Posts Tagged ‘Sippican Harbor’

Monet School of Menhaden

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Island Wharf (Center); Long Wharf and Beverly Yacht Club (Right)

Last evening about an hour before sunset, the Turtle Journal team strolled to the Marion town docks at Island Wharf in Sippican Harbor.  Located just north of the Beverly Yacht Club, the docks lie close to Ram Island and the outlet to Buzzards Bay.  So many yachts are moored in the protected inner harbor that one might literally hopscotch from deck to deck across the broad waterway.  This busy location translates into fewer sightings of shy estuarine critters seeking safety from predators and dangerous encounters with humankind.

Inner Harbor and Island Wharf Left of Ram Island; Buzzards Bay Right

So, rather than “on assignment,” we were merely enjoying a pre-sunset, postprandial walk from Turtle Journal Central along the south bank of Sippican Harbor.  As we climbed down the ramp, we were surpised to see a group of menhaden circling within feet of the empty floating dock.  This late on an October evening, the sun had dipped so low in the southwestern sky that it bathed the harbor in long waves of light and transformed the scene into a blurry impressionist reflection of reality as the rays ricocheted in the thick, plankton rich top layer of harbor water .  Ghostly fish cruised through the water with silver scales casting off flashes of reds, blues, violets and eerie grays.

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Monet School of Menhaden

The effect was stunning; an impressionist’s canvas painted in light and life.  As we walked back with the image echoing in our memory, we thought had Monet kept fish in his Giverny water garden, he would surely have imported menhaden for such an autumnal moment.

Rescuing a Crabby Hermit (While Others Chase a Mermaid Manatee)

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

The Turtle Journal team ventured to Dennis today to document the wayward manatee that has somehow wandered from Florida up the Atlantic Coast and through Cape Cod Canal to become trapped by cold bay water in picturesque Sesuit Harbor near the biceps of Cape Cod.  We arrived about ten minutes too late to spy the manatee which had headed higher upstream to avoid the rush of chilly bay water flushed into Sesuit Harbor with the rising tide.  The story from the harbormaster says that a special C-130 is winging its way to the Cape and a team will “rescue” the manatee this weekend, so it can be transported back to sunny Florida.  We also learned that special food had been dispatched and would arrive anon to add more zest to this warm water creature stuck in Cape Cod fall.  News crews had flocked to this tiny hamlet to tell the tale of a Great Manatee Rescue.  The following YouTube piece appeared on Cape Cod Times on-line.

Manatee in Sesuit Harbor in Dennis on Cape Cod

Given a doe-eyed sea cow in the area, it’s not an easy task to pitch the rescue of a crabby hermit.  Mon dieu!  No one ever accused a flat-clawed hermit crab (Pagurus pollicaris) of the crime of cuteness.  Who cares whether such a shiftless critter that scavenges its own home survives?  Well, the answer to that question is the Turtle Journal cares, especially if we can get good footage.

Flat-Clawed Hermit Crab in Fractured Whelk Shell

We happened across this hermit crab, the lone survivor of a predatory seagull that had been slurping crabs from their adopted homes in whelk shells.  A scattering of empty shells lay among the rocky shore of Silvershell Beach off Sippican Harbor.  This one particular shell had been dropped from great height by the seagull, cracking the shell in multiple locations and exposing the crab to depredation.  Luckily for the crab, but not for the seagull, we arrived just in time to interrupt the process.  Unfortunately, its home was destroyed and the compressed shell had lodged the hermit crab so tightly that it couldn’t squirm out to find a new home.  But give a human a heavy rock and it can work miracles that even a seagull can’t accomplish!

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Meet the Crabby Hermit

Now that we had removed it from its fractured shell, we owed this crabby hermit a new home.  The seagull had left us two choices of whelk shells just about the same size as its former home.  Not being a crab ourselves, we placed the two whelk shells in the water equally distant from Crabby, but we nudged it a bit toward the shell on the left that seemed through a human eye the nicer home.  Wrong.

