I just returned from a quick trip down to Cape Cod. We were hoping to spot some Right Whales as they are on their migration journey northward. And while we didn't spot any whales, I was reminded of these beautiful sea birds we spotted at the same beach two years ago at this time.
Yes, Spring is migration season and while most of us tend to think of the colorful little warblers that are migrating right now, these Northern Gannets are also heading back north to their breeding grounds. Northern Gannets are North America's second largest sea bird, and In North America, there are only six well established breeding colonies (off the coast of Newfoundland) and these birds have been known to return to the same breeding sites for hundreds of years. The largest colonies contain tens of thousands of nests!
Most of us won't ever be fortunate enough to see a Northern Gannet because they spend most of their lives at sea, away from the immediate coast and over deeper waters. However, during migration (typically from late March to mid-April in the New England area) there is a potential to see Gannets a bit closer to shore. On this particular day we saw adults as well as juveniles soaring above the ocean waves. They would usually come in groups of three or four - coming in high and then slowly arcing down toward the ocean. It seemed as if they were going to crash into the waves but then they'd pull up and begin a slow climb upward again. These birds are fast and powerful flyers, but can also glide for hours just above the waves, barely flapping their wings.
What an amazing treat it was to see these graceful birds do this magnificent sea-dance.
Northern Gannet Off of Herring Cove Beach Provincetown, