Monday, February 20, 2017

Great Backyard Bird Count - Day 3, Seal Cruise

     I spent my 3rd day of the GBBC aboard a ship, on a February day with a high of 71 degrees Fahrenheit, with minimal layers on- Tim and I along with half the NY Aquarium Education staff embarked on a seal watch to find seals--- and birds too!
     It is not a normal February day- actually the last seal watch I was on, was icy, bitter cold, and zero seals, because it was so cold!
     These winter eco cruises are led by NYC Audubon, and Gabriel Willow, one of their naturalists, as always did a fine job of leading the tour. We always learn something new from him and his knowledge not just of the animals but of the local area and its history. There are a few more winter seal cruises left, so check 'em out!
     I also met one of the Audubon volunteers, she was so kind and I found out she reads the blog. I really have no idea who sees this, so its kinda cool to meet people through this "hobby."
     Anywho, we had some great sights and I learned that a long lens on a bobbing boat is really challenging, but I managed a few okay ones-- enjoy:
Not gonna lie- the bird photos are few, they are so small and hard to focus on and stabilize myself, so I only got big birds and close birds- like this Canada Goose who is trying to exert as little effort as possible for a dried up plant growing off a pier.
A ring billed gull of the side of the our boat. In total we saw 20 species of bird, plus a nice year bird for me, finally, a great cormorant.



And now: SEALS!
These are the ones we expected to see, harbor seals- the most common type of seal world-wide.

Out basking on the few exposed rocks as the tide continued to rise.

This is my favorite position to find seals in-- the banana pose!

So harbor seals are pinnipeds- those are flipper-footed animals like true seals (these guys), eared seals, and walruses. Without sounding too much like a sea lion narration from work- true seals have short front flippers for steering and their hind flippers help them to swim. They move on land on their bellies, doing "the worm," like the best dancers do.
Sea lions have longer front flippers, can rotate their hind flippers under their bodies and walk on all fours. Sea lions can also gallop on land, and being eared seals they have little ear flips, that true seals like harbor seals lack.
You can actually see the ears on these seals- they are those holes behind their eyes.

These seals are bananas!
The seal on the right, you can actually see his tiny stubby tail sticking out point right.

There were some seals in the water, mostly harbor seals... but we soon found we had two species on our hands!

With a more horse-shaped head, the grey seals generally get larger than harbor seals. And if one grey seal wasn't enough...

My photos also revealed that this one is clearly a different and older individual. Showing even more that horse-like head. A pretty sweet 2 hours on board the water taxi, really happy with our sights!