On Saturday, April 15, the Lloyd Center partnered with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to view “wintering” seals on Gull Island, a small sandbar near Cuttyhunk Island where seals haul out at low tide. During colder months seal numbers increase in Buzzards Bay which provides shallow, warmer waters that provide a sustained food source of mainly fish.
From the docks in New Bedford to Cuttyhunk Island, the Lloyd Center provided background about Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands, including historical, geological, and ecological, facts before the seal commentary, which was the feature attraction.
After hearing about the successful cooperation from the fishing industry to help ensure protection of the seals, the history of Palmers Island in New Bedford Harbor, and why estuaries are valuable to overwintering seals and waterbirds, the group settled in for a ride out on especially calm waters. Onlookers saw roaming Gray Seals, some sea ducks, cormorants, and loons. A special treat was a close-up view of a Northern Gannet, a familiar seabird on whale watches that also comes close to shore in spring.
At Gull Island, seals were packed in close, a good 80-100 Gray Seals on the bar, the less numerous Harbor Seals at rest in their “niche” on nearby rocks, most “Harbors” now migrating to their breeding sites further north. Folks gained a sense of the size of the “Grays” in comparison, and learned how they, endemic to the western North Atlantic, breed locally and outnumber the other species. Both adults and young Grays were present, with the high variation in coloration apparent. Participants learned that while our seals are clumsy on land compared to their Sea Lion relatives, their bodies are equipped for deep dives for fish and crustaceans, and for withstanding cold temperatures.
On Cuttyhunk Island the Lloyd Center led a walk to the lookout and back where folks saw the hilly “drumlins” that provide proof of glacial origins, West End Pond which has long been used for shellfish farming, old military bunkers, and the quaint town complete with historical society, town hall, church and school, and striped bass symbols, evidence of a fishery the island has always enjoyed. Back on the vessel the Coalition provided additional commentary on the seals, and background regarding the considerable land protection efforts the organization has completed on the island, including new trail systems and kiosks which were seen by the group. The Center was happy to partner with the Buzzards Bay Coalition, and looks forward to also resuming its own seal watches next season.
The Lloyd Center also continues both its weekly Wednesday Bird Walks and has started its annual Spring Migration series which focuses on the forest bird migration on its property. In addition to the changeover at the feeders, including an uptick in American Goldfinches, the first Chipping Sparrows, and as of April 24th the first Eastern Towhee visit, the waterfront has been bustling with activity from our three osprey platforms with great views offered. As eagles are settling into nesting areas, a pair of Bald Eagles was seen again recently at the mouth of the Slocums near the Lloyd Center. Remnant winter waterfowl, other raptors, and the first egrets, are also potential sightings.
We thank those who joined us on the seal watch, and we’ll see you on future outings!