April 17th Pelagic Report
Steven Cardiff and Donna Dittmann

Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999
Subject: April 17th Pelagic report

Dear Labirders-

Saturday's pelagic trip out of Port Fourchon was generally disappointing due to rough seas and a lack of true pelagic species. We only managed to travel about 35 miles south of Belle Pass before a late morning decision to return to port. Although it was relatively calm near shore, sea conditions continued to worsen with increasing distance from land, with seas averaging 6-8 feet for much of the trip, and occasional 8-10 footers (my personal opinion) about the time that we turned back. It wasn't bad going south with the swells, but sudden course changes/pursuits would have been impossible. The trip back took 4+ hours and was not pleasant (the phrase "upchuck express" frequently came to mind).

Certainly, the trip was salvaged and highlighted by the sighting of an adult Kelp Gull associating with a huge flock of gulls at a shrimp boat approximately 23 miles out. In the same flock was another dark-backed adult gull thought to be a hybrid Kelp X Herring gull, and a briefly seen 2nd-year dark-backed gull of undetermined ID. Other mentionables included about 20 Northern Gannets, an imm. Magnificent Frigatebird, and another mysterious dark-backed, yellowish-legged adult gull just off Belle Pass that was variously considered to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull or some sort of hybrid such as Herring X Lesser Black-backed. Several passerines passed by the boat heading N into the wind, along with a Solitary Sandpiper, a couple of other unidentified small shorebirds, and a couple of small flocks of Blue-winged Teal. A Merlin was seen in the vicinity of an oil platform about 30 miles out.

Also noteworthy were about 75 Roseate Spoonbills along the ship channel, including several dozen associating with a heronry in the brush along the east side of Belle Pass. Many of the spoonbills in the heronry appeared to be in pairs, and several were clearly standing on, or sitting on, nests. This is probably the first confirmed breeding in the area.

Thanks to everyone on the trip for showing up promptly and for being such good sports under such trying conditions. Special thanks to Dan Purrington and his GPS in recording sightings and positions, and to George Payne for providing radio communicators, photographic services, and motion sickness therapy.

Let's hope for a smoother and birdier trip on July 17th (spaces still available!!).

Steve Cardiff and Donna Dittmann