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Category Archives: Naturalist Notebook

Naturalist’s Notebook: August 16 – August 22

It is a very common misconception that gulls are somehow tied to the sea, hence the misnomer, seagull.  Though they are more commonly seen at the shore, many species nest very far inland.  For example, Franklin’s Gulls breed in the upper midwest, from Idaho in the west to Michigan in the east and from there, north through central Canada.  […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: August 09 – August 15

Another really fascinating creature that we see sometimes is the Mola mola.  Commonly called the ocean sunfish, this animal is nearly rounded in shape (hence the latin meaning “grindstone”).  With its caudal fins reduced to a leathery flap, this fish swims by rhythmic motions of its elongated dorsal and anal fins, appearing to fly beneath the […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: August 02 – August 08.

It occurs to me from time to time, while I am whalewatching, that what we experience, whether it is the whales or fish or sharks or birds or seals, is all taking place at or near the surface of the sea.  And that what is going on beneath the surface still remains quite a mystery.  When […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: July 26 – August 01.

In addition to the birds that feed on small, schooling fish (gannets, shearwaters, gulls, and terns), there is a seabird that thrives by feeding on plankton.  The Wilson’s Storm Petrel appears tiny from the whalewatch boats but it is actually the size of a robin.  Its plumage is dark, above and below, with a white rumppatch.  […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: July 19 to July 25.

Many sightings of whales would have been overlooked if not for the birds.  One of the first things your naturalist tells you is what to look for as signs of whales.  Spouts, yes.  Body parts, of course.  But also, the birdballs.  A birdball is, simply, a group of birds moving around very excitedly, very aggitatedly, […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: July 12 to July 18

Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are not the only marine mammals commonly seen when whalewatching from Cape Cod.  There are two species of seal that are fairly common throughout the summer months. Gray Seals, commonly called horseheads, have become increasingly common around the beaches close to Provincetown over the past decade.  Fairly large seals, the […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: July 05 July 11

The most common of the toothed whales sighted in our waters is the Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin.  It is about moderate size for a dolphin, 7 to 9 feet long and weighing 400 to 450 pounds.  It is built very much like a bottlenose, but not as robust.  And the beak (rostrum) is shorter and thicker […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: June 29 to July 04

By now, most of the Northern Right Whales have moved out of Cape Cod Bay and further north to the Bay of Fundy or east to the Great South Channel where the populations of copepods are still blooming in the colder waters there.  These are truly huge animals, reaching lengths of 45 to 60 feet […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: June 21 to June 27

Minke whales are also fairly common here between April and October.  If you are looking, you will likely find some of them all year round.  The smallest of the baleen whales common to our waters, Minke whales are still very large animals.  Here, in the North Atlantic, they might be as long as 25 or […]

Naturalist’s Notebook: June 14 to June 20

As it happens, the largest whale common to the waters around the Cape is the second largest animal ever to have lived on this earth.  Finback whales are incredibly large.  In the North Atlantic, they can reach lengths between 65 and 75 feet and weigh somewhere around a ton per foot.  In the southern hemisphere, […]