By Year
By Type
By Destination
Bird Gallery
Backyard Birds
Winter Creek Birds
Left Coast Birder

R/V Tommy Munro, western portion of the Gulf of Mexico
July-August 2010


At the end of July, for work I participated in a 10-day research cruise on the Tommy Munnro in the Gulf of Mexico. It was my first pelagic boat trip (not including cruise liners), so I was nervous about getting sea sick. I was sea sick the first two day at sea. As anyone who has experienced it can tell you - it's a horrible feeling. Worse is when you have to work! Thankfully, the sea flattened out beautifully by the second evening. For the rest of the cruise I enjoy some of the calmest seas anyone has every experienced. It made for some amazing pictures and beautiful sunsets.
I have also never been on a pelagic bird tour, so this was treat to see some of the pelagic birds. I didn't get great looks at some of the birds out there (as I was working), but I did manage to get some great looks at two Masked Bobbies as they were hanging out with a feeding pack of Yellow-finned Tuna. Those tuna were impressive - jumping 2-3 feet clear out of the water! I think the bobbies hung around to pick up any bits left by the tuna. The bobbies, gannets, and noddies seemed to appear more often around the water convergency zones where there are large rafts sargassum and duckweed. Perhaps the upwellings also stir up more food as well. I was surpised to see that the water of the Gulf of Mexico had different colors depending on where we were. It ranged from clear blue to muddy green. The blue waters were clear and so inviting.
Along with the birds out in the sea, we were fortunate enough to see some marine mammals. One morning when I was feeling sea sick, I stood on the stern of the boat and looking out over the sea. The boat was in idle, bobbying and rocking with the waves. I noticed a spray of water in the distance, but thought I was just hallucinating, but noticed a fin and more sprays. Before I knew it a pod of beaked whales were passing behind the stern of the boat. They approached the boat quite close as if they were checking us out. The pod had passed, but around 20 minutes later, the whales were back (or perhaps more members of a spread out pod?) and again they passed on the stern of the boat.
Our second whale encounter occurred as we were traveling over the calm ocean. The captain shout down to us when we were in the galley eating lunch, we all scrambled to the bow of the boat where we were treated to the side of a large pod of pilot whales. We slowed down to enjoy the whales and a few passed under the boat. We floated among the pod watching them as they were also watching us.
Late in the cruise, I discovered a stowaway - a migrating warbler, tired from its journey across the Gulf, had stopped on our boat for some rest. The Prairie Warbler was obviously tired and perhaps so much so that it was not wary of us. It jumped on my foot and was not shy to inspect others. It stayed for one night and was not seen after the following morning. I hope it was able to sucessfully continue on its journey.
My ten days at sea where definitely memorable, but at the end I was glad to be back on dry land.


Pictures (click on pictures to enlarge)

Bird List
Brown Bobby
Masked Bobby
Nothern Gannet
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Pelican near shore
White Ibis near shore, flyby of flock of 10-15 adults and immature
Snowy Egret near shore
Green Heron on pier
Osyprey near shore
Ruddy Turnstone pier, 3
Laughing Gull
Least Tern closer to shore
Forester's Tern closer to shore
Royal Tern
Bridled Tern near sargassum, on sargassum
Rock Pigeon pier
Fish Crow pier
Barn Swallow pier
Prairie Warbler landed on boat while at sea, left after 24 h

Other Critter List
Beaked Whale - pod of ~8 checked out the boat while in idle, off the stern
Atlantic spotted Dolphin - out at sea, riding bow
Short-finned Pilot Whale - large pod of ~15, came very close to boat
Bottlenose Dolphin - close to shore, riding the bow
Yellow-finned tuna
Flying Fish


All material on this website copyright
Do not use without author's consent
Email: Birder AT NWBirding.com
page updated: 8/9/10