Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at NECWA

We want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving Holiday season. Thank you for all your help and support over the year as we work hard to protect and conserve marine wildlife in the New England area.

May you and your loved ones have a very safe and happy holiday season.

From all of us at NECWA.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marine Wildlife Stranding weekend with Wellfleet Bay Mass Audubon

Examining the dead torpedo ray.

This past weekend, NECWA staff were part of the Marine Wildlife Stranding Field School offered by Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay. Here staff and participants focused their weekend on the marine animals that strand along the shore of Cape Cod.

Looking for live and stranded animals on the beach.=
Activities for the weekend included walking the beaches to look for cold-stunned sea turtles and ocean sunfish. And participants were involved with necropsies (animal autopsies) of quite a few different species including a loggerhead sea turtle, a torpedo ray and an ocean sunfish.

Bob Prescott leading the loggerhead sea turtle necropsy.
Bob Prescott, Director of Mass Audubon and Krill Carson (NECWA) provided talks on sea turtles and ocean sunfish for Field School participants, helping to put it all together.

Over the course of the weekend, one live Kemp's ridley sea turtle was found on Skaket Beach and transported to the rehab facility at the New England Aquarium. Can't wait for next weekends Field School.

Michael and Bob putting the dead torpedo ray in the sling.
Check out the wonderful programs offered by Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay. Go to

Images from our Ocean Sunfish Necropsy in Provincetown:

Dead ocean sunfish. 

 Images from the loggerhead sea turtle and torpedo ray necropsy lead by Bob Prescott, Director of Mass Audubon:

Heading to the beaches with Dennis Murley to look for stranded marine animals:

Images of the live Kemp's ridely found in Orleans this weekend. 

Walking the beaches of Skaket, Orleans and finding dead seabirds and one dead torpedo ray.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

October 30, 2013 Pelagic Bird Trip out of Chatham

Tiffany photographing Mars.
7 am Pelagic Bird Trip out of Chatham, MA

This morning, Tiffany and I joined my good friend Blair for a pelagic birding trip aboard the Kittiwake out of Chatham, MA. The morning was cold, but clear and we were both very excited about what we may see offshore. Large number of both pelagic birds and humpback whales have been reported off Chatham for the past few weeks. Perhaps we would see lots of both!

We had great views of pelagic birds for much of the trip. And then at the end of the trip, we swung by some humpbacks that were feeding at the surface and right off the shoreline. What a show. Here are the whales we have identified so far.

Indiana, Peninsula, Wizard, Cat Eyes, Salt, Mars, Bayou, Manhattan, Zeppelin, Rocker, Compass, Bounce, Azrael, Lichen, Pixar, Hippocampus, and Tatsu.

Here is a short video from our trip that day. We were drifting near the whales, when they bubble netted right off the stern of the boat. As they started to strain, they swam right towards us and then dove beneath the surface.

Thanks so much to Blair for organizing this trip out of Chatham. And thanks to Capt. Kenny Eldredge for spending time with the whales on the way home. Blair put together a map showing our path offshore and the location of the whales. You can see just how close to land they were. 

Below is Blair's Massbird posting that lists all the different seabirds, gulls and sea ducks that we sighted during the trip. I would encourage anyone interested in pelagic birds to consider participating in these trips out of Chatham. Although all trips have ended for 2013, Blair will be scheduling more trips in 2014.
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 2013 22:38:00 -0400
Subject: [MASSBIRD] Chatham pelagic - 10/30 (Sabine's Gull)

Our 9th and final Chatham pelagic of 2013 capped off the season in grand
fashion.  The weather cooperated (mostly glassy seas and cloudy skies,
the rain holding off until we were just outside the inlet on our
return), the birds were again plentiful and widespread, and we ended
with a spectacularly close encounter with more than a dozen
bubble-feeding Humpbacks on our way back in.

The avian highlight was a very late Sabine's Gull (juvenile/1W) that
came into our chum slick and spent at least 10 minutes around the boat.
Manx Shearwaters were again ridiculously numerous (must have had a great
breeding season in Boston Harbor!), and Sooty Shearwaters continued in
unprecedented fall numbers.  Our list (0715 - 1130 hrs. We did more back
and forth than usual, so these totals are even more "ballpark" than usual):

1000 Common Eider (all southbound)
60 White-winged Scoters (all southbound)
950 Surf/Black scoters (all southbound)
75 Long-tailed Ducks (all southbound)
15 Red-breasted Mergansers (one southbound flock)
1 Red-throated Loon
32 Common Loons (some southbound, some on the water)
125 Great Shearwaters (our highest total since early July, but still
well below normal for the date)
200 Sooty Shearwaters (I've searched the historical records and the
highest October count I can find for this species was 100 back to 1976;
even double-digit totals are rare in October)
300 Manx Shearwaters
100 N. Gannets (95% adult)
2 Double-crested Cormorants (many more inshore)
1 Great Blue Heron (heading south up high several miles offshore)
1 Pomarine Jaeger (sub-ad., ph.  Possibly a couple others, but not seen
well or photographed)
5 Parasitic Jaegers
6 jaeger sp.
25 Black-legged Kittiwakes (mostly ad., but several juv.)
6 Bonaparte's Gulls
700 Laughing Gulls (once again the most numerous species; today the
majority were associating with the bubble-feeding Humpbacks)
4 Ring-billed Gulls
175 Herring Gulls
25 Great Black-backed Gulls (once again large gulls were relatively
scarce; most were around feeding whales)
2 passerine sp. (2 small songbirds flying together, but in terrible light)

Checklist, with a photo of the Sabine's Gull at:

Thanks to Captain Kenny Eldredge for another season of successful and
very enjoyable trips, and for extending today's trip to make the most of
our final day offshore.  And thanks to the many participants for making
these trips possible! We're already looking forward to next year.

Blair Nikula