HARBOR SEALS BASKING AT BRACE COVE – DON’T MESS WITH THESE BAD BOYS!

Juno, mom Mary Ellen, and friend Julie were out on the Niles Pond berm Sunday, admiring the Harbor Seals basking. We counted thirteen seals that afternoon.

I didn’t realize one seal had its mouth wide open until looking at the photos the following day. Seal’s use their strong teeth and powerful jaws to rip apart prey and are yet another reason not to get too close to a seal hauled out on land.


Julie, Juno, and Mary Ellen

SNOWY DAY IN GLOUCESTER with YOUNG SWANS, SAINT ANTHONYS-BY-THE-SEA, TEN POUND ISLAND, BRACE COVE, PAINT FACTORY, AND MORE

The prettiest kind of snowy day, not too cold, with swirly fluffy flakes.

STUNNING BALD EAGLE IN THE HOOD!

Saturday afternoon a captivating young Bald Eagle swooped onto the scene with a fresh catch held tightly in its talons. He was fairly far off in the distance and I couldn’t quite capture what exactly he was eating.

It didn’t take long for the eagle to devour the little creature and after dining, he circled around the pond several times before landing in a nearby tree. I’ve never been so close to an eagle and it was a gift to see, really just gorgeous. It’s feathers were richly mottled in shades of chocolate brown, with contrasting white tips. Despite its youth, you could see the majesty and strength in its wings when soaring overhead.

The eagle perched in the branches for a few moments, completely ignoring the squwacky crows that were gathering, before heading out towards sea.

There have been numerous reports of Bald Eagles in the area. Earlier in the day, a passerby told me she had seen a juvenile Bald Eagle with a crow in its clutches. Although I don’t have a side-by-side comparison, the young Bald Eagle’s talons appeared enormous, even larger than a Snowy or Great Horned Owl’s talons.

Bald Eagles have repopulated the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Canada, and northern Mexico. Their recovery over the past several decades is largely due to the ban on DDT (yet another deadly dangerous poisonous insecticide manufactured by Monsanto). Bald Eagles mate for life and they are breeding in the area. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see a nest on Cape Ann!

I believe this to be a second or third hatch year juvenile Bald Eagle. You can tell by the broad brown band on its face, the iris is transitioning from amber to yellow, and because the beak is beginning to turn yellow.

Click on any of the photos in the gallery above to see a full-sized slideshow.

Fourth hatch year Bald Eagle -note the remaining brown feathers around the face.

Mature Bald Eagle (images courtesy wiki commons media). 

THREE GRACES – BEAUTIFUL YOUNG SWANS AT NILES POND!

A beautiful trio of young Mute Swans spent the day at Niles Pond foraging on pond vegetation and enjoying fresh water. When the fresh water ponds thaw, we see our local swans take a break from their salty harbor refuges. The Three Graces spent the entire day eating nearly nonstop, which suggests they are very hungry.

I believe the three young swans are not quite one year old. Their bills are pale, and brown first-molt feathers mix with incoming white feathers. It’s their first winter so if you see the young swans, please be kind.

Mr. Swan, too, has been enjoying the fresh water at Henry’s Pond. He’s so territorial that I hope he stays over in Rockport for a bit so the Three Graces can fortify at Niles.


Mr. Swan thawing at Henry’s Pond

THAT HECTOR REALLY GETS AROUND!

Cape Ann’s visiting Black Vulture Hector was recently spotted in Gloucester. He is enjoying reader Nancy’s food treats and her geese 🙂

POOR LITTLE DEAD RAZORBILL

Monday afternoon at Good Harbor Beach I found the little Razorbill washed ashore, up between the ice sheets at the high tide line. Thanks so much to Mike for sharing his story about the Razorbills he saw at the Dogbar Breakwater last week. I could identify it immediately because of Mike’s sighting. I hope so much the other Razorbill is surviving 🙂

I left him by the footbridge in case anyone else would like to see the Razorbill.

Another Super Exciting Wildlife Sighting- Two Razorbills at Eastern Point!

NOT ONE, BUT TWO SNOWY OWL BOYS!

Not one, but two, Snowy boys were well camouflaged amidst the rocks. They were far apart from one another when one flew toward the other. The stationary fellow didn’t move an inch and barely opened his eyes, while the flying fellow hid himself expertly behind a clump of dry wildflowers. The two sleepily hung out together, positioned not twenty feet apart.

I wished I could have stayed to see if they would behave territorially, but frozen fingers chided me off the beach.

