time to turn towards shore..

The cruise back into shore over the shelf beginning around 2:00 was uneventful except for experiencing about 15 minutes of a heavy thunderstorm. We almost made it between the two storms but gradually they merged into one larger storm closing a curtain of rain ahead of us that we couldn’t avoid. Fortunately the lower deck has enough shelter from the rain to fit all 51 people on board. The last excitement for the day came as we got closer in and spotted our first Masked Booby or the day. Yet another Brown Booby was seen by Todd McGrath simultaneously in the far distance off the bow. This was the 5th or 6th Brown Booby for the day which is a record for any Texas Pelagic Trip. Finally once we were in the nearshore we had a good look at the Space-X launch pad and a rocket standing next to the gantry.

It’s no secret that Brown Boobies have increased in abundance in Texas over the last decade, as evidenced on this trip where we had a record of 5/6 Brown Boobies and only 1 Masked Booby. Looking at the historical trend for example from 2000 – 2013 on 36 Texas Pelagic trips a total of 2 Brown Boobies compared to 86 Masked Boobies were recorded. From 2014 – 2021 on Texas Pelagic trips a total 13 Brown to 37 Masked Boobies were recorded over 19 pelagic trips. But if you look only at the last five years from 2016 to present this tells a different story; 10 Brown Boobies compared to only 4 Masked Boobies. So we’ll have to see if this trend continues?

Overall this was a good day for seabirds as we recorded 7 species, above average for Texas. The weather almost couldn’t have been nicer and we had some nice encounters with dolphins.

I want to thank again Captain Daniel and his crew Woody and Josh for excellent service, they all took good care of the participants. I especially want to thank all of our leaders; Brad McKinney, Mary Gustafson, Todd McGrath, John O’Brien (Chum Meister) Randy Pinkston and Justin Bosler for the keen spotting and skilled identification of seabirds. And thanks to all our participants especially our regulars who all make these trips possible. It’s all these folks who combined make these great and enjoyable trips.


Leach’s Storm-Petrel – 4
Band-rumped Storm Petrel – 16
Audubon’s Shearwater – 7
Cory’s Shearwater – 1
Brown Booby – 5 / 6
Masked Booby – 1
Magnificent Frigatebird- 7


Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins~ 20
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins ~ 20

Laughing Gull
Least Tern
Black Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern (Cabot’s)
Brown Pelican

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons
Passerine sp. Probably Dickcissels
Black and White Warbler 1


Flyingfish – numerous

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

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