Crows thrive on Cape Cod, especially in the winter, when thousands live on the Cape, then roost on Martha’s Vineyard. Bostonians can see roosts in Roxbury and Shopper’s World.
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The New England Aquarium Marine Animal Rescue Team and an alert seal-loving Beverly, MA, woman saved a harp seal who got stuck in the crevice of a cliff Monday. The 50-pound, yearling female seal got stuck between rocks 20 feet above the water by the full moon high tide. Rescuers extricated the seal, who has gray mottled fur, from the rocks, checked her out and released her into Salem Sound.The seal was first seen on the cliff Sunday by neighbor Katie Duffy. Like many people, Duffy was worried seeing a seal out of water. She called rescuers who could thought the seal was doing fine. The seal population in the U.S. seems to be on the rise, leading to seals showing up in unusual places or high numbers. Just days ago the aquarium was checking out a seal who decided to visit downtown Boston.
The next day, however, the seal has gotten herself stuck in a tiny 2-foot deep trench. Duffey again called rescuers, who came out to find the seal ”in significant distress with labored breathing,” according to the Aquarium. “They were initially not optimistic about the seal’s prospects.” Aquarium staff Adam Kennedy and Ulrika Malone threw a blanket over her. She froze in fear and they were able to push her into a crate. When they finally got to examine her, they found she was fine. She just had some scratches.So they carried her crate down to a beach. At first she was still too scared to move,
Keep reading Harp Seal Stuck On Cliff Near Salem, MA, Rescued
Yesterday we reported on how the Great White Sharks that are closing beaches on Cape Cod are also drawing shark tourists. Today another seal boat captain tells us they’re looking in the wrong spot. Captain Keith Lincoln of Monomoy Island Ferry says that people are mistakenly hanging around Chatham Lighthouse since that’s where the shark was first sighted by kayakers a eating a seal in August. “That is all due to the misleading information given by the media,” says Captain Keith. “Massachusetts Department of Fisheries page shows all the taggings being done three miles south of the lighthouse near the area where South Beach and South Monomoy Island attached in 2006.”
Looking at the Fisheries map here, he’s totally right. Excellent tip, Captain Keith. (Though they do also show pictures of sharks offshore of the lighthouse.) He also warns that even if you’re in the right place, the odds of seeing a shark are pretty impossible. The tagging teams use spotters on planes and perches 35 feet out of the water.Captain Keith reports he’s “calls about seeing the sharks, which is nearly impossible to guarantee.” I think the seal tourists of Cape Cod have gotten spoiled; the tour boats can guarantee sightings because they’re dealing with the east coast’s biggest colony of gray seals, which is somewhere around 10,000. Normally wildlife watching is no sure thing.
Captain Keith, a 20-year veteran of the seal tours, says the sharks (and attendant media frenzy) come every year. “I think this year
When news got out that Chatham, MA’s, gray seal colony–the biggest on the east coast–was drawing sharks that closed beaches, a funny thing happened. Or didn’t happen. Instead of running away scared, more tourists came to this little town on Cape Cod’s elbow to see some sharks, hoping for a picture, or at least a glimpse.
“It’s a big draw,” says Lisa Franz, executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce. “We have traffic jams… People are still walking in today and saying ‘Where can we see them?’”
Tony LaCasse, a former veteran Boston TV newsman, says years ago local TV news would’ve been filled with scared would-be swimmers. But that was before years of education that drilled home how very unlikely it is to be bitten, let alone eaten, by a great white shark in New England. (Last fatal attack: 1936) Now we get shark tourists. “It’s a long way from Jaws,” says LaCasse, where the premise was they couldn’t possibly close the beach on the Fourth of July.
The sharks are coming because the water is (briefly) warm and because the seal population has grown unchecked–well, that is, until the sharks showed up. Seal populations were kept artificially low for decades–maybe centuries. Until the 1960s, Massachusetts even paid a bounty for each seal (“a nickel a nose” in the early 1900s). Now seals are making a comeback. Cape has the biggest population on the American east coast, with roughly 10,000 (no one’s done a formal count since
Picking out a whale-friendly East Coast whale watch just got a little easier. NOAA and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society just started Whale Sense, a voluntary program to ensure tours from Virginia to Maine don’t bother whales.
The rules are complicated–more than just stay back 100 feet, though that is the basic distance. (If the whale approaches you, stay put. If it’s a right whale, back off 1,500 feet.) What I found more amusing were the rules against advertising showing whale watchers touching, swimming with or even chasing the whales. Is Jerry Bruckheimer running a watch somewhere?