I see you little Snowy Boy!

A flock of Snow Buntings foraged in between the rocks and they too were well-camouflaged.

SAVE THE DATE! Piping Plover Ecology, Management, and Conservation

Sponsored by the City of Gloucester Animal Advisory Committee

Nine Piping Plover Fledglings, Coffins Beach, Gloucester

On Saturday March 30, 2019 Dr. Katharine Parsons, Director, Coastal Waterbird Program for Mass Audubon will be giving a presentation on Piping Plovers. The talk will be held at the Library, downstairs in the Friend room.

Dr. Katharine Parsons received her Bachelor’s degree from Smith College and Ph.D. in Ecology from Rutgers University. She has 35 years of experience in coastal waterbird research, management and policy in the northeast. Since 2011, Dr. Parsons has directed Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program which works with coastal communities throughout Massachusetts to protect rare birds and their habitats. In addition, she has taught courses in coastal ecology and natural systems at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design since 2008. Her presentation at the Gloucester Public Library will cover Piping Plover ecology, management and conservation.

Gloucester’s Coffins Beach fledglings

PAT MORS SHARES PHOTOS OF RAZORBILLS AND KITTIWAKES FROM THEIR NORWEGIAN BREEDING GOUNDS

Pat Morss writes,

In response to Mike’s sighting of Razorbills at the Dog Breakwater – exciting, Anne-Lise and I and family were in Norway last June to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 100th birthday and our 50th wedding anniversary.  We took a side trip north of the Arctic Circle to the Lofoten Islands.  On the island of Ross, we took a zodiak trip out to the “bird mountain” rookeries including Razorbills and Black-legged Kitttiwakes.

Best, Pat

Thanks so very much to Pat Morss for sharing the baby Harp Seal photos and story, and now the Razorbill photos. I think it wonderful for us to see the connection between these beautiful creatures visiting the shores of Cape Ann and their Arctic breeding grounds.

RECENT SIGHTINGS OF HECTOR, CAPE ANN’S VISITING BLACK VULTURE!

Over the weekend, many new of sightings of Hector, Gloucester and Rockport’s visiting Black Vulture, were reported. He was seen at residences all along East Main Street, back at the Rockport dump, and even in Rockport Harbor! Many thanks to reader Lauren T for sharing her photo.

Black Vulture “Hector” at Rockport Harbor

OLD MAN PLOVER- THE BEAUTIFUL STORY OF ONE PLOVER RETURNING TO THE EXACT SAME BEACH TO NEST FOR FIFTEEN YEARS STRAIGHT!

The legendary Old Man Plover

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee has submitted outstandingly well-researched recommendations to the Mayor’s office and to our City Councilors in regard to the upcoming Piping Plover season. Please see recommendations at the end of the post below. 

In thinking ahead to April, which is the month when Piping Plovers usually arrive to Massachusetts beaches to begin courting and nesting, I am reminded of the beautiful story of Old Man Plover. The locals in his region originally called him  BO:X,g (pronounced box gee) after the combination of letters on the bands of his legs, which are used to identify and track PiPl through their migration cycle. But as he lived longer and longer, the storied PiPl became known as Old Man Plover.

Not only was Old Man Plover legendary because he returned to the same nesting site and wintering grounds for fifteen straight years, but because he was crippled. In 2013 he lost most of the toes on his left foot. A stick became lodged in one of the leg bands, which could have caused an abrasion, a lesion, or possibly constricted blood flow to his toes. After losing his toes, wherever he hobbled, Old Man Plover left a distinct peg mark in the sand.

Old Man Plover’s stumpy leg

Old Man Plover was part of the endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover population, where numbers are even lower than the Atlantic region of PiPl. He hatched at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, and wintered over at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina. Not merely did he return for fifteen summers to nest at his birthplace, he was also extremely punctual. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, he arrived on the exact same day, April 13th.

The last decade of Old Man Plover’s life was not easy. In addition to losing his toes, he lost his childhood sweetheart in 2011 and a second mate in 2013. Plants took over his original nesting spot and his beach grew narrower due to rising lake water levels.

Piping Plovers famously show fidelity to the same nesting site. We have seen that with our own Papa Plover, who has created nest scrapes in nearly exactly the same spot for the past three years. My nickname for our Papa is Big Papi because David Ortiz retired from the Red Sox the same year our Papa arrived, and because our Papa has the same fighting spirit as Big Papi.

