Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New daily record for Northern Gannet

Today I got rewarded for a week of counting very little with quite a spectacle. Northern Gannets were incredible to watch today as they were a cloud literally everywhere I looked along the ocean this morning. Gannets are a type of seabird that fly above the water and dive with great speed into the water pulling their wings in towards their bodies at the last second so that they can dive further under water. They will dive up to 30 feet under water after fish and actually dive so rapidly, that they catch the fish on their way back up from their dive. They will typically form large flock over schools of fish and just bombard them from the sky. Watching feeding flocks of gannets is one of the things I do to keep myself entertained on the slow days, because they dive with such grace and are such proficient hunters. Well today, I ended up counting 16,946 of them as they migrated by. This shatters the previous single day record (7,685) for the fifteen years worth of data collection that the Sea Watch has been conducted. While this photo really doesn't do the bird justice, a small fraction of what I observed can be seen in this photo of a feeding flock over a school of baitfish (Bunker) that were being driven close to shore by larger predatory fish like Bluefish and Striped Bass. The fisherman were having a great day along the jetties as well!
(And in case you're curious, there are 39 Gannets in the above photo which represented just .002% of the total I saw today...)

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