Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gulf of Maine: Birds and Mammals of Jeffreys Ledge

 [Common Dolphins at Jeffreys Ledge in the Gulf of Maine, part of a pod of 20. According to the captain and crew of the Granite State Whale Watch, this was only the second time they've seen this species. Atlantic White-sided Dolphins, in contrast, are common, and were - we encountered a pod of 60+.]

Thanks to great advice from Derek Lovitch, who operates the Freeport Wild Bird Supply (a must stop, I got an upside-down suet feeder to reduce blackbird and starling competition, not to mention Purple Finches and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at his feeders), we wound up on the Granite State Whale Watch out of Rye, NH yesterday. Seas were fairly calm, and it was a terrific trip. Our whole trip list is at the bottom of this post.

Jeffreys Ledge is a large glacial remnant about 21 miles off the New Hampshire coast. It is a long "bank" extending from Cape Ann, Massachusetts to Cape Elizabeth, Maine composed of mostly gravel with cobble and boulder fields, just like a glacial ridge would be on land. Next to Jeffreys Ledge are basins that are over 600 feet in depth. Historically, Jeffreys Ledge was an important fishing ground of the Gulf of Maine, and it is still great for marine life. According to Derek, it's been hot lately, and was.

 [Greater Shearwater, front, with 3 Cory's Shearwater, Jeffrey's Ledge in (I think) New Hampshire waters. Cory's are bigger brown above without dark cap and white rump band, and have that big old yellow bill.]

 [Tall columnar blow coming from a flat-backed whale, the signature of a Finback Whale.]

 [There's a reason they call them humpbacks - we saw 4 different individual Humpback Whales.]

 [Northern Gannets haven't yet appeared off Cape May this fall, at least not for me, but there were a few in the Gulf of Maine, as you'd expect since they nest on cliffs not far away in the Canadian maritimes. This is a subadult.]

[Two of at least 8 Red-necked Phalaropes. The dark back showing obvious lengthwise light lines on the right hand bird is a good mark to tell them from Red Phalarope, even with a poor look like this one.]

[Coastal New Englanders take them for granted, but it's fun to be able to look down at any given moment and find Common Eiders along the shore. This is a year old male in the Rye, NH harbor.]

Here's the whole list from the trip:
Jeffreys Ledge--NH, Rockingham, US-NH
Sep 3, 2012 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
40.0 mile(s)
Comments: Granite State Whale Watch. Also: 4 humpbacks, 2 fin, 20 COMMON Dolphin, 60 Atlantic White-sided Dolphin, 3 Harbor Seal
15 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose 15
Common Eider (Atlantic) 8
Cory's Shearwater 8
Great Shearwater 21
Manx Shearwater 1
storm-petrel sp. 3

Northern Gannet 25
Double-crested Cormorant 100
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1
Red-necked Phalarope 8
Bonaparte's Gull 15
Ring-billed Gull 3
Herring Gull (American) 44
Great Black-backed Gull 89
Common Tern 2
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 1 flew onto boat briefly about 20 miles offshore


  1. Hi Mr. Freiday,
    I was wondering, when you say the Northern Gannet is a subadult, is that the same as 3rd year? I've always thought of them as 1st, 2nd, 3rd year and then adult. Thank you,

    1. @ Paul, the truth is I was being lazy. "Subadult" is a cheap and easy way to refer to a bird that is not an adult without having to age it. That being said, I believe the pictured gannet is a second year, because I believe a hatch year/first year would be more uniform brown gray without the patches of white, plus I think I see active molt in the inner primary feathers, something a hatch year/first year would not be doing. A third year would show much more white.

  2. Thanks for the information, Mr. Freiday. I was guessing 3rd year, but then again, I'm only 12 (Mom supervises:-).

    1. Pretty awesome that you're even thinking about gannet (and other bird) ages, they're sometimes complicated and not a lot of people do, but it's interesting and fun. Keep at it!