Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's a Bird? it's a Whale? No its some more trash

ShepDawg on the bow
stiffing out the next
year bird
I was already signed up as leader for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival when I was asked if I would be "willing" to be a guide for the pelagic trip scheduled for Monday. Oh I guess I could. Actually I was doing cartwheels in my head because this was an incredible opportunity to get.

Because this was only a twelve hour trip and daylight savings time has ended we left the dock at sunrise and headed out into the open gulf into rising sun.

At 7:30 and only about 8 miles out we find a big flock of gulls and we pulled most of them in with chum. A couple of Franklin's Gulls where pulled out of the crowd of Laughing Gulls. Suddenly a shout goes out "Sabine's Gull"

Sabine's Gull
It takes me several minutes to get on it, But Sabine's Gull becomes Year Bird 471. About 30 minutes later we get our first of many Common Terns. We chug on. Ninety minutes later at the 30 mile mark we get our first pelagic bird, Masked Booby.

Magnificent Frigatebird
Just a few minutes and miles later we meet a shrimp boat that has 2 Magnificent Frigatebirds in the rigging and they pose for good photos. We continue on getting nothing but more Common Terns. The conditions were great, the Gulf is smooth, the best conditions we had all season. Bird are well dispersed though and we aren't picking up new stuff.

Audubon's Shearwater
Finally about 3:15 later and now 58 miles offshore we get a Shearwater. At first there is much excitement because its thought this bird is a Manx Shearwater. We go to the instant replay on cameras and no joy. Most show this bird as dark undertail coverts instead of the expected white ones of a Manx. It turns into an Audubon's Shearwater.

In about another 30 minutes we head cross back onto the Continental Shelf and begin the long trek back to South Padre Island.

We encountered a lot of trash in the water. Most agree this is a lot more than expected. Likely its all stuff blown out and stirred up by the recent storm passages. Cups, large soda bottles, a bucket here and there, foam blocks, a balloon, even a sprayer.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins surf in the wake
We continue in and at one point a really large pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins rush in to surf with us for a bit. There were at least 20 of them all around the boat.

One new species was what I was expecting for a new year bird, but I was expecting Parasitic Jeager, not Sabine's Gull. I was thinking that the migration of Sabine's Gull was about over and it was pretty unlikely to find. I'll take it though!

1 comment:

  1. Some neat images. I wish I had gotten one of the gull. Oh, well.
    Be sure to get over to Anzalduas before eight am. Check for the kite on the dam road in the area where the road goes up to the dam road (has a do not enter sign). the bird must have been rooosting in the Elms on the right side as you walk up to the dam road. I didn't have your list of needs. Sorry I didn't contact you. But, the bird is around. Good luck!