A group of ten hardy souls set out from the Rockland, Maine harbor on a cloudy Saturday afternoon in late August for BRI's first coastal birdwatching cruise. Before we even left port, binoculars were up and birders were calling out "Sighting!" Enthusiasm spread quickly and before the three-day sail was over we had logged 35 species of birds, five species of marine mammals, and many sightings of the uniquely shaped ocean sunfish!
Seabirds spend most of their lives on open water, seeking land only to breed. Few people understand the lives these birds lead or the physical hardships they endure. Many seabirds are at risk due to habitat loss, climate change, and contaminants, among other factors. BRI hosted this cruise to increase awareness of the need for conservation for these birds.
Sailing at the end of August, we saw birds migrating south from far northern regions (such as the Northern Gannet and Arctic Tern) and those species leaving their Maine nesting colonies (such as Black Guillemots and Puffins). When asked where these birds go, BRI's seabird expert Dr. Iain Stenhouse simply said, "Out to sea."
We sailed on the Harvey Gamage, a 131-foot gaff-rigged topsail schooner, around some of the coastal islands of Downeast Maine.
After sailing through a mixed flock of foraging Arctic and Common Terns, we spent our first night anchored in a cove near Isle au Haut. Those on night watch were treated to a spectacular star-studded vista in a cloudless black sky. It was so worth getting up in the middle of the night to see the stars blaze so brightly.
A highlight for many was hearing the Leach's Storm-Petrels as they called to each other around Matinicus Rock, where we anchored on our second night.
Enveloped by the night sky, those on deck listened to the eerie sounds of these tiny seabirds; and as promised by Iain, they did indeed sound like goblins (if there were such things as goblins).
Marine Mammals and Fish
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