Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Offshore with Blues

Summer brings with it many changes to the marine environment in and around Cape Cod and surrounding islands. As the ocean currents slowly bring warmer currents from the south the water temperatures rise and some of our migrating fishes return to New England waters along with seabirds who also feast on the bounty that the ocean yields at this time of year. We have longed to hook up with shark conservation legend and filmmaker Joe Romeiro to go offshore to find and swim with Blue sharks in their natural wide open ocean hopefully in clear green and blue water. There is also a chance that a mako shark might bolt into the situation just to liven things up. To accomplish this goal we ventured to Rhode Island to Point Judith for an early departure on board with Pelagic Expeditions, an adventure shark diving operation run by Joe and Brian Raymond. These guys really know their stuff and even though we set out to find clear water in dense fog this Sunday morning – their confidence and experience paid off as we finally broke out of the fog to a sunny flat calm day in the Atlantic ocean. Humpback whales and Minke whales surfaced lazily around us and we waited while our chum slick sent out a call to the ocean scavengers that might be within a few miles of our position. We were also blessed with some close up views of the Wilson Storm Petrel another ocean voyager that makes it’s way to our waters seasonally from deep in the Southern Atlantic, some 9000 miles away. Here are a few shots that tell some of the tale of the day. In case you are wondering we had an absolute blast doing this. Check out Pelagic Expeditions in Rhode Island for more information on how to get in on this local action.

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (11)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (18)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (9)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (17)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (2)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (1)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (5)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (4)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (14)

https://www.facebook.com/PelagicExpeditions

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (15)

Wilson’s Storm Petrel gets in on the feeding

Read more.. Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Swimming with the Great Whales

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Links below to two new videos we have just posted to provide some more “color” on these experiences. One compiled from our expedition to Dominica in February 2014 followed by another compiled from footage shot during one incredible day on the Silver Bank – 80 miles north of the Dominican Republic in early March. Please check them both out below.

Sperm Whale Heaven

Sanctuary

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Spotted Dolphins off the bow. Amazing!

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Young male sperm whale checks us out with a close approach to our boat

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Estela – our fellow adventurer on the Silver Bank who inspired the vid “Sanctuary” in this post

Read more.. Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Pacific Northwest Signs of Spring

Our time in the Pacific Northwest has been heavy with family and the brand new babies as our previous posts will attest. However we have managed an outing with our old friend and fellow birder Paula Johnson who lives in the area. Paula was kind enough to guide us to a couple of birding hotspots in the region one day this past week. They are the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southern Washington near the Columbia River and also the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Olympia.

We got on the road long before dawn, were blessed with some decent spring weather (read no rain) and were rewarded with some excellent sightings of the areas wildlife feeling the urgings of spring.

Nisqually

Nisqually NWR

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Bald Eagle

 

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Tree Swallows were in abundance on their way north to breed

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Nisqually NWR

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A pair of river otters frolic

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A Pair of Cinnamon Teals

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Newly fledged Bald Eagle watching

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Hooded Merganser pair

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Hooded Merganser pair

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A family of raccoons

Dowitchers yellowlegs

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A pair of Wood Ducks

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A Yellow -rumped warbler migrant just showing up at NIsqually NWR on its way north

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Cinnamon Teal Drake preening

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Red winged Blackbird displaying his colors proudly hoping to attract a mate

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A pair of Northern Shovelers

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Read more.. Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Polar Migrations

The Barents Sea region well north of the Arctic Circle encompasses territory from Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The area is uniquely wild and is home to one of the last truly nomadic herding cultures on earth, the reindeer herding Sami people.

We had an opportunity to travel to the Norwegian region of Finnmark in Norway’s far north to observe this remarkable landscape first hand in the waning days of winter. Gearing up for an expedition like this meant shifting to our cold weather kit. After three weeks in the Caribbean swimming with whales this presented some challenges.  The temperatures were cold with averages during the day of – 10 degrees C and as low as -30 degrees C at night. One of the most beautiful spectacles in nature, the aurora borealis or “northern lights”, are often visible at this latitude on cold clear evenings. We ventured out a few evenings and braved the cold to witness this. During this expedition we also explored the rocky, treeless coast and ventured far into the frozen river system that separates Norway from Russia in the land of brown bear and wolverine. We traveled by snowshoe, snow mobile and dog sled into the birch forest areas where reindeer graze for the winter before they make a spring migration back to the coast – a trip they have been making for thousands of years with the indigenous Sami people. The people were warm and welcoming and the landscapes were dramatic as you can see. In another post we will report more about the region’s political organization formerly known as Lapland and now known as Samiland.

Here are a few images recorded along the way. We have included a few examples of artwork by indigenous artists we found in special places on our journey to help tell the story. Huge thanks go to Kevin Clement of Zegrahm Expeditions who lead our trip and also to Kaare Tannvik, our mentor and guide for this journey. They lead us back in time into places that most people will never see. And our traveling companions from South Africa and the USA were wonderful to be with for this extraordinary adventure.

