Monday, August 10, 2009

Warm-Water Seabirds of Stellwagen Bank

The COG and I went on an outing with the Audubon society entitled, "Warm-Water Seabirds of Stellwagen Bank". Stellwagen Bank is a National Marine Sanctuary, that runs from Cape Ann (where Gloucester is) to the 'fist' of Cape Cod. We saw lots of birds, but, it turns out that we aren't very good bird watchers. Someone would shout, 'Phalarope at 3 o'clock' and we'd all rush to the Starboard side of the boat and peer through our binoculars and see little dark birds bobbing on the ocean, and be none the wiser. We saw 4 kinds of Shearwaters - Greater, Sooty, Manx and Cory's and we were told that was unusual - to see 4 kinds. And we saw a large number of Gulls and Terns and Gannets (which I can't say with a straight face since Monty Python) and some petrels. But it was all kind of wasted on the COG and I.

The real highlight for us was the whales, because the boat we were on was actually a whale watch, with an Audubon naturalist along for the ride.

The whales were absolutely awesome. We saw several Minke Whales, in fact, one of them emerged right by the front of the boat and then dived under it. But, far far better, were the Humpbacks. We saw two mother and calf pairs, one of which had a third whale as an 'escort' whale (which is apparently something whales sometimes do with mother- calf pairs). And we saw three other whales who were swimming together for a while.

All of them came up very close to the boat, and swam alongside the boat for a long way. One of them even swam back and forth under the boat a couple of times. Whales on the East Coast get names - usually for some physical characteristic that helps naturalists keep track of them. On the West Coast, they don't name whales, they number them. We saw, Scratch and her calf, Lavaliere and her calf (with an escort they couldn't identify), Circus and Shard, who were swimming with another whale they couldn't identify.

Circus is known to like boats, and he was incredible. He kept turning on his side right next to the boat so we could see his eye and his face. And he would put is 'arm fin' (whatever they are called). in the air and slap it down on the water as if he were playing with us. It was unbelievable. I only took pictures of the first Mother Calf pair (Scratch and her calf) because I couldn't watch and take pictures, too. But here is one picture, which only begins to show what we saw. Later they got even closer. And Scratch frequently would dive by bringing her tail all the way in the air, so we could see it fully.

BTW, we went out to sea 24 miles to see them, a round trip on the water of 48 miles.

1 comment:

peaceable_tate said...

wow, what a cool outing! I'm amazed that the whales are distinct enough to be recognized.