Tag Archives: gray seal

HARBOR SEAL PUP SURVIVES STRANDING!

Monday, Charlotte and I came across a baby Harbor Seal hauled out in the seaweed at Eastern Point. I was distracted photographing a large Gray Seal that was swimming along the shoreline when Charlotte chortled, look at the baby seal, look at the baby seal! I said honey, that’s not a baby, it’s an adult. She kept talking about a baby, even after the adult had submerged. After what have must seemed like forever to Charlotte, I saw the pup, too, half buried in the seaweed. My little eagle-eyed companion!

Gray Seal

The seaweed is piled high and seems unusually extra thick. Walking on it feels as though you are stepping on puffy clouds. The poor pup looked exhausted and perhaps the drying seaweed provided a comfortable place to gain its bearings.

We waited a bit to try to ascertain whether the seal was injured. The pup didn’t appear to be so we decided to not call the marine stranding hotline and check back in the afternoon. I returned several hours later at 1:20, a few minutes before the super high tide, and was fortunate to see the pup looking much perkier, and shortly thereafter, heading back to sea!

One thought that occurred is that Gray Seals prey on seal pups. Perhaps the Harbor Seal had hauled out to escape the Gray Seal.

Also spotted was a grand adult Bald Eagle soaring overhead and an American Painted Lady Butterfly basking in the sun.

American Painted Lady, November 8, 2021

What to do if you come across a beached, or hauled out, Harbor Seal

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A DOVEKIE OR MURRE STRANDED ON THE BEACH

In recent weeks there have been more than a few reports of Dovekies and other seabirds found on our local beaches, both alive and dead. Friend Jeff Papows has found several dead birds and has returned one live Dovekie and one Common Murre.

Jeff knew just what to do with the stranded birds, which is to return them to the water. Jodi Swenson, from Cape Ann Wildlife, recommends this is best. She shares that seabirds do not do well in rehab. If on the other hand the bird appears sick or emaciated, then please call Tufts at (508) 839-7918.

Dovekies, like many seabirds, are clumsy on land, however they do nest on land, so we know they are able to walk. Then why are they stranding? It most commonly happens to young, inexperienced birds. But stranding can also happen in great numbers to exhausted adults after large storms. This influx is known as a wreck. One of the most tragic and dramatic wrecks occurred along the East Coast in 1932, when thousands of Dovekies literally “rained” from the sky.

Photos Jeff Papows

We’d like to get an understanding of how many seabirds are washing ashore. If you have seen a Dovekie, or other species of seabird, dead or alive on the beach this winter, please write and let us know when and where. Thank you so much.

Common Murres are more crow-sized whereas Dovekies are more similar in size to an American Robin

Dovekie front view

Dovekie side view

Common Murre, winter plumage. Photo courtesy wikicommons media

 

GIANT SEALS SCARED THE BEEJEEZUS OUT OF ME!

While filming the tiny Dovekie as he was blithely bopping along the inner Harbor, dip diving for breakfast and seeming to find plenty to eat, suddenly from directly beneath the Dovekie, two ginromous chocolate brown heads popped up. Almost sea serpent-like, and so completely unexpected! I leapt up and totally ruined the shot, and the little Dovekie was even more startled. He didn’t fly away but ran pell mell across the water about fifteen feet before giving a furtive look back, and then submerging himself.

So there we were face to face, only about twenty feet apart. We spent a good deal of time eyeing each other, several minutes at least, both trying to figure out the other’s next move. Their eyes are so large and expressively beautiful. Down they dove and search as I might, could not spot them again.

There have been plenty of Harbor Seals seen in Gloucester Harbor, but I have never been so close to a Grey Seal, and so delighted to see not one, but two!

The following are a number of ways to tell the difference between a Harbor Seal and a Grey Seal.

Harbor Seals are smaller (5 to 6 feet) than average Grey Seals (6 feet 9 inches long to 8 feet 10 inches long). Bull Grey Seals have been recorded measuring 10 feet 10 inches long!

Harbor Seals have a concave shaped forehead, with a dog-like snout. The head of a Grey Seal is elongated, with a flatter forehead and nose.

Harbor Seal head shape left, Grey Seal head right

Harbor Seals have a heart or V-shaped nostrils. The nostrils of Grey Seals do not meet at the bottom and create more of a W-shape.

Harbor Seal, heart or V-shaped, nostrils

Grey Seal W-shaped nostrils

Grey Seals are not necessarily gray. They are also black and brown. Their spots are more irregular than the spots of a Harbor Seal.

Grey Seals and Harbor Seals are true “earless seals,” which does not mean that they cannot hear but are without external ear flaps.

Dovekie Gloucester Harbor