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Steller’s Eider Drake

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Long tailed duck drake

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Magnificent King Eiders in flight

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A Painting by Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa

JJK_3508 JJK_3013JJK_3620IMG_2430JJK_3072JJK_2918JJK_3603JJK_3955IMG_2337JJK_3540JJK_3353IMG_2577JJK_3947IMG_2466JJK_4037JJK_3728JJK_3314_JJK1299JJK_3262Samiland 2014 (7)JJK_4040JJK_3818JJK_3875JJK_3506 JJK_3688IMG_2522JJK_3559IMG_2408 JJK_4260

Read more.. Saturday, March 29th, 2014

In the Cathedral of North Atlantic Humpbacks

Thinking of these magnificent creatures making their way on the long journey from summer feeding grounds some females heavy with calves makes a visit to the Silver Bank off the north coast of the Dominican Republic very special. This was our third trip to be with Tom Conlin and his brilliant crew of Aquatic Adventures on the Silver Bank. Weather conditions on the Bank had been a little breezy with the afternoon trade winds blowing up to 25 kts for a few days presenting some cloudy underwater conditions for many locations but the interactions were absolutely remarkable. For months we have been training to increase wind and build flexibility to be lithe and supple in the water and to be able to stay underwater for longer periods while being a passive observer of the delicate mother and calf bonding and feeding activity.

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Tom Conlin got this magical image of JJK while the youngster nursed by its mother. All rights reserved – Tom Conlin

 

11 year old Estela was impressed with the young calf and “nicknamed” her Racci

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Check out the blog post prepared by Lisa LaPointe of Aquatic Adventures describing our week with them.

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Aquatic-Adventures–Whale-Tales-S24-W6—Updated-weekly-from-the-Silver-Bank-.html?soid=1107080557940&aid=NyEpvrHwW4w

Read more.. Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Sperm Whale Heaven

_JJK0003Once again we were fortunate to travel to the island of Dominica to observe the population of sperm whales that inhabit the waters surrounding the island. This expedition was organized by Ted Cheeseman of Cheeseman’s Ecological Safaris and was conducted under a special permit from the Dominican government. Over the nine days we spent on the island we were extremely fortunate to witness some incredible interactions with these whales including the seldom seen entry of a large bull sperm whale into the area which made for some terrific observations of social behavior among the females. We were also treated to sightings of Spotted dolphins and Fraser’s dolphins and many seabirds._JJK0062_JJK0011_JJK9401_JJK9648_JJK9750_JJK9899_JJK9910JJK_1093JJK_1479

Read more.. Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Forest Observations: Costa Rica

Flower piercer in Savegre

Scintillant hummingbird - Savegre

We manged to take time out of enjoying the Cape Cod winter to perform a surgical strike into two distinct wild areas of Costa Rica over a short ten day window. Long a preferred destination by Eco-adventure travelers all over the world we had never taken the time to visit and were keen to get in on the experience. Our primary goal in this exploratory trip was to explore two significant  and different areas in the country – the magical lowland rainforest on the Osa Peninsula in the south and the spectacular cloud forest near San Gerardo de Gota and the headwaters of the Rio Savegre in the Talamanca Mts. What we found with the help of excellent local guides were some of the most beautiful bird life we have witnessed anywhere in the world. In fact we were successful in identifying more than 200 different species while on the ground in Costa Rica. 75% of which were birds we had never seen before anywhere..known as “life birds” among the active birding community. Here are a few of the images we recorded.

Yellow thighed Finch - Savegre

Silver throated Tanager

Golden Winged Warbler - A Rare Beauty, Osa Peninsula

Long tailed Silky Flycatcher

Black mandibled toucan, Osa Peninsula

Violet eared hummingbird

Collared Redstart

Incredible Scarlet Macaw

King Vulture

Mangrove Black Hawk

White Hawk and Scarlet Macaw share space but have different interests

Magnificent Quetzal (female)

Black chested Trogon

Magnificent Quetzal (male)

Tiny Hawk - Rare and hard to see in Central America

Sunrise Osa Peninnsula

Read more.. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Patagonia: Magellanic Spring

Our recent posts about traveling in Ecuador and Peru got us to remembering our trek into Patagonia now five years ago. In this “hot stove league” time of year and while we gear up for some new adventures in 2014 take a peak at some images of mountain spring memories from out journey into Chile’s incomparable Torres del Paine park and then on to Argentina’s El Calafate thereby bracketing Patagonia. Some breathtaking scenery and a first hand look at one of the largest ice sheets on Planet Earth …third behind Antarctica and Greenland. The hiking was grand! If you are thinking of making the journey to Antarctica some day ( and we hope you do) consider adding  two weeks to see this area on the front end of your trip. You will not be disappointed. On this adventure we traveled with our friends at Zegrahm Expeditions in Seattle. We recommend them highly.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park