Old Man Plover is not the oldest known PiPl on record. That title goes to an Atlantic Coast PiPl that was photographed in Cuba last year, after being tagged 17 years ago at the same location biologists had first banded the bird!

Migrating between Michigan and South Carolina over a fifteen year period, Old Man Plover traveled tens of thousands of miles in his lifetime. He was an amazing Dad. The average PiPl pair raise 1.5 chicks. Old Man Plover raised a whopping 36 chicks, averaging 3-4 chicks per clutch! Read more about Old Man Plover’s offspring here: Old Man Plover’s Legacy Lives On

Old Man Plover’s chicks

Animal Advisory Committee Recommendations

On September 12, 2018, the Animal Advisory Committee voted unanimously on the following proposed ordinances for protections to piping plovers and other wildlife species.

Section 4-2: Feeding or disturbing wildlife No person shall disturb, harass, harbor or feed directly or indirectly gulls, pigeons, waterfowl, coastal shorebirds, or crows on any streets, beach, or other public property or anywhere in the downtown area unless properly permitted by the appropriate state and federal wildlife authorities. Violation results in a $300 fine per incident/violation. No person shall feed either directly or indirectly any coyotes on any public or private property. Violation results in a $300 fine per incident/violation.

(New Ordinance- Endangered/Threatened Wildlife Buffer zone: ) Buffer zone of 50 feet around an area will be established around any area designated as protected for wildlife. Prohibited activities in the buffer zone include whiffle ball, frisbee, soccer, volleyball, paddle ball, kites, inflatable balls and any other activities that involve objects that can fly or roll into the restricted area. Violation results in a $300 fine per incident/violation.

Sec. 9-8. – Littering prohibited. (update to a): No person shall throw, drop, release or otherwise dispose of directly or indirectly into any harbor, river, or pond or on to any beach, or any public property garbage, refuse, rubbish, bottles, cans, containers, paper, cigarette butts, balloons, wrapping material, glass, filth or any noxious or dangerous liquid or solid. Violation results in a $300 fine per incident/violation.

Sec. 4-16a. – Dogs allowed on public beaches at certain times. Adhere to ordinances for specific beaches below.

Good Harbor and Wingaersheek Beaches: Dogs shall be prohibited from Good Harbor Beach and Wingaersheek Beach from April 1st -Sept 30th annually. In addition, unleashed dogs shall be allowed on Good Harbor Beach and Wingaersheek Beach, from: October 1st to March 30th annually, subject to the following conditions: Off leash on even-numbered days of the month at Good Harbor Beach and odd numbered days of the month at Wingaersheek Beach.

Plum Cove and Cressy Beaches: Unleashed dogs shall be allowed on Plum Cove Beach and Cressy Beach in the off season from October 1st to April 30th annually. Crab Beach: Dogs shall be allowed on “Crab Beach” off leash at all times subject to the enumerated conditions contained in section 4-16a.

All other public beaches: Dogs shall be prohibited from public beaches from May 1 to September 30 annually. Dogs shall be allowed on public beaches from October 1 to April 30 annually and shall be under the control of the owner or keeper.

(1) Owners must remain with and monitor their dogs. Owners, per the below conditions, define person with direct care, custody, and control of a dog while in a designated off-leash area.

(2) Dogs must be licensed and vaccinated as required by applicable law and ordinance.

(3) Dogs must wear their tags and have no contagious conditions, diseases or parasites.

(4) Dogs must be leashed when entering and exiting a designated off-leash area.

(5) Dogs and humans are not allowed in the dunes.

(6) Dogs with a history of dangerous or aggressive behavior as determined by the animal control officer are prohibited.

(7) Dogs younger than four months are not allowed.

(8) Unaltered male dogs or female dogs in heat are not allowed.

(9) Owners must immediately remove dogs who are exhibiting aggressive behavior.

(10) Owners must carry a leash; one leash per dog is required.

(11) Maximum of two unleashed dogs per owner.

12) Owners must fill in any holes dug by their dog(s).

(13) Any violations of conditions (1)—(12) above shall be subject to a fine of $50.00 for each offense.

(14) Unless renewed or made permanent by the city council and signed by the mayor, the provisions of this section shall expire on December 31, 2017.

Fine of $300 per violation. Fines for violations will be double in season for beaches and other off-leash areas as determined.

Beach Ordinances: Beach, litter, dog violation fines should be increased to $300 from $25 per the proposed ordinances and approved ordinance language should be carried over to the beach ordinances. Sec. 9-8 Litter, Sec. 4-2 Feeding and Disturbing wildlife, Buffer Zone (new sec), Sec. 4-16a. – Dogs allowed on public beaches at certain times.