So far the group has signed up five companies, mainly in Massachusetts. I count at least 30 tour companies from Virginia to Maine, with 18 going to Stellwagen Bank–not included the odd charters that line the whole coast. So what about the ones not on the list?
Even Frank Kelley, operations manager for Mass Bay Lines (listed) says that right now the program is so new that you can’t judge an operation for not participating. Lots of the tours work with other whale groups. For example, Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company is tied to Allied Whale. The New England Aquarium’s whale watch, which I just went on, isn’t part of the program yet (they’re still examining the details), says spokesman Tony LaCasse. But since they already do most of it and they helped push voluntary standards decades ago, they’ll probably be part of it.
When you’re out on Stellwagen it’s not
Boston loves to show off its sweet, staring role in Make Way for Ducklings, the children’s book that culminates in cops helping ducks across the street. They’ve got duckling statues, duckling contests and it is seemingly mandatory to display the book in stores. Yet the city isn’t helping its non-fiction waterfowl. For nearly three decades a flock of white and gray geese have lived on the Charles River near Boston University, but their advocates say a renovation plan is pushing them out.
“They insist they have this beautiful park but they have no use for free animals,” says Robert J. La Trémouille, a blogger who is one of the Friends of the White Geese, which is kind of the like the geese’s political lobbying arm. This flock of 60-80 White China, Emden, and Toulouse geese have lots of friends and fans. La Trémouille says Bostonians have visited geese–a rare survivor on the polluted Charles–since at least 1981, when a plant got “guard geese.” But some say the geese go back 60 years.
Another group, the Charles River Urban Wilds Initiative, concern themselves with the geese’s day-t0-day care. Many, like Boston University writing lecturer Allison Blyer, take it on themselves to deliver healthy food (veggies, duck food) and occasional medical care. They notice individual characters and quirks. The current leader, Buddy, is about 20 years old. Pinky, pictured above, is known as a real character, sayd Blyer: “He is very bonded to us and likes to peck cameras.
Keep reading Boston Won’t Make Way For Geese
This weekend we got to see a pod of humpback whales bubble cloud feeding–that is cooperatively blowing bubbles to herd tiny fish into a concentration near the surface, then gobbling them up. The New England Aquarium’s‘s tour brought us close enough to the whales that we could actually see, understand and anticipate what they were doing.
You first know you’re going to see this specialized hunting technique when a huge patch of light turquoise water appears. Bubbles surface, then enormous black snouts covered with bumps (technically, tubercules or hair follicles). There’s lots of jostling and swirling, then fins and finally a “whale footprint” or eerily smooth patch of sea that, we learned, whalers first thought was leaked whale oil.
I found some discussion online that humpbacks only bubble net feed off Alaska, Antarctica and west of South America. I’m not a whale expert, so I’m not sure if this is any different from what we all saw. But we clearly got to see it a few times. We had at least three whales at it, Echo, a mother; her calf, who stuck close to her; and another whale named Zooney.
The New England Aquarium has the system down to bring whales to the masses: a huge, fast catamaran whisks you an hour off-shore into Stellwagen Bank, a shallow feeding ground and sanctuary. Right from the center of Boston you can spend three hours and $40 and see one of the most active whale-watching sights in the world. Whale-watching tours
New England Aquarium, Boston, Play with Marine Mammals
The New England Aquarium lets you play with their sea lions and seals. In the last few years a number of animal rescue groups and traditional aquariums have hit on the idea of, well, basically, pimping out their animals. You pay a little extra and get a little extra contact, how much depends on how much you pay.The New England Aquarium has two programs. For $30 you can feed seals, but for $125 you get to help feed, entertain and train sea lions, seals and maybe a large turtle.It’s a small group–just three–and the real trainers are incredibly gracious in letting you enjoy the fun part of their job. Still, I felt a little bit idiotic since it was me and two kids. (They say it’s about half and half adults to kids. And that often parents bring kids, but it’s obviously really for mom or dad.)We started off with the sea lions, who are soon leaving for Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. We got to see the sea lions’ kitchen and warm indoor pool. When we went outside, the sea lions, Guthrie, an 838 pound mush, and Ballou, a younger, smaller and more shy sea lion.Guthrie watches the crowds and came by as soon as we walked in–assuming it was feeding time. We got to feel his thick wet fur, massive fins. We each put fish in his mouth, which was big but full of worn down, black teeth so not
Keep reading Pay to Play with a Seal Lion in Boston