Guanacos - Torres del Paine

Magellanic Fox in rest mode

White Tufted grebe and youngster

The Towers at Torres del Paine

Black faced Ibis in a field of wildflowers

Young Andean Condor

Dawn at Torres del Paine

Read more.. Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Ecuador: In the Cloud Forest

Capitalizing on our time in South America we continued our exploration of wildlife by journeying north to Ecuador. Yet another country set in the Andean Highlands and exceptionally bio-diverse especially in the bird world we were eager to spend a few days here before we ventured out to the Galapagos. From Quito,the capital city we journeyed north and west to a beautiful private reserve that had been rescued by an entrepreneur and restored with a superior lodge to allow visitors to enjoy a very special area of unique wildlife, Here is a description by the owners of the lodge – “The wonders waiting at Mashpi Lodge will delight the worldliest nature lover. Perched at 900 m (3,116 feet) above sea level and surrounded by lower montane rainforest and cloud forest, the Lodge is surrounded by a profusion of plant species, from ferns and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered. A staggering 500 species of bird – including some 36 endemics – are estimated to inhabit the forest, fluttering through the canopy. Monkeys, peccaries and even puma make their homes inside the Reserve crisscrossed with waterfalls between dramatic, verdant hills.”

Read more.. Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Peru: High up with Mother Earth

Six months have passed since we trekked into the magical Sacred Valley high up in the Andes Mountains in Peru. Our journey there has had longer reaching effects and in looking back on our time there the memories are powerful. The impetus for traveling to Peru was centered around a long standing fascination with Machu Picchu, a desire to see this mysterious ruin first hand and to learn more about the people who made it more than 500 years ago.

Machu Picchu (also known as “The lost City of the Incas”) is located 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level and is situated on an Andes mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru,  which is 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cusco, Peru. Most archeologists deem that Machu Picchu was constructed as a manor for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). It is the most renowned Inca construction that has been built and known to date.

Constructed in the 1400’s at the explosion of the Inca Empire, this lost city was abandoned less than 100 years from its construction. It was abandoned as a delayed result of the Spanish Conquest. It is likely that most of its population died from smallpox, launched by voyagers before the Spanish conquistadors.

Furthermore, because there are no historical records of the Spanish ever knowing of this fascinating Inca city, it was of vital importance to its survival, as most of the Inca constructions in the Cusco area were completely destroyed by the conquistadors and new European constructions were built on top of these destroyed ruins. However, today most of the remote structures have been restored in hopes of giving tourist an enhanced concept of what the buildings looked like from the beginning.

Moreover, although Machu Picchu was already known locally, it was anonymous to outsiders until American historian Hiram Bingham brought the mysterious wonder to international attention in 1911. Since then it has become one of the most important tourist attractions in Peru and worldwide.

In 1981, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and in 1983 it was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The Sun Gate - Inca trail ends here and marks the entrance to Machu Picchu

Torrent Ducks look over the Urubamba River

The first look at Machu Picchu

One evening at sunset we met with two Andean shaman or Misayoq, specialists in Andean rituals (commonly equated to priests). Misayoqs are believed to possess the ability to communicate directly with the mountain spirits and natural forces. We settled cross legged in soft grass near the fast moving water of the Urubamba River, considered sacred in the Valley, and participated in a ritual ceremony to make an offering to Pachamama “Mother Earth”  with thanks. The ritual is called a  Despacho (a Spanish word meaning “offering.” In Peru the word pago is often used meaning “payment” – in this context payment in the form of prayers and material gifts of food, alcohol and other items considered necessary. The offerings are usually made to the spirits residing in the highest mountain peaks (known as Apus) or to Pachamama (Mother Earth) or to a combination of the two.  We entered the ceremony a bit under briefed on the background but with an open mind.

The intent of the ceremony may be to bring about harmony and balance to the earth (such as abundant crops and fertile animals), honour a new beginning (such as a new house, business or marriage) or to get rid of an illness or negative energy. Despachos can also be made to ward off witchcraft and sorcery. Participation in the ceremony can help reinforce spiritual relationships between members of the community and cleanse each participant of negative or heavy energy. This heavy energy actually becomes part of the offering.

It is very important that the ceremony is treated with utmost respect and faith. It is often said that a badly made despacho or a ceremony that is attended by participants who treat it as a game can often do more harm than good.

We ended up mesmerized and very moved with good feelings as we concluded in pitch darkness after more than 1 hour. During the ceremony Pam and I were each asked to make a silent petition to Pachamama which we did without discussing our intentions and the Misayog transmitted these wishes by laying hands on our heads and adding items to a bundle of “gifts” to be committed to fire in a sacred place after the ceremony to seal the petition.

Only much later did we learn that not only did both of us wish for the same thing BUT our prayers had been answered when we learned more than three weeks later that both of our children were expecting there first BABIES! Whoa! Were we surprised and elated.  Be very careful what you wish for from Mother Earth – she may just grant it! Our very first grandchildren are expected to deliver on the same day in March 2014 from two different mothers.

Quetsuan Creation Myth - Cusco

Read more.. Thursday, December 12th, 2013