Sept 16, 2023 Port Aransas Trip Report

by | Oct 5, 2023

As we cleared the Port Aransas jetties the seas were pretty calm with 2 foot swell. In the dark far distance ahead of us frequent flashes of lightening illuminated bands of storm clouds. It was a beautiful light show. For a long time the storms appeared to be getting no closer as they also drifted east. As the sky gradually lightened up around 6:45 AM we could see a curtain of showers ahead of us. Eventually we caught up to storms and could feel the cool winds from the storms pick up. At about the shelf edge we picked up our fist seabird an uncooperative Cory’s Shearwater off the stern that only a few people got a look at as it wheeled away.

While all of the shrimp boats we passed so far were closer to shore in the dark there was one lone shrimper far out near the shelf edge. This boat had 25 + Magnificent Frigatebirds roosting on its rigging and a few more flying around it, no gulls or terns however. By now the band of storms was 8 miles long and there was no short route around them, but they were only a mile wide so we cruised through them and everyone huddled on the stern or in the cabin. It didn’t last more than 10 minutes until we cleared the rain and could resume birding.

With daylight we were spotting many trans-gulf migrants, herons, egrets, passerines and a few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. An immature Brown Booby followed us for a while trying to catch the flying fish we were scattering in our wake. A trio of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins enthusiastically approached the bow and stayed with us riding the bow for everyone amusement for a long while

Finally after 11 am we found a few more seabirds. We flushed a group of 3 Audubon’s Shearwaters off the water and followed them giving everyone good looks. A few pairs of Band-rumped Storm-Petrels mad appearances. A Bridled Tern came up towards the stern but flew off before everyone got a look at it. We reached our farthest distance from shore around noon at 97 miles offshore. We had been chumming behind the boat all day but then we retraced out path along the last 5-8 miles of chum slick over the San Benito Dome we found a few more Band-rumps feeding along it.

At 1:00 PM we turned the bow towards port but still had a few hours over deep water until we reached the shelf edge. This part of the cruise yielded a few more Audubon’s Shearwaters, Band-rumped Storm-Petrels and Magnificent Frigatebirds along with a continuing stream of land-bird migrants.

As we cruised west over the shelf we continued to find Black Terns, a few Common Terns and more land-bird migrants. The seas were now very calm, with about 1 ft swell. As we neared shore there was another line of thunder storms sitting right at the coastline. About 15 miles offshore the only shrimp boat we had time to stop at proved to be lucky as a Great Shearwater was sitting right next to the boat. It seemed reluctant to fly away I suspect because it had gorged itself on by-catch. This bird was certainly the highlight of the day and a lifer or at least a Texas lifer for many people onboard. There was a feeding frenzy of Black Terns near the shrimp boat and about 20 Bottlenose Dolphins hanging around also. As we reached the jetties we also reached the storms but by now there wasn’t much rain just a lot of wind gusts. We searched the jetties for the Masked Booby the Ryan Rodriguez had found the previous evening but had no luck finding it.

I want to thank all our leaders for all the effort searching for and documenting the birds we saw, Arman Moreno, Clayton Leopold, Jesse Huth, Justin Bosler, Todd McGrath, and Wyatt Eglehoff. Also need to thank our new captain and crew for doing a great job and helping with the chumming: Capt Kevin Haller, 2nd Capt “Cowboy” Tyler and the mate Peyton. I much appreciate that Deep Sea HQ continues to charter to us for these pelagic trips.


PELAGIC SEABIRDS: 8 Pelagic Seabird Species and 75 individual seabirds.
1. Cory’s Shearwater – 1; Brief sighting, only a few people saw it.
2. Great Shearwater – 1; Extended super close view of a very cooperative bird sitting next to a shrimp boat.
3. Audubon’s Shearwater – 8; Good views
4. Band-rumped Storm-Petrel – 12; Good views
5. Magnificent Frigatebird – 47; 30+ on one shrimp boat.
6. Masked Booby – 1; Was thought to be a piece of trash at a great distance but photograph revealed a MABO. No time to reverse course and investigate.
7. Brown Booby -4; One followed the boat for a while.
8. Bridled Tern -1; Not seen by half the boat.

1. Laughing Gull 14
2. Franklin’s Gull 1
3. Least Tern 1
4. Black Tern 2215
5. Common Tern 7

1. Blue-winged Teal 9
2. Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5
3. Sanderling 6
4. Great Blue Heron 16
5. Snowy Egret 1
6. Tricolored Heron 1
7. Cattle Egret 26
8. White Ibis 6
9. Bank Swallow 1
10. Barn Swallow 1
11. Baltimore Oriole 1
12. Yellow-breasted Chat 1
13. Northern Waterthrush 1
14. Mourning Warbler 1
15. Hooded Warbler 1
16. Wilson’s Warbler 1
17. Yellow Warbler 2
18. Large Shorebird Sp 2
19. Passerine sp 24
20. new world warbler sp. 9

1. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin 3
2. Bottlenose Dolphin – PELAGIC 20

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

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