ANOTHER SUPER EXCITING WILDLIFE SIGHTING–TWO RAZORBILLS AT EASTERN POINT!

Many, many thanks to reader Mike for sharing his amazing sighting of two Razorbills. He writes the following,

“Hi Kim. I was out on the Dogbar Breakwater yesterday afternoon. I didn’t see any Snowy Owls, but I did spot 2 Razorbills. I’d never seen one before, so it was quite exciting. There was a flurry of activity in the water as 2 loons harassed one of the Razorbills. They wore him down and then a large sea gull attacked and tried to kill the Razorbill pecking at his head. He dove and swam far enough away the gull lost track of him in the small chop.

Interesting to see the White Line across it’s backside and the white under the wings.  I witnessed one of the Razorbills swimming underwater from the height of the rocks at the end of the breakwater, the bird appeared to be “flying” underwater and I thought it had tiny wings as I could only see the white portion of the wings in the darkness of the water.  It swam similar to a Penguin underwater.  Another couple also saw the Razorbill swim underwater and the three of us were surprised at distance the bird covered in such a short time.

On my way to the breakwater, I asked a young couple returning to the parking lot, if they had seen any cool critters.  They said they saw an injured bird that was something like a Puffin or Penguin just inside the breakwater, at the edge of the shore.   They said the bird made it’s way into the water as they approached.  They had a frontal top view of the bird with their smartphone, but it was unclear as to what it was.  I’m guessing that’s the same Razorbill I saw being attacked by the sea gull.  Nature has a way of weeding out the weak and injured, but he escaped to live another day !!

I also saw around a dozen Common Eiders, 2 Surf Scoters, couple mergansers, 6 Buffleheads and 4 light brown ducks I would guess to be Gadwalls by the elegant patterns of breast feathers swimming along the shore inside the breakwater. Great sightings on a wonderful warm day!!”

I just read on the Audubon website that the Razorbill is probably the closest living relative of the extinct Great Auk. How interesting is that! I’ve never seen a Razorbill but will most certainly be on the lookout. Thanks so much again to Mike.

All images courtesy wikicommonsmedia.

BEAUTIFUL FOOTAGE OF A NEWBORN BABY HUMPBACK

Born only twenty minutes prior, the newborn and Mom were captured by a drone operated by the University of Hawai’i’s researchers. It’s beautiful to see the baby Humpback begin to use its blowhole, and gliding alongside, and then riding atop, the mother’s back.

University of Hawaii

By Kelli Trifonovitch

January 31, 2019

The humpback whale calf is so new that its dorsal fin and tail flukes appear soft and flimsy, and its mother is still excreting blood, while sometimes supporting the calf on her back. The rare video minutes after birth was captured by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP) in January 2019.

MMRP Director Lars Bejder was using a drone to shoot video of other humpback whales off the coast of Maui (under a permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) when he got a call from one of the local tour operators. “They had just seen all this whitewater and commotion in the water and weren’t quite sure what it was and suddenly there was all this blood in the water, which made us go over there and that’s what we discovered—a newborn calf,” Bejder recalled.

It was the closest the marine mammal researcher had been to a live birth in 25 years.

“I think everybody can appreciate these kinds of footages, and it brings us closer to these animals and gives us a really majestic view of these creatures,” he said. “I think it’s pretty spectacular.”

The MMRP studies the effects of climate change, human activities and prey availability on whales and dolphins.


Humpback Whale breeding and feeding areas

RARELY SEEN ON CAPE ANN – A BLACK VULTURE!

Over the winter, a Black Vulture has been calling Cape Ann home. My friend Lois first alerted me to this back in December where he has been seen quite often in Rockport. I have been trying to capture some footage of him/her but only ever saw him soaring high above. The Black Vulture in flight is stunning and you can recognize the bird by its distinctive white wing tips.

As luck would have it, East Gloucester resident Larry shared a photo recently and his friend Frank generously allowed me to stop by and take some photos and footage!

White wing tips of the Black Vulture

Being found mostly in South America, Central America, and the southern US, the Black Vulture’s range does not historically include Cape Ann (nor anywhere in Massachusetts). The bird’s range has been expanding northward since the early decades of the previous century and it is safe to say there may even be a few pairs breeding in the furthest most western regions of Massachusetts!

