Posts Tagged ‘Chipman’s Cove’

Wake of Buzzards Haunts Wellfleet Harbor

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

True the economic picture has turned bleak with the market hovering around 9000 this morning as this post gets written.  Still, we were surprised yesterday by a wake of buzzards perched on a dead copse of trees and haunting Wellfleet Harbor.  (Yes, Virginia, “wake” is the collective noun for buzzards … and a rather appropriate one, we might add.)

Wake of Buzzards — Sign of the Times?

Certainly not a commentary on the town, I’m sure.  Wellfleet Bay is, in the opinion of Turtle Journal, one of the most gorgeous natural locations anywhere in the developed world.  Yet, even the most stone hearted, cold-blooded, turtle-like person could be forgiven for wondering whether these vultures might portend troubled times ahead.  Somehow, we suspect that this image won’t make it onto a glossy, chamber of commerce picture postcard of Outer Cape must-see sights. 

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Turkey Vultures Roost on Dead Trees Overlooking Wellfleet Harbor

These magnificent, if somewhat threatening, scavenger birds are turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) that feed almost exclusively on carrion.  While some might be repulsed, we’re certain that Ben Franklin would have considered them among the best of birds as he lobbied hard for the selection of the turkey rather than the eagle as our national symbol. 

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) in Wellfleet Harbor

Not very skittish, these buzzards allowed us to approach within a few feet, not too surprising because they have few natural predators and are protected from us under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  We clicked away in silence but when the camera beeped to change digital storage devices, the vultures decided the better part of valor was to take a long, graceful glide around Chipman’s Cove.

Turkey Vulture Rides the Thermals Above Wellfleet Harbor

Menhaden Seek Safe Harbor in Wellfleet; Still Absent in Sippican Harbor

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Atlantic menhaden, known locally as pogies, alwifes, and bunker, often school in estuaries during September and October, swimming in very large balls as herd protection from ferocious bluefish attacks.  As Hurricane Kyle blew by Cape Cod on Sunday, topping off a long three day weekend of pouring rain, a menhaden school flooded into the inner harbor of Wellfleet at high tide, followed by blues that were followed by local fishermen.  The word must have spread by ethernet (among bluefish and humans) because soon fishing poles outnumbered pogies.

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Menhaden Flood into Wellfleet Inner Harbor

Over the last few years, locals have perceived a significant decline in menhaden.  They have petitioned state and federal legislators for action to control the reduction fishery in which menhaden are harvested for the extraction of omega-3 oils for human consumption with the remainder used for aquaculture and livestock feed.  Menhaden are also harvested as bait for both commercial and recreational fisheries.  Whatever the cause of perceived overfishing, menhaden form a critical link in the coastal ecosystem and their absence would have a significant effect in degrading the coastal enviroment.

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Large Concentration of Menhaden in Sippican Harbor (2006)

In Sippican Harbor off Buzzards Bay, we have been awaiting the arrival of pogies this year.  We found no significant concentration of menhaden in the fall of 2007.  The last time we documented a major massing of menhaden schools in Marion’s Sippican Harbor was September and October 2006.  We are waiting to see if they return in any substantial numbers in 2008.

Sippican Menhaden Beset with Parasitic Copepods

As you can detect in the close-up shots from the video clip, a large percentage of 2006 menhaden were adorned with parasitic copepods.

Don Lewis Holds Menhaden Netted in Chipman’s Cove

During early October 2005 we documented many large schools of menhaden in Wellfleet’s Chipman’s Cove, south of the harbor pier.

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Menhaden Massing in Chipman’s Cove (2005)