The Whales are on a Roll

I’ve been doing a lot more whale watching this season because the whales seem to be especially active this year.  They have been so active that I have skipped some of my other seaside activities to get some extra  outings and I have not been disappointed.

A couple of weeks after the Great Puffin Adventure I decided to give the morning whale watch a try.  I stayed on the upper deck this time. I wanted to try a different angle.

Sure enough, it was a very active trip. Right off the bat we spotted multiple humpbacks. At first we were getting backs showing as they cruised along and a few flukes.

Cruisin'

I have plenty of photos of backs and flukes so I wasn’t too interested in that.

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A bit deeper into Stellwagon bank we found ourselves surrounded by groups of humpbacks surface feeding.

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That’s always fun to watch. There lots of activity with the birds trying to steal the fish that manage to escape the huge mouths.

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Plus the whales swim along the surface with the water streaming out the sides of their mouths as they strain the water through their baleen.

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That alone would have been a successful trip but suddenly there was a mother and calf off the port side. “Mom” would flipper slap and then the little one one would do the same.

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This went on for quite awhile. In fact all of us with cameras had plenty of time to get pictures.

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Eventually, as if to say goodbye, mom rolled onto her back and gave a double wave, both flippers waving in the air and then both mom and calf disappeared beneath the surface. The show was over.

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We watched some more surface feeding before it was time to head back. I was just packing up the camera when a collective WOW! went up. I looked up in time  to see a whale fully breaching. It was quite a distance away. It flew fully out of the water like a giant dolphin! The splash down was huge.

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That was the only full breach I saw but the feisty whale gave us a few other partial breaches. I managed to get the camera back out for the end of the show.

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I’m not too disappointed that I missed getting a shot of the full breach. It was amazing to see and I think I appreciated it more by being able to watch it without the little view finder. A breaching whale, at least in this area, is a rare sight.

I’ll keep looking for another opportunity for that awesome photo shot but if I never get it , I won’t be too sad. I’ll chalk it up to the one that got away.

 

 

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RIP Buddy!

stray 002 copyBuddy arrived unannounced on the coldest day of the year in January 2013. He was fully grown, age unknown and he had cattitiude.

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With a little white tip on his tail he could take on the world. He made up his mind that he’d found his furever home and nothing I could do would change his mind. I re-homed him twice but he managed to get returned to me both times.

We had some fun time and he trained me well.

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He would walk on a leash just like a dog.

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He was so big that some of my neighbors thought he was a dog!

He was a very handsome fellow right up until the end.

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It came fast. One day he couldn’t eat, then he stopped drinking and his breathing became labored. We tried to entice him to eat and we ran loads of tests. It was finally decided that although they couldn’t pin point the mass there was cancer somewhere. Fluid was going into his chest cavity.

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Through it all he was brave and kept his sweet disposition. He took all the needles and poking and prodding with grace and dignity. He’s the only cat I have ever had that let me “pill him” without a fuss.

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The prognosis was grim and after an emotional discussion with our vet the decision was made to help him cross to the Rainbow Bridge.

RIP Buddy, you were a great cat! Love you much.hearts

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And That’s All There Is!

Once we left Seal Island and the Puffins I was done in. The fresh air, the early start,  the excitement of seeing these adorable little birds up close and the boat ride had zapped me of the rest of my energy. Once we arrived back in Cutler it was lunch time and starting to rain.

The gathering

The Church in Cutler offered us the use of it’s basement which was set up with tables and a kitchen. Plus there were bathrooms. Following lunch it was off again, this time to Boot Head Preserve.

When  we found the trail head to Boot head preserve I decided to give up on keeping up. I stayed in the car and took a nap. It was lovely.

We returned for dinner at Helen’s Restaurant at 6:30 before retiring to our rooms to pack.

We all met at the vans at  6 am for breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and a trip Machiasport- Pot Head. I didn’t lug the camera this time. I had what I came for and as is usually the case when you don’t have the camera, I missed a beautiful shot of 3 deer.

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They stood on the dirt road watching us. It was like they were frozen. There was plenty of time for a picture if I’d been prepared.  Finally the first 2 crossed and disappeared into he woods. I thought the 3rd had gone back into the woods where it had come from when it came flying out like it was shot from a gun. It literally flew across the road in one bound.

We spotted 2 bald eagles and bunch of smaller birds but by this time the deer were the highlight of the day for me. Puffins, deer, eagles, some of my very favorite things.

This was a good trip.

Thanks Mass Audubon for a great time.

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A few More Puffins

Ok , after all that build up one little Puffin picture was probably a bit anticlimactic so here are a few more. I took over 100 so there’s plenty to pick from.

Puffin portrait

We were in the blinds for a little more than an hour. There was a lot of activity.

On Watch

Puffins flying in and out.

The Landing

They were quick. Those of us taking pictures were trying for that iconic shot of a puffin with fish in its beak but that was harder than expected.

Stike a pose

We’d see the birds flying in from a successful fishing trip but they immediately popped into their burros. Once they had fed their little puffins and came back out they stood around and photos of empty beaks were easy.

Eye Contact

Puffins make their nests in holes in the ground that they dig with their claws. They also makes nests in the rocks.

In the Rocks

Because they are little, the other birds try to steal their catch so they waste no time above ground. The best I was able to do was get a picture of a Puffin with a beak-ful of shrimp. No fish.

Shrimp Take Out

The other photographer in the blind with me did get a fish shot. You can see her beautiful pictures at http://www.mywildlife.zenfolio.com.

