Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"November Sea Watching", the case of the missing fair weather fans...

It shouldn't come as any surprise to me, but as the temperature gauge has plummeted over the past weeks, so have the numbers of visitors to the seawatch. This isn't necessarily a bad thing... Some days I'm glad for the solitude or the presence of a couple of the stalwart regulars who know what to expect and whose company I welcome. The days of the "are you watching for whales?" questions have been replaced by the army of contractors that spend their time here fixing up the million dollar mansions that are vacated for the winter once Labor Day weekend rolls around. The birding honestly hasn't gotten any worse. There are still very busy days, and the diversity of birds that move by during a day has definitely increased. But gone are the days of 40,000 scoters, and 30,000 cormorants. The kicker is, this is the season when the really "good" birds pass by here (and the default shorebird is no longer Sanderling, they have been replaced by the more hardy Purple Sandpiper - below). Whether it's King Eider, Harlequin Duck, Black-legged Kittiwake, Razorbill, or (a potential lifebird for me) the diminutive Dovekie; this is far and away the best season to see any of these really scarce birds. The days with high numbers of birds definitely are more interesting now, but the slow days seem to last forever now that numbness begins to set in on my toes or nose. I have to admit, I've asked myself whether I'm crazy on quite a few rather bitter days. That question really came into focus last week when I was just doing a typical scan of the horizon to see if any Red-throated Loons were sneaking by between the troughs, and I pan my binoculars onto this:

Yep, it is indeed a small canoe, with a pirate-esque sail rigged up and a lone man piloting it on south. Now I shake my head whenever I see small speedboats going out onto the ocean because I've seen how quickly the temper of the sea can change. A canoe, on the north Atlantic in mid-November!?! This guy makes my daily bird vigil in 24 F blowing snow seem positively enlightened! I really wish that I was able to discuss with this man things like the bermuda triangle and the lost marine city of Atlantis, because I have a sneaking suspicion that he would have been able to shed some very interesting little known facts about these topics if he is out in a a "sail-canoe" (I feel I can coin this term) on the open sea at this time of year...
Also, this is unfortunately the first Thanksgiving that I will not be back home for. It's going to be kind of weird. But I wish you all the best and enjoy a day with family and friends!

1 comment:

Alan Contreras said...

That sail canoe is amazing. Could be off Gambell for all we can tell. I happily admit that I could not do it owing to lack of courage.

Where exactly are you and how long does your season last? I'll hoist a glass to you on Thanksgiving.