Category Archives: Life at the Edge of the Sea

The Good Harbor Beach Harbor Seal: What to do if you find a seal on the beach

With record number of seals washing ashore from several illnesses, I thought now would be a good time to repost my seal PSA. This beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

The phone number for marine mammal wildlife strandings is 866-755-6622.

Monarch Butterfly Ovipositing Egg on Marsh Milkweed: NINETEEN SIBLINGS READYING TO EMERGE

All nineteen eggs hatched and became caterpillars. They have pupated and are nearing the end of metamorphosis. You can see the developing butterflies within the chrysalis case. I wonder if they will all eclose (emerge) on the same day??

Several readers have written to ask how do I manage to have so many Monarch Butterfly caterpillars and chrysalises. The answer is very simple–because we have planted a wonderful little milkweed patch! We grow both Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) side-by-side. Our milkweed patch is planted near our kitchen. When washing the dishes, I can look out the window and observe all the pollinators and fabulous activity that takes place at the milkweed patch.

Several weeks ago, a Mama Monarch arrived and I watched as she gently floated from leaf to leaf, and bud to bud, ovipositing one golden egg at a time. She went back and forth between the Common and Marsh, depositing eggs on both the tender upper foliage as well as the more sturdy lower leaves. I waited for her to leave, but not too long (because the eggs are quickly eaten by spiders) and collected the sprigs with the eggs. I thought I had scooped up about eight eggs and you can imagine our surprise when 19 caterpillars hatched, all within the same day! Female Monarchs like to deposit eggs around the tiny buds of Marsh Milkweed and many of the eggs were hidden within the buds.

Here’s a video of a Mama depositing eggs on Marsh Milkweed buds. Charlotte was with me that day and we were dancing to the song “There She Goes” as the butterfly was depositing her eggs and it was too perfect not to include in the video clip.

Our garden is postage stamp size, but I have managed to fill it with a wide variety of songbird, butterfly, bee, and hummingbird attractants. The great majority of plants are North American native wildflowers and shrubs, and we also include a few nectar-rich, non-native, but non-invasive, flowering plants. Plant, and they will come 🙂

LUMINESCENT SEA SALPS

These salps were filmed several years ago and we have been wondering, has anyone seen salps yet this year? I’ve been checking but have yet to see. Please email (kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com) and let us know if you do, and where they were spotted. Thank you!

The salps were filmed in Gloucester’s inner harbor and had a luminous appearance in the blue lights of the fishing boat Hot Tuna, the largest boat in the Wicked Tuna fleet. I think the song “La Luna” by Lucy Schwartz adds to the magical movement of the salps and other creatures in the glowing blue (so sorry to Captain Ott for startling him while hanging over the edge of the dock to film the salps at the rear of his boat.)

Sea salps are warm ocean water creatures, exploding in population during algae blooms. With beating heart, notochcord, and gills they are more closely evolutionarily linked to humans than to jellyfish. Sea salps are individual creatures that through asexual reproduction, can form linear chains up to fifteen feet long!

Salps are planktonic (free floating) members of the subphylum Tunicata. Tunicates get their name from the unique outer covering or “tunic,” which acts as an exoskeleton. The sea salp’s tunic is translucent and gelatinous; in some species it is tough and thick.

 

Gone Fishin’

Great Blue Heron in the Great Salt Marsh

SNOWY EGRETS SYNCHRONIZED BATHING

Four Snowy Egrets preening and one turtle photobombing

A BANNER YEAR FOR MAINE’S PIPING PLOVERS

Piping Plover Fledgling

With 128 fledglings this year, Maine is still meeting its conservation targets for gradually restoring the species of tiny beachcombers.

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD

BY GILLIAN GRAHAM

September 4, 2018

A record number of the endangered shorebirds nested on beaches from Ogunquit to Georgetown and produced a record number of fledglings, according to Maine Audubon. Maine beaches hosted 68 nesting pairs that fledged 128 birds, continuing a decade of steady growth in their population.

“That’s the most we’ve had in Maine since we began monitoring in 1981,” said Laura Minich Zitske, who leads the Maine Coastal Birds project for Maine Audubon.

After winter and spring storms left beaches in southern Maine in rough shape, there was some concern about how it would impact the tiny beachcombers that arrive in Maine in late April to early May to nest in the sand near dunes.

“We lost a lot of prime nesting habitat. Beaches like Ogunquit did look pretty rough at points, but thankfully the birds were adaptable and able to find spots to raise their young,” Zitske said.

Ogunquit Beach ended up seeing the most fledglings, with 24 produced by 11 nesting pairs. There were 15 fledglings each at Wells Beach and at Scarborough‘s Western Beach.

Zitske said the success of the plovers this year is due in large part to partnerships between Maine Audubon, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the landowners, volunteers and municipalities that create safe nesting conditions and educate the public about the endangered birds.

In 2005, just 27 chicks fledged on Maine beaches after nests and birds were wiped out by a combination of stormy weather and increased predation. While the numbers fluctuate year to year, the trend in Maine has shown consistent growth since then. Last year, 64 nesting piping plovers yielded 101 chicks.

The 100-plus fledglings – the stage at which chicks can evade predators or other dangers on their own – means Maine is still meeting its conservation targets for gradually restoring a diminutive species of shorebird that nests on Maine’s relatively few sandy beaches at the height of the summer tourism season.

Roughly 2,000 piping plover pairs nest on beaches from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The tiny birds can be spotted skittering at the ocean’s edge or on mudflats searching for worms, bugs and other invertebrates. When they aren’t foraging, plovers can be found nesting in the transition area between dunes and the sandy beach. Plover chicks are so small they are often described as cotton balls walking on toothpick legs.

Maine Audubon works closely with the state wildlife department and towns from Ogunquit to Georgetown to monitor the beaches for breeding pairs beginning in the spring and then advising the public about the birds’ presence. Nests with eggs are often protected by mesh fencing that allows the birds to skitter in and out of the area while keeping out predators. Volunteers and some paid beach monitors advise beachgoers and dog owners on how to avoid disturbing the sensitive birds.

READ MORE HERE

Piping Plover adult in the foreground, fledgling in the background. Note the lack of headband and should epaulettes on the fledgling, compared with the adult PIPL.

THANK YOU TO COURTNEY RICHARDSON AND THE CAPE ANN MUSEUM KIDS!

We had a super fun morning at the Cape Ann Museum Kids program. Courtney Richardson and her assistants Sarah and Nick set up a long table in the auditorium where the caterpillars, art supplies, plants, and pods were arranged. The kids were wonderfully curious, as were the adults. Many thanks to Jan Crandall for supplying the caterpillars. Thank you to Courtney and to the Museum for the opportunity to share about Cape Ann Monarchs!