The gathering

One of the most fun things that happened while we were in the blind is suddenly we heard a tapping. At first we thought they’d come back to get us out of the blind but then we realized the sound was coming from over our heads. The birds were landing on the roof of the blind and it was their little feet we were hearing.

Puffin

Puffins make the strangest call. For a little bird its terribly guttural, not pretty at all. When I’d see one calling it reminded me of a donkey braying.

Can You Hear me now?

All in all it was a great experience. I am seriously thinking of doing it again. This was one time that everything lived up to expectations.

Shrimp Its what's for dinner

 

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Ahoy! There Be Puffins!

So far we’d seen razorbills , gannets and a stranded seal but only a few puffins. It was time to reverse the procedure we used getting from shore to the Barbara Frost. We needed to sit on the gunwale, swing our feet over and step into a little tender boat. The problem is it was quite a step and the little boat wasn’t a solid landing. No it was bouncing up an down in the waves. Thank goodness for Captain Andy and his strong arm. He was right there to lend support.

Once on land we had a long uphill ramp before we started across the flat part to the light house.  This is where the being fat, old and out of shape nearly did me in. I couldn’t get the camera back pack on my back over the life jacket we were required to wear and it was dragging me down. Just as I thought I couldn’t take another step, someone from the group grabbed the back pack as they went by me and team leader Scott took my arm to help me. I was happy but boy did I feel old!

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On land the razorbills look like little penguins even though they aren’t any relation and unlike penguins, flying is not a problem.

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Once everyone was gathered in front of the lighthouse we were given our marching orders. We would be taken to the blinds and left there. We were to stay put until someone came back to get us. We were not to disturb the birds in any way. Cameras and lenses had to be within the blind. Only open the windows on one side of the blind at a time. Good luck and have fun.

The blinds weren’t all that big and there were 4 of us crammed in the blind I was in. Two of us had cameras and the other two were just interested in bird watching. I gave up trying to swap any lenses, there just wasn’t room but once we opened the little windows any complaints about space or cameras were forgotten. There were the Puffins.

Fly My Pretty

It was worth it all!

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Lighthouses, Eagles and a Seal , Oh My!

As we headed out of the harbor into the Bay of Fundy we passed the first lighthouse.

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The 2nd one would be on Machias Seal Island.  Both Canada and the United States claim sovereignty. The Canadian Coast Guard continues to staff a lighthouse on the island.

Machias Seal Island

The whole Island is considered a bird sanctuary so boardwalks have been constructed for the humans to walk on to avoid stepping on nests or baby birds.

On the way out of the harbor we  spotted a pair of bald eagles.

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It gives me a thrill to see so many of these magnificent birds. It was hard to get a picture  as the Barbara Frost was starting to pitch a bit as she picked up speed.

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We didn’t see any whales.

It was about an hour trip and it felt like it. It was cold even when we huddled near the cabin. Hard to believe that it was 90 + in Boston!

Our first indication that we were nearing the island was a raft of small black and white birds.

A raft of Razorbills

They are called Razorbills and also nest on the island with the Puffins. Right after the razorbills came in sight a puffin flew across our stern. These bird make me think of bumblebees. They have such round little bodies and stubby wings. Its hard to believe they can fly at all!

Bumblebee of the Bird World

Right after that we spotted the lighthouse.

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We were surprised to see some gannets mixed in with the razorbills on the rocks but the biggest surprise of our approach was the stranded seal!

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I mentioned the huge tides in a previous post. Well apparently this guy hauled out at high tide and forgot to leave when the tide receded.

Standed

Now we watched in fascination and horror as he slowly (and painfully) worked his way down the rocks. He landed face first more than once. I mean, that’s got to hurt!

Still Going

Determination

Almost there

He was almost to the bottom when we got the go ahead to land from the coast guard and had to miss his big splash. It was time for us to start part 2 of our big Puffin Adventure.

 

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Its Puffin Day!

Saturday arrived with more clouds and threatening rain. We were up really early. Breakfast was 5:15 am! We had to go to Dunkin Donuts because Helen’s Restaurant wasn’t open that early. That’s when I found out that we didn’t even know if we would be going out. The leaders were manning their cell phones with the captain while the rest of us got our breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

To the relief of all we were given the green light and headed off to Cutler where the Barbara Frost was moored and waiting for us.

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The Barbara Frost is a bare bones, hard working charter boat. It’s no frills all the way. Bench seats line the sides and stern. The only heat is in the little cabin where the captain and mate were steering the boat. (Notice I did not call this a ship)

boatYou may be asking yourself “heat? Its July why do they need heat?” Well That thought crossed our minds too but a winter parka wouldn’t have been out of line. It was March in July. Cold and blustery!

On board the Barbara Frost

On board the Barbara Frost

This was the Bay of Fundy, known for 50 ft. tides, tidal bore rafting and whales! It was exciting just to be on one of the 7 Wonders of North America.

Getting to the Barbara Frost was also an experience. They loaded us into a tender, a little boat, to ferry us out to the “mother ship” (That was the Barbara Frost) but there was no ladder. You got your butt onto the gunwale and then swung your feet over and into the Barbara Frost.  Then you got out of the way so the next person could get in. Captain Andy, owner of the Barbara Frost and Bold Coast Tours was right there to help everyone.

Bold Coast Charters is the only US based company to be authorized on Machias Seal Island. The only other tour company  is based in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Machias Seal Island

As we headed into the bay I realized this was not the same island I visited from Bar Harbor. That one was located in Frenchman’s Bay.

 

 

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