Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sowerby's Beaked Whales and very early Audubon's Shearwaters off New York (24 June 2012)

During an offshore fishing trip last Sunday (24 June 2012), John Shemilt, Derek Rogers and I observed a pod of at least 7 SOWERBY'S BEAKED WHALES cruising for 10 minutes or more at the surface. We were about 88 miles SSE of Shinnecock Inlet, which is towards the eastern end of Long Island, New York. This location (39.730419°, -71.646500°) is the at head of a deep submarine canyon (McMaster Canyon, aka Lobster Claw) that cuts into the continental shelf about midway between the larger Hudson and Block Canyons. Interestingly, in past few years there have been several sightings of Sowerby's in this section of the shelf edge, including some very nicely photographed examples of animals leaping and somersaulting, suggestive of a resident group. In our case, the whales were just cruising at the surface, disappearing briefly and then disappearing for good.

In the same general area we observed three separate pods of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins, Risso Dolphin and 3 Sperm Whales. Several squid boats working the shelf edge and apparently the tuna we sought were also feeding on squid, hence there was not too much activity at the surface. Other cetaceans noted during the day were a Fin Whale, two more pods of Offshore Bottlenose and some Short-beaked Common Dolphins. Three marine turtles were noted but I need to review my photos to ID them.

Avian highlights were three exceptionally early Audubon's Shearwaters (all in active molt, one especially ratty) and a Leach's Storm-Petrel. We do not normally see Audubon's in New York waters until August, so this encounter was unexpected. Otherwise, seabird numbers were relatively low (9 Cory's Shearwaters, 96 Great Shearwaters, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 138 Wilson's Storm-Petrels).

The most abundant sight throughout the day were party balloons. We must have seen more than 200 of different shapes and sizes. Who knows how far this terrible flying garbage had traveled to end up on the ocean where they poison the ecosystem.

Cheers, Angus Wilson
New York City, USA

1 comment:

Unknown said...

We were just introduced to your blog. Very nice :) We would love to use this one on our website, 200 balloons?! ugh! The balloon industry claims that balloons are not a significant form of litter. We are proving them wrong, balloons are polluting our most distant and pristine places. You give more proof.