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Crabby Hermit Rejects the Human’s Favorite for a Home

Well, clearly even a crabby hermit has its standards and the home we had favored didn’t meet them.  Perhaps the whelk had too many slipper shells (Crepidula fornicata) that might irritate its tender abdomen as the hermit crab tucked its largeness into the tight quarters of its new prospective home.  Whatever the reason, our rescued hermit crab finally felt sufficiently comfortable with the second whelk shell to snuggle into its new home, protected once again from predators.

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Crabby Picks a New Home

Was it too much to ask for a simple thank you?  I guess so.  But then again, with a little anthropomorphic delusion, we can see Crabby waving its broad claw as its disappears under the rising tide.  Sure, it must have been waving.  Well, something was waving.  They don’t call them waves for nothing.  Do they?

Epilogue:  And the mermaid was rescued, too, on Saturday morning, October 11th, 2008 from Sesuit Harbor in Dennis, Cape Cod.  This animal sets the record of the furthest north that a manatee has ever been documented.  Oh, yes.  Dennis is a merman.

Manatee Rescued from Sesuit Harbor in Cape Cod Bay

Breakfast Kippers! Sunrise Over Buzzards Bay

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Thousands and thousands of menhaden swirled around Sippican Harbor this morning as sun rose in pink and purple hues over Buzzards Bay.  They even beat the fishermen who didn’t arrive until after pink had faded to gray.  So. for the sole amusement of the Turtle Journal crew and our audience, these critters spun with the perfect synchrony of a jeweled clock, ticking and tocking to the rhythm of the deep blue seas.

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Menhaden Circle under Buzzards Bay Sunrise

Menhaden Arrive in Sippican Harbor on Buzzards Bay

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

As skies cleared this morning, we spotted menhaden schools flooding into Sippican Harbor and circling in relative safety between docks and piers by the town landing and Burr Brothers.  Almost before we could snap our first pictures, fishermen arrive; not with fishing poles this time, but in boats with cast nets.  Others aboard those boats try to foul-hook menhaden with bare hooks.  Throughout the day, more and more boats arrived to harvest menhaden for bait and by early evening, fishermen were sprawled on the floating docks waiting for schools to get within casting range.

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Fishermen in Boats Harvest Menhaden for Bait

Road Warrior: Eastern Box Turtle Strolls Down Interstate

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Jon Pope, owner & proprietor with his wife Michelle of Uncle Jon’s Coffee Houses, encountered an exceedingly strange sight as he dropped off Interstate I-195 onto Route 105 in Marion, Massachusetts.  Traffic does, indeed, slow down quickly as one enters this sailing hamlet on Sippican Harbor.  So, Jon is used to breaking hard in transitioning from Interstate to sleeping village.  In this case, though, he got behind a four-legged rather than a four-wheeled entity.  Jon jumped out of his car and rescued a male adult Eastern box turtle strolling down the off-ramp.  As much surprised as Jon, this road warrior took an instant liking to his new two-legged friend.

Jon Pope Admires Rescued Male Eastern Box Turtle

His shell records a series of human encounters, none as pleasant as today’s rescue by Jon.  Most of the forward marginals, the outer ring of small scutes rimming the carapace (top shell), have been broken off completely.  His rear marginals are nicked and chinked so much that they seem like serration. 

Lots of Dings and Chinks along the Marginals of This Road Warrior

With his handsome red eyes, manly tail and plastron (bottom shell) concavity, this veteran road warrior exhibited all the traits of an exemplar male Eastern box turtle.

Male Eastern Box Turtle

Tonight we’re puzzling over an appropriate home to release our new reptilian friend.  Clearly, the Interstate Highway System isn’t a safe habitat.  He’s been lucky to have survived this long.  So, we’ll be investigating potential Eastern box turtle habitat in the SouthCoast area.