This year, for the first time, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival offered the opportunity to participate on a pelagic trip. The trip was limited to 30 participants and about 8 leaders (pelagic experts) plus crew members (about 5). The participants gathered at the Festival Headquarters in Harlingen at 4:45 am to get counted and board a van (there were 4 vans). The vans departed at 5 am and headed to South Padre Island. Once on the island to headed to Pier 19. We received instructions at this point from the co-ordinator, Garett Hodne. We boarded THE OSPREY. It is a roomy two-level vessel. We left the pier and headed out into the gulf at 6:30 am.
There have been very few November pelagic trips out into the Gulf of Mexico. So there is not much “history” as to what we might see. The OSPREY made its way out past a cluster of 11 “stored ” oil rigs. There were a number of shrimp boats anchored in the area and we approached each one to search thru the gulls and terns to see if anything else there. One boat had two perching Magnificent Frigatebirds (an adult male and an immature). We made our way out 60 miles into the gulf. At this point, the water was about 2,600 feet deep. Although there were lots of gulls and terns around the shrimp boats, including a Sabine’s Gull (very unusual down here) and a Franklin’s Gull, the rest of the trip was birdless for long stretches. Occasionally we saw some terns. At one point, we got good looks at an Audubon’s Shearwater (a lifter for me) and we had real good looks of two different Masked Booby’s (another lifer for me).
It was a great day to be out on the water. Blue sky, very few clouds and warm. 85 F (30 C). One of the fellows on the trip, I knew from previous years birding here in the Harlingen area. I met many others, including a couple of Ottawa, Anne and Roger Bird.