Black Vultures feed primarily on carrion. They fly high above on thermal winds looking for dead creatures, and also follow Turkey Vultures, which reportedly have a better sense of smell and can more easily locate carcasses. Black Vultures also kill skunks, possums, Night Herons, turtle hatchlings, chickens, young livestock, and sickly small pets. And, too, they pick through dumps and dumpsters, and even wade into water for small fish and floating carrion. It’s no wonder their range is expanding!

The Black Vulture visiting Frank’s yard appeared to be communicating with Frank. Black Vultures lack a voice box; instead of singing, one of the sounds they make is a low ruff sort of bark. Frank can imitate the bark perfectly, and the bird barks back!

Black Vulture Historic Status in Massachusetts, from Mass Audubon:

The first Black Vulture identified in Massachusetts was shot in Swampscott in November of 1850. The second appeared in Gloucester on September 28, 1863, where it, too, was killed (Howe & Allen 1901). Throughout the next century, the bird was considered an accidental straggler in Massachusetts; and, by the middle of the nineteenth century, the species was on the move from its deep Southern roots, breeding in southern Maryland for the first time in 1922 (Court 1924) and in Pennsylvania by 1952 (Brauning 1992).

If you see Cape Ann’s Black Vulture hanging around your property, please let me know at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you so much!

Comparing Black Vulture to Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture Range Map

TUBYLETTES (HARBOR SEALS) BASKING

As was everyone else, the Harbor Seals were enjoying Tuesday’s 50 degree weather. Much jockeying, grunting, and gnarling over prime rock-real estate was taking place. Paintings of nudes by Renoir and Botero, along with the made-up word tubylette, come to mind whenever I see these bathing beauties basking on the rocks at Brace Cove.

By the time I left after sunset, there were no less than fourteen Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.

HIGHER NUMBERS GIVE HOPE FOR MONARCHS

By Kim Smith

January 31, 2019

The World Wildlife Fund Mexico and Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) announced on January 30th that this year the Monarch Butterfly population has increased significantly.

Each year the orange and black winged beauties return to the oyamel fir and pine tree forests, which are located in the heart of Mexico’s trans volcanic mountain belt. In December and January, Lepidoptera population specialists and citizen scientists measure the area the Monarch colonies cover at their over wintering sites. This year (2018-2019) the butterflies are blanketing 6.05 hectares (approximately 15 acres), up from an all-time low of only 0.67 hectares (1.65 acres) during the winter of 2013-2014.

Not since 2006-2007 has this great an area been covered by the butterflies, although the numbers are still quite low when compared to the numbers recorded in the late 1970s when the butterfly’s winter roosts were first discovered by Dr. Fred Urquhart.

I have been following the butterfly counts around the US as they were reported. The Monarch population has been decimated in California. This year only about 30,000 butterflies were counted, down from several million just two decades ago. There is the very real possibility that the Monarch butterfly will become extirpated (extinct from an area) on the West coast. The winter count is down drastically in Florida as well.

It was clear though that east of the Rockies–the Midwest and Northeast regions of the US, as well as southern provinces of Canada–there were many more Monarchs in gardens and on the wing than in recent previous summers.

Leading Monarch scientists are reluctant to become excited about the increase, and justifiably so. Last spring the weather was slightly cooler in Texas, which allowed more Monarch eggs to hatch, which in turn allowed more caterpillars to mature. A greater number of butterflies emerged and set the stage for a strong breeding season throughout the summer. That scenario, along with the overall good weather during the summer of 2018, also helped create ideal conditions. It was a true “goldilocks” summer, not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

In autumn of 2018, the Monarchs arrived to Mexico about a week later than usual, but once they began to arrive, a kaleidoscope of butterflies poured into their winter roosting grounds.

The 2018-2019 Eastern population count is a reprieve from the past ten years of heartbreaking news, but one good year does not change what the butterflies need most, which is protection for the Monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.

Monarch and Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)

There is disagreement among scientists whether planting milkweed has any bearing on the health of the Monarch butterfly population. Does creating corridors of Monarch habitat help mitigate the death and destruction caused by climate change, modern agricultural practices, the devastating use of pesticides and herbicides, and the planting of GMO crops (corn, sorghum, and soybeans, for example) that were engineered to withstand the deadly poisons, but which wildflowers and caterpillars cannot?

