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Recap of our Gloucester Pelagic Cruise

A fun group participated for our annual whalewatch and seabird bird cruise on July 15th.

By Peter Alden

A group of sparkbirders arrived in Gloucester for our "pelagic" birdwatching and whalewatching cruise to Stellwagen Bank aboard the Privateer IV. We were happy that a long time President of the Massachusetts Audubon Society joined us, Jerry Bertrand (pictured on far left).

As we exited all the fishing boats and yachts in Gloucester harbor we did note several Osprey. Ospreys are unique among North American raptors for eating almost exclusively live fish and their ability to dive into water to catch them.

Sailing out of the harbor, we passed Ten Pound Island, a major nesting site for many herons. We could see trees peppered with Snowy Egrets and a few Black-crowned Night-Herons. Rounding Eastern Point we could see Boston's towers to our south.

Eastern Point Lighthouse, Gloucester Harbor by Chuck Carney

The day was sunny, pleasant and with virtually no wind there was no need for Dramamine.

Most seabirds such as shearwaters move about the ocean waves on windy days but rest quietly on calm days.

On the flip side it made for great whale watching as we could spot them from far away. Boats are urged to stay a certain distance away from whales at the surface. Nothing says whales can't gently swim up and swim beside our boat as a mother and young did at several spots for long periods. On this rare calm day we could see their eyes watching us along with superb lengthy views of all fins.

We Spotted a Rare Fin Whale

Speaking of fins we were very lucky to come by the second largest animal in the world, a Fin Whale. Fin Whales are rarely seen except as they cruise along faster than any other whale: "the greyhound of the seas". This was the first time I have seen a Fin Whale just resting at the surface. Several energetic pods of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins circled our vessel.

Fin Whale, photo by Chuck Carney

As for birds we did see a Greater Shearwater which comes here from Tristan da Cunha, a Cory's Shearwater that comes here from islands off southern Europe, and Wilson's Storm-Petrels (tiny black seabirds) that come each summer from Antarctica. A few cold water boobies known as Northern Gannets (that should have been in Canada) flew by.

Thank you to all you who joined us on this most pleasant outing.

Image Gallery - Photos by Chuck Carney


Learn About Pelagic Birds in Chapter Seven of our online course Fall Migration and 80 Autumn Birds of New England.


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