Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Bird Count Part 3 - Christmas Seal!

I'm being followed! :D As usual, click on any photo for a slideshow view.

Merry Christmas! Finally finishing off my Christmas Bird Count posts a week and a half later. I enjoyed these ones, such a different focus from anything I've done before. However, I think I'm giving myself away as still far from a Real Birder by admitting that I became very distracted from birds when this seal started following us around.

I've seen plenty of seals out kayaking but never had one q
uite so interested. We first spotted it near Ruffle Bar, where we'd seen the oystercatchers. 

Seals are frequently curious about kayakers, but this one followed us for 20 minutes, waited in the water while we took a shore break on Little Egg Marsh, and then joined us again for a little bit longer! First photo (the one immediately above) was at 10:52, last one (final one on this post, these are all in order except the first one and the one from the 21st, next shot down) at 11:08, which was before our shore break. I thought it had left when we got out, because as we beached and started getting out of our boats, there was a big splash right behind us - it must not have expected that, but then we could see it nearby from time to time while we had our tea and snacks, and then it came right back when we got on the water again. With that thrown in, that seal stayed with us for probably 40 minutes. It was the only one we saw, so although maybe it's unscientific, I'm a layperson and I'm gonna say it was maybe a little lonely and looking for company. Neat encounter, but felt a little sad, too.

The Christmas Bird Count is a great piece of citizen science coordinated by the Audubon Society, and with this seal posing for pictures so nicely I was also able to make a contribution to Gotham Whale's work to catalogue and track our local marine mammals. If you are a NYC area boater or frequenter of the shore, and you spot a seal, dolphin, or whale, try to get a picture and report it - the more sightings are reported, the more accurate a picture Gotham Whale gets . It's great that our local waterways are now healthy enough to support a growing population of these creatures - if you'd told me 10 years ago that at some point I was eventually going to be going whalewatching out of Queens at least once a summer, I'm not sure I would've believed it. Good stuff, right? click here for the report form.

I got a really nice thank-you note for my submission saying that this was my 2nd submission and I'd been one of their first reporters in the earlier days of the organization. I have not been good about reporting since then - part of it is that it's not always easy to get a photo, most seals are not as friendly as this one was, but I am going to try to get better about reporting when I can get a picture. I actually have one from my solstice paddle on Saturday, when 2 were hauled out on the sandbar at Ruffle Bar - that seems to be the center of operations for our J-Bay phocidae. Supporting my looking-for-company theory - although one of the 2 seals was thoroughly unskittish about our presence, which made me think maybe that was our kayak-confident one, neither of them had any interest in hanging out with teh hoomans.

Solstice Seals, 12/21 - same area as where we picked up our bird-watcher-watcher on the 14th.

That's actually good, I worry about seals that are too interested in people - there was a Jersey Shore one who had to go to a zoo a couple of years back because it got too comfortable with us. It sounds like it settled into zoo life well -- click here for that story -- but it still just seems sad for a wild seal to end up in a tank. So, if that was our same seal, good to see it preferring to sunbathe with a seal friend than come say hello to the paddlers.

Here are the rest of the seal photos from the Christmas Bird Count. What a lovely encounter! 


songbird's crazy world said...

Oh wow ...

bonnie said...

Oh, yeah, this was definitely an oh wow!

Unknown said...

he has company... there has been two seals out there most days now for the last month

bonnie said...

Yes, we saw two the following week.