Monarch Butterflies and New England Aster, Gloucester, 2018

The answer to that question is a resounding yes! Monarchs are a bellwether species. The love for this one butterfly has helped shape a consciousness towards all species at risk. An uncomplicated stand of milkweed and asters can make every public walkway, park, community center, church, school, and backyard a haven for Monarchs and together we can bring about a conservation victory for the pollinators.

WOW AND QUADRUPLE WOW! GLOUCESTER’S PAT MORSS SHARES PHOTOS OF NEWBORN BABY HARP SEAL!!! FROM THE ARCTIC!

Pat writes:

Joey:

We read with interest Kim Smith’s posting of the visiting Harp Seal on Good Morning Gloucester, Saturday evening. Anne-Lise and I had the good fortune of visiting the southernmost breeding area on her map, the pack ice in the outer Gulf of St. Lawrence. The birthing to weaning period is just 3 weeks annually at the end of February and beginning of March. We flew out by helicopter from Les Iles de la Madeleine, and – yes – we followed the strict instructions of our naturalist. We topped off the experience with some dogsledding to wind down.

Best, Pat Morss

What a magnificent gift to see and to share. Thank you so much Pat!

UPDATE ON THE YOUNG HARP SEAL

Very late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, the juvenile Harp Seal attempted to head back to sea. He began to scooch and wriggle toward the creek, pausing often to scratch and roll around in the sand. At one point he reversed direction and started back toward the dunes.

Just like Harbor Seals, Harp Seals have a tail, too.

After a few more false starts he made his way to the water. Before sliding in, he paused at the water’s edge to drink.

Nearly dead low tide, the water was not deep enough to swim. It was painful to watch him splash and undulate along on his belly in the shallows. He seemed to tire quickly and was very undecided about what to do next. We watched as the young seal made his way slowly around a sharp bend in the creek, then held our breaths as he made it all the way to the foot bridge.

But then he suddenly stopped, turned around, and swam back down the creek, nearly the whole length of the creek from where he had come. The young seal seemed confused and it was heartbreaking to see. When I left at sundown he was on the flats in the creek.

Good Harbor Beach resident and Piping Plover monitor Sue W. reports that he is still there at 7:15. We’re hoping he makes it out at low tide, which is at 10:11 tonight.

The young Harp Seal appeared very tired when I left the beach at around 5:30.

Many, many thanks to Jane Goodwin, neighbor and Good Morning Gloucester reader, for alerting us to the Harp Seal.

For turtle, seal, and all mammal strandings, please call NOAA at 866.755.6622. Thank you!

Update to the Update

I checked on the little guy at 5:30 this morning on my way out of town to photograph and didn’t see any sign of him, but it was pitch black. I checked again on my way home, around 11am, still no sign, and there did not appear to be any signs of a skirmish with a coyote. The tide was high and the water was up to the top of the creek bed. It would have been much easier for him to slip into the water last night and head back out to sea.

In response to Facebook comments that the location of the seal should not have been posted publicly: The initial post was shared in the evening, after dark, and would not have been posted if people had not been behaving thoughtfully and kindly toward the seal. I believe it is important for adults and children to share the shore with wildlife, to love and respect a wild creature’s boundaries, not hide the whereabouts of the animal. There are exceptions in the case of at risk endangered and threatened species. ❤

BEAUTIFUL HARP SEAL RESTING TODAY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

A beautiful young Harp Seal spent the better part of the day hauled out between the bank of the Good Harbor Beach creek and the dunes. The seal appeared in good health and was seen resting, stretching, scooching, and sunning. Beach walkers and dog walkers were respectful and kept a safe distance.

Ainsley Smith from NOAA was on the job letting folks know that the seal was okay and that this is perfectly normal seal behavior. Thanks so much to Ainsley and to all the beachgoers today who kept their distance from the Harp Seal. For turtle, seal, and all mammal strandings, please call NOAA at 866.755.6622. Thank you!

I’ve been checking on him periodically throughout the afternoon and will let you know when he makes it back to the water. I hope soon because we know coyotes scavenge the beach at night.

Harp Seals are born during the late winter months in the Arctic. They are born with a lanugo, an extra thick fluffy white coat that keeps them warm on the Arctic ice. During each stage of development, the Harp Seal’s coat has a different appearance. Juveniles have a white coat with widely spaced spots. Every year, the spots move closer together during molting. By the time the Harp Seal reaches adulthood, the coat is silvery gray with a black saddle mark on the back and a black face. See the photo below of a baby and Mom Harp Seal.

Photo Courtesy National Geographic Kids

Harp Seal Breeding Grounds

What to Do if You Find a Seal on the Beach