Archive for November, 2010

Stranding Weekend: Billingsgate Shoals Gray Seals — The Video

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Naviator Cruise to Visit Gray Seals on Billingsgate Shoals

Turtle Journal cruised on the Naviator Saturday afternoon with participants of Mass Audubon’s Stranding Weekend Field School to spend quality time with hundreds of gray seals hauled out on the rising sand bars that used to be Billingsgate Island at the mouth of Wellfleet Harbor.

Stranding Weekend: Night Patrol

Monday, November 8th, 2010

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Night  Patrol Examines Wrack Line Discovery

The most awe-inspiring, the most beautiful, the most powerful and the most dangerous aspect of sea turtle rescues is the night patrol, when gentle dunes are transformed by shadow and wind and tide into a dream-like world of surreal shapes and psychedelic colors.  Daytime familiar vanishes; nighttime mystery appears.  As westerly gales toss breakers against the beach, sound itself is altered and dominated by rumbles and crashes and whistles that flood the air.

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 Don Lewis Opens Channeled Whelk Egg Casing

Friday night, participants in Mass Audubon’s Stranding Weekend, which was co-led by the Turtle Journal team, headed to Duck Harbor in northwest Wellfleet for their first sea turtle patrol.  After a candlelight dinner in the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, they learned about cold-stunned sea turtles and various other marine species that strand on bayside beaches in autumn.  Now they were ready for their first field action.

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Shooting Stars Streaks the Night Sky

With a westerly breeze blowing inshore, Don Lewis suggested they patrol from Duck Harbor in Wellfleet to Ryder Beach in Truro, about a 1.5 mile hike.  After a day of on and off rain, the skies had cleared as the group approached the beach.  The moon was in new phase, and as only Carl Sagan could say, billions and billions of stars adorned the night sky with the Milky Way stunningly bright as it stretched from Cassiopeia (the Great “W”) in the north to Sagittarius in the south.  We stared northward above the twinkling lights of Provincetown and we were dazzled as a brilliant shooting star danced across the sky to a chorus of “ohs” and “ahs.”

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1.5 Mile Night Patrol from Wellfleet to Truro

While no cold-stunned sea turtles were discovered, various critters were unmasked beneath the seaweed wrack.  Sue Wieber Nourse found a horseshoe crab molt from a juvenile specimen that offered a perfect lesson plan on this important tidal species which has contributed so much to medical research and scientific discovery, including at least one Nobel prize.  A channeled whelk casing opened another lesson as the group marched northward to the cadence of the pounding surf.

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Another Shooting Star Blazed across the Night Sky

Nearly an hour later, as we gathered at Ryder Beach to review our discoveries, another magnificent shooting star exploded across the night sky as if to punctuate this unique moment we had all experienced on the darkened, windswept beaches of Outer Cape Cod.

Stranding Weekend: Gray Seals on Billingsgate Shoals

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

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 Billingsgate Shoals Occupied by Gray Seals

Participants in the Stranding Weekend on Outer Cape Cod boarded the Naviator in Wellfleet Harbor this afternoon for a cruise to Billingsgate Shoals at the mouth of Wellfleet Bay.  The shoals are found off the southern tip of the Great Island peninsula, across a swift flowing channel from Jeremy Point.  As the tide drops and Billingsgate Shoals rises from the bottom of Cape Cod Bay, gray seals mass on the moist sands.

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 Gray Seal Entangled in Gill Netting

 As the Naviator held station off Billingsgate, binoculars and camera caught three seals that had signs of gill net entanglement.  The third gray seal from the bottom left in the photograph above has extensive netting wrapped around its neck.

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Close-Up of Gray Seal Entangled in Gill Netting

A close-up of this seal shows the gill netting more clearly. 

Stranding Weekend Begins at Wellfleet Bay

Friday, November 5th, 2010


The Stranding Weekend field school has begun this evening at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.