Celebrating November – Basking with Seals

Marsh Channels of Black Duck Creek

Neither fall nor winter, November is March in reverse, arriving in the guise of a gentle lamb and exiting with the fierce roar of a lion.  The 1st of November held true to the model, dawning a clear, calm 50 degrees on the Outer Cape and nudging into the mid-60s until weather vanes spun in late afternoon and a North Atlantic wind howled into Wellfleet Harbor.  On the Cape, November is the month with the least sunshine and the most overcast days.  So, wildlife and humans, feral and domestic, savored the day’s warmth and beauty.  And Turtle Journal offers reflective memory of this perfectly nuanced November day. 

Harbor Seal Basking on Mayo Beach, Wellfleet Harbor

We began our November 1st on the Wellfleet Pier as we searched again in vain for the disappearing ocean sunfish [see Exotic Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)].  When we abandoned those fruitless efforts around noon, we spotted a distant chubby blob rocking in seesaw fashion on Mayo Beach in front of the former Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.  One of the harbor seals that had been stuffing itself with sand eels this last week (see Wellfleet Harbor Seals: “Thanks for All the Fish!”) was taking advantage of a mostly deserted beach between the empty pier and the emptier summer cottages lining the waterfront out toward Great Island to soak up November sunshine.

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Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) Savoring the 1st of November

As an isolated resident or stray tourist wandered within eyeshot or earshot, the seal would slither into the water, stretch its muscles on a leisurely swim and then return to the beach once “all clear” registered in its brain.  With a long unobstructed view of the beach the seal was never hurried or surprised since it could see humans (and their canine companions) a half mile away.  The only startled moment came as a seagull swooped overhead, prompting the seal to slap the water with its flipper to frighten the bird away (see movie clip above).

Tide Rises to Wash Over Basking Harbor Seal

With huge tides in Wellfleet Bay, it was amusing to watch the seal start off high and dry, and then quickly get overtaken by rising waters.  And speaking of tides, we had begun our day observing low-tide drained beaches, creeks and marsh channels surrounding Lieutenant Island.  Marsh grasses have browned since September and summer critters have burrowed down for the long, harsh winter ahead in the Great White North of Cape Cod.

Shorebirds Foraging in Black Duck Creek, Lieutenant Island

For this morning, peace and blissful quiet reigned with only the cawing of distant crows and the rustling of a few shorebirds pecking through the deeply carved peat channels of one of the richest salt marsh systems in the Northeast.  Minnows galore circled shallow tidal pools in large schools, impatiently awaiting the return of flood tide to abet their escape from these predatory birds.

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Lieutenant Island Tidal Flats at Low Tide

As tide approaches dead low, the last trickles of water zigzag to the bay, etching pathways through mud and sand, and cascading into rivulets that gurgle to the receding sea.  The video clip offers a minute of grateful reflection on a perfect November day.

Satisfied Seagull

We close this blog entry with a comment from one of our well-nourished feathered philosophers, “Happy November!”

One Response to “Celebrating November – Basking with Seals”

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