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Book of Days


Filtering by Tag: pelagic

June 2: Nesting

Kristen Lindquist

We spent all morning on the Friendship V whale-watching boat out of Bar Harbor on a pelagic birding trip as part of the Acadia Birding Festival. We cruised way out into the Gulf of Maine past four different islands with lighthouses on them, including Petit Manan, which is part of the Maine Coastal Islands NWR. The island was a chaotic mass of terns and gulls in the air and on the rocks, screeching and crying shrilly, and in the water, flotillas of puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and murres. How the interns who live on the island don't go insane from that constant noise is a mystery, but the sheer dynamic swirl of life out on these nesting islands is awe-inspiring--especially when you consider that these birds are creating life on virtually bare rock, their nests just tiny hollows along a bleak shore.
Gulls near Egg Rock
After a hot shower and lunch, I had to rush off to guide my afternoon field trip at Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor. While the flowers seemed a little ahead of last year, with many of the azaleas and rhodos gone by, there were still breathtaking patches of blooming beauty--a fire-red azalea that looked like it was flickering, a virtual burning bush; apple trees still laden with white blossoms; these allium poking up amid ferns:
Allium with ferns, Thuya Garden
Rhododendrons, Thuya Garden
What moved me the most, though, were not the stunning flowers and the Japanese aesthetic of Asticou, nor the mix of cultivated and wild at Thuya, which is tucked into a forested hillside, fenced in like the Secret Garden. It was a female redstart on a nest right near a trail, the little warbler startling off it every time someone walked by, chipping nearby with obvious agitation. Why would she choose that spot? Was she drawn to a view of the flowers? Will her eggs survive all the disruptions? Is she any better off than a tern laying her eggs on bare earth, at the mercy of the gulls?
Can you see the redstart nest (sans bird) in the center of this bush?
Startled off her nest,
the redstart chirps in distress--
so precious, each egg.

July 31: Pesce Luna

Kristen Lindquist

My husband, a friend, and I chartered a pelagic trip today with John Drury of Greens Island and his boat Fluke. The day was perfect, seas calm, sun bright. Hundreds of Wilson's storm-petrels danced around the boat. We visited great cormorant nesting colonies harangued by bald eagles, watched shining white gannets dive. A parasitic jaeger chased down terns, engaging in relentless but thrilling aerial combats to steal their fish. Puffins buzzed past, carrying fish to young in burrows on Seal Island. We came upon a raft of at least 50 greater shearwaters just hanging out together, completely unfazed by the boat. Porpoises leapt, dorsal fins catching the light above the water's smooth surface.

I think the highlight of this beautiful day exploring the waters and islands of Penobscot Bay, however, was the ocean sunfish. John had slowed the boat down so we could get closer to a jaeger sitting on the water. As I watched the bird through my binoculars, I noticed a floppy fin emerge from the water behind it. The jaeger flew off, momentarily distracting us, but when I pointed out the fin, we moved closer to check it out.

The ocean sunfish or mola mola is one weird-looking fish. It's difficult to tell which way is up--it looks like a giant head with floppy little fins. John told us that in Spanish it's called a pesce luna, a moonfish. Given its round shape and pale form in the water, that makes more sense than "sunfish." The fish lolled in plain sight, submerged briefly, then resurfaced a little farther away. John worried that there might be something wrong with it, as its responses seemed a bit slow. I'm not sure how you could tell if there was really something wrong with a creature that looks so strange. The only other one I've ever seen before behaved in this same way, although that time I wasn't so fortunate as to be so close.

The pesce luna was truly fascinating. It made my day.

Sunfish, pale moon face,
you roll your ocean secrets
through the bay's dark depths.