Seabirds: Great Shearwater

Photo of Great Shearwater

Great Shearwaters are common pelagic birds found off the New England coast, roughly from June through October. Frequently spotted from fishing or whale watch boats, these stiff-winged gliders may also be seen from land at select coastal sites if food and weather conditions are right.

Spending nearly all of their life at sea, it's during our white season that Great Shearwaters visit land to nest. Large flocks assemble on a small number of islands in the South Atlantic, where each successful pair raises just one chick, who, if all goes well, will fledge by mid-spring. The adults then head north for their circuit through the North Atlantic, leaving their young to fend for themselves and eventually follow.

Great Shearwaters belong to an order of seabirds known as tubenoses (Procellariiformes), so named for the tube-like structures covering their nostrils. Salt glands allow these seabirds to desalinate ocean water on demand, with excess salt being excreted in solution from their nostrils.

To learn more about these pelagic birds, visit Audubon's Guide to North American Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

17.39 | Nature Notes (Sep 24-30)

Photo of Ross's Goose
Ross's Goose with Canada Geese | Fort Fairfield, ME | 30 Sep 2017

(Birding) Highlights of the Week

I ventured to Monhegan Island with another birder on Sunday and saw the continuing juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (FOY) at the Ice Pond, as well as a vocal Dickcissel and a Blue Grosbeak.

I went on a whale watch out of Boothbay Harbor and observed 3 Fin Whales, 1 Parasitic Jaeger (FOY), 1 unidentified jaeger, 4 Northern Fulmar (FOY for Maine), and a variety of other seabirds.

During yet another deep sea fishing trip out of Kennebunk aboard the F/V Nor'easter, I tallied 6+ Northern Fulmar, 1 Cory's Shearwater, 12+ Great Shearwater, 150+ Northern Gannet, and 1 juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake, and I caught a few Pollock.

And on Saturday (day 1 of a 2-day trip to Aroostook County), two other birders and I observed an albino Canada Goose, a Ross's Goose (FOY), and a whopping 17 Cackling Geese (FOY) among thousands of Canada Geese spread across various wetlands.

Wild Edible of the Week

I snacked on the dark fruit of Nannyberry.

Moon Challenge Report

My Meditation and Gratitude Moon Challenge is going well -- so far I haven't missed a day.

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Visit a local goose flock to look for rare geese or simply to observe the size, shape, and plumage variations among Canada Geese.

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Fish: Ocean Sunfish

Photo of Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) are large, bony fish who often bask on their sides near the surface of the open ocean. The roundish, flattish body of an Ocean Sunfish features a large dorsal (top) fin, a similarly sized ventral (bottom) fin, and two small pectoral (side) fins. Swimming with his or her dorsal fin above the water, this fish may, at first glance, be mistaken for a shark, that is until you see the fin flopping from side to side in classic Mola mola fashion. The next time you venture off-shore for a whale watch, schooner cruise, or deep sea fishing trip, be on the look-out for this jellyfish-eating ocean creature.

To learn more about Ocean Sunfish, visit Animal Diversity Web. To view the following images in full-size, click here.