Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Finishing up a Great Weekend

Juvenile Laughing Gull
On Sunday, September 7, I celebrated my birthday by going on the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance Seabird and Whale's Tales Excursion.  This excursion occurs twice a year in June and September, and is the fundraiser for the organization to help their conservation efforts.  The spring trip was fantastic and that we saw between 40 and 45 humpback whales.  There are fantastic naturalists aboard, including Wayne Peterson gave running commentary on the birds that we saw and how to identify them, plus a commentary on the changing global climate.

This year's trip carried us to the northeast corner of Stellwagon Bank National Marine Sanctuary, after we cruised along the shore of Cape Cod from Races Point down to Truro.  There were greats sightings of birds, including a rare Sabine's gull.  We sighted all four species of shearwaters, along with three parasitic jaeger's.
Parasitic Jaeger

Parasitic Jaeger

Great and Cory's Shearwaters

Sabine's Gull
Great, Cory's, and Sooty Shearwaters

I also saw this very strange bird with strange wingtips that I could not identify :)

Cruising along Stellwagon, we came across the "Grand Dame of Stellwagon" Salt.  Salt was named by Captain Al Avellar who pioneered whale watching in New England.  This whale had a unique white pattern on her dorsal fin that reminded him of a sprinkle of salt- and that became her name. Salt is the first whale to be given a name. She has returned to the northwest Atlantic and the coast of New England every year since 1975, except one.  This year Salt has returned with her 13th calf.  Salt is also a grandmother.

Another whale that we saw named Bayou, who lost a portion of its fluke due to a strike by a ship's propeller.  In fact, because a major shipping lane crosses a portion of Stellwagon in the area where the right whales congregate, the shipping lanes have been moved 12 miles distant from where they originally were to help prevent strikes.  There is also a series of buoys that they are to sense the presence of whales, which the information is sent to ships in the area so that they can avoid them.

One of the last whales that we observed was a very playful calf, who did rolls and all sorts of activities with its fluke and fins.

To be informed of when these trips occur, you can sign up at NECWA

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