Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bulletin #51 – South Padre Island TX pelagic trip

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
September 7, 2008

Bulletin #51 – South Padre Island TX pelagic trip

Hello friends,

This was my second pelagic trip this year. This one was into the western Gulf of Mexico departing from extreme south Texas. I enjoy pelagics as one gets to see marine mammals along with birds and occasionally some neat fish, sea turtles etc. I so far have been immune from seasickness which is a hazard on these boat trips.

The first interesting bird we found was on an offshore platform soon after departure. The male Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) is all black with a red throat pouch. Frigatebirds are seabirds that steal food from gulls and terns by bombing them and harassing them until they drop their catch. The frigatebird then swoops down and catches the meal before it hits the water.

The next bird was a Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra). This is a huge seabird (32” with 5 foot wingspan) that dives into the water to catch fish. This adult flew up to the boat and then followed right above the stern of the boat about 10 feet up. I was taking the photos right under the bird. It is white with a black mask and black on the wings and tail. Here are 2 photos. click ‘next’ once

The next bird seen was a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma castro). These small (9”) seabirds are purely oceanic, coming ashore only to breed on remote islands and at night.They are dark brown, with a white band above its tail. This bird flew across in front of the boat at about 25 yards distance when I got these photos. Prior to this it was about 50 yards away and really out of photographic range for such a small bird. click ‘next’ once

We also found 2 shearwaters. The first was the Greater Shearwater (Puffinus gravis). This bird is 18” in length and had a mostly white head and neck, but with a sharp black cap and dark bill. This was a life bird for me.

And the other was a Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedia). This bird is also 18” long but has a dusky gray head and yellow bill. Here are 2 photos. click ‘next’ once

The last bird seen was a Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus). Jeagers are gull like seabirds that also harass gulls and terns to steal their food.

I admit, these seabirds are dull colored, but the ability to live offshore almost completely is rather interesting. And most people have never seen these birds at all!

We also came across 2 mammal species.

The first was Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) This is a blunt nosed gray dolphin that with age, develops whitish streaks on its body. They live in deep water (600’) off the continental shelf. Here are 3 photos. click ‘next’ twice

The other was a Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). We came upon a pod of about a dozen of these 15 foot whales.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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