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Texas Pelagic Trip & Photos ~ Friday 13th, Sept 2002

This Friday the 13th turned out to be a very "lucky" day! Leaving from South Padre Island on the South coast of Texas aboard the 65ft "Osprey" we headed out at 6am for a day of pelagic birding. The seas were calm which was a stroke of luck after the tropical storm that hit the area a couple of days before. It was a beautiful sunny day with temps around the upper 80's and a light wind.
The first birds to show before getting into the deeper water were some terns including Least, Black, Royal, Forster's and Common, as well as Laughing gulls. Once in deeper water, after about 4 hrs & approximatly 65 miles offshore, the cool birds started to appear! We started off with several Cory's shearwaters, and during the next 4 hrs they were followed by 3 masked boobies, 3 Band-rumped Storm Petrels, 3 Bridled terns and 1 Audubon's Shearwater. Some other migrating birds also paid us a visit including a Chuck-wills widow which tried to land on the railing, a Prothonotary Warbler which looked like a flying lemon as it buzzed back and forth across the boat and finally a Yellow-breasted Chat which was one VERY lucky bird! The Chat appeared and soon landed on the boat where it was caught and held for us to take some great photos and freely took a drink of water out of a bottle cap before it slipped away. However 30 minutes later the Chat was back (the same bird)? This time it landed on the back of the boat but lost its grip and tumbled backwards through the smoke, landing on the water behind us. Well, he wasn't going to survive out there for long so we circled the boat around in an attempt to rescue the bird. Amazingly we found it floating on the waves with its wings spread out & unable to fly because now its feathers were soaked. The bird was scooped up in a bucket held on the end of a rod and bought back onto the boat where it was placed in a towel and put into a box for the remainder of the journey. On shore it was released in very suitable bird habitat where it could gain back its strength and migrate south once again. It may also remain, as some do, in the South tip of Texas during the winter months.
Exiting as all this was this was not the end. Once back into the harbour at around 6:45pm, tired from a long day and ready for a good meal we all had one last surprise - A Brown Booby! It was sitting on the pier with some Brown Pelicans as we pulled in and I'm surprised the boat didn't tip over because we all ran to the one side to get good views! There it was. A bird that has only been recorded a few times far offshore from the Texas coast, it had probably been blown inland by the tropical storm that had just blown in a few days prior. This bird was a lifer for many of the people on the boat including myself. No one could believe it, we were all ecstatic! With a total of 6 lifers I had a great day! Who says Friday the 13th is unlucky? :)
Here's a few snapshots of this trip. I didn't take too many as I didn't have the zoom needed to really get some good shots, although I did miss a few good opportunities! However, here's what I have :)

The boat - Osprey

This 65-foot boat is fast, reaching speeds of 17-20 knots. It holds 40 people comfortably.

The boat headed out at 6am with a clear sky, a light wind of 5-10mph and calm seas.
Masked Boobies
Masked Boobies
The first few pelagic birds were Masked Boobies and Cory's Shearwaters which we had good close views of.
Masked Boobies flying...
We watched these guys for about 10 mins before they flew off.
Masked boobies flying
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
Had several nice flyby's of this tern as well as some perched views when he landed on driftwood.
Whale Shark
This thing was HUGE! At around 25 foot the only thing that you got the best view of was its huge mouth as it came out of the water...this one really showed lots of spots...
Whale Shark
Whale Shark swallowing tuna
Going for the Tuna...
He surfaced amongst a large shoal of Black-fin Tuna which was jumping clear out of the water. He would just open up that large mouth and swallow the fish which were sucked into it! Awesome...
Yellow-breasted Chat Rescue!
This chat flew up to the boat, landed and was then caught. It gave us some great views for photos and drank water out of a bottle cap. It then flew away only to be caught a second time...
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat in the sea, soaked and unable to fly
One wet bird...
The second time it returned it missed the railing and fell off the stern of the boat. We turned around and after finding it floating on the water it was scooped out. It was then placed in a towel and into a box till we returned back to shore where it was released. It could not have flown as it was soaked so this guy was lucky! I think he knew we were the "good guys"!

It was a great trip with highlight birds being -
Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Cory's Shearwater, Audubon's Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm Petrel and Bridled tern.
For more information regarding Texas Pelagic trips contact Brad McKinney at

World Birding Center
900N. Bryan Rd.
Suite 201
Mission, TX-78572
Phone: 956 584 9156

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