Nearctic region and cross into the Neotropic. I encourage anyone who has considered going on the El
Naranjo and Rio Corona counts to go, and soon.
The discussion at breakfast before crossing the border
included much talk about the destruction of habitat
in Mexico. I said, "Well, it's see Mexico now," and
Gene responded with, "You are nearly too late." Mexico's growing population and worsening economy will
place more burdens on the habitat and ecosystems
of Mexico. I only hope that more habitat in Mexico
will be preserved, and that this article will encourage
the appreciation and preservation of Mexican birds.
IN PURSUIT OF PELAGIC BIRDS
by Don and Lee Richardson
On October 7, 1989 we joined a group from
Dallas and elsewhere for a delightful and successful
pelagic trip into the Gulf of Mexico. The boat trip
itself lasted from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. We departed
from Port Aransas on the Scat Cat with about 80
persons. That may sound like a lot of people but
the boat accommodated us well, and there was little
need to compete for vantage points. The birders
on board, friendly and helpful as they always are,
were great at helping those who had not spotted
As we left port we saw the kind of thing you
would expect close to shore: gulls and terns of all
sorts, a dozen or so Brown Pelicans, and not too
far out from shore a Magnificent Frigatebird. A
little farther out a Peregrine Falcon flew over the
boat while eating a meal in flight. As we proceeded
out to sea we continued to encounter small groups
of terns, mostly Royal, an occasional Laughing Gull
and even a couple of flights of Black Skimmers.
Finally, when we were about forty to fifty
miles into the Gulf we approached an oil rig. We
saw two or more Peregrine Falcons perched high in
the rig. They remained as we drew closer and we
were able to study them closely* As we drew even
closer we began to find other bird life on the lower
parts of the rig. A pair of ground doves were resting on a sloped solar panel, and a Northern Waterthrush bobbed busily as he worked his way around
the very lowest platform. Finally the carcass of
an American Redstart could be seen near the bottom
of a ladder.
As we approached a second oil rig we could
see that the Peregrine Falcon was not going to be
a rarity that day. Four of these magnificent birds
were resting on this rig, and two, quite near to each
other, were very different in size. The female was
huge when compared to the smaller male and contrasted against the bright sky. A total of twelve
Peregrines were seen, many close up, by the time
the day was over.
Passerines were also plentiful and were seen
on almost every oil rig we approached. Their presence was certainly the reason the falcons were so
common. Our checklist of passerines includes 2
Northern Waterthrush, 3 Ground Doves, 2 Mourning
Doves, 1 Black-throated Green Warbler, 1 Long-billed
Thrasher, 1 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 3 Lark Sparrows and about 10 American Redstarts.
On two occasions passerines flew over to our
boat. A Northern Waterthrush landed on the lower
deck and remained for a half hour or so, giving our
group some good close observations. Two American
Redstarts came to us, one to a rail around the upper
deck within a foot of some of our party. The orange
tinge in the breast color would indicate a young male.
He rested on the rail for some time, moved to the
arm of one of the observers for awhile, and then
moved farther to the man's shoulder where he continued to rest. Finally he flew to a pile of bags,
packs and scopes where, we think, he rested until
we hit landfall that night. The second Redstart visitor wasn't so fortunate. She flew to the upper
deck also but tried to return to the rig. She was
so tired she never made it and fell into the water
after returning only half the distance.
The passerines seemed quite feeble, especially
the Redstarts. This probably accounts for their
seeking a resting place after traveling only forty
miles from land. It's appropriate that they should
become nourishment for the falcons.
Pelagic birds are what we came for and pelagic
birds are what we got. Our first were two jaegers.
We were unable to determine the species. They
flew by quickly at 100 yards, took deep strokes with
their wings and then raised them high, and disappeared just seconds after their arrival. Soon after,
there appeared a Masked Booby. It was quite distant
and poorly lit. Many of us didn't see the bird at
all, some caught a glimpse, and a few briefly saw
the black and white pattern on top of the wing.
Look ahead! Just to the right! Two birds
sitting in the water, was the cry. The captain turned
toward the birds and slowed. The birds rose from
the water to fly away. They glided on long slender
wings as they rose over the crests and sheared
through the troughs. Shearwater is the perfect
name. They lit again on the water. We continued
slowly and then stopped less than 50 yards from
these great birds. The view was perfect and the
light just right. The bill color was what we were
looking for and it was clear, pale yellow and dark
at the tip. They were Cory's Shearwaters. We
studied them for several minutes before they left
us with that beautifully graceful flight. We thought
it was a great way to end our day.
We checked on some more oil rigs but found
very little on them. Some of us saw something
large and white fly in back of a rig but then lost
it. As we left the rig We spotted it again flying
fairly high. The bird flew closer and closer as it
worked over its hunting area. The sun was at our
backs and the bird was perfectly lighted. It was
a Masked Booby, still working its way closer. The
white and black pattern dazzled in the sun as it
glided and banked in the wind. Then it dove from
a great height, tucked its wings like a falcon in a
stoop and plunged into the water. It emerged with
its quarry and flew away.
Now we headed into port arriving at seven in
the evening just as the sun was setting. Everyone
on board was tired but happy; nearly everyone had
gained at least one lifer.
REPORT OPEN PITS
Open oil, brine or chemical pits are responsible
for the death of many thousands of birds. As of
October 1, 1989 unscreened pits are violations of
law in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Report
to Brian Cain of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife at 750-
1700 if you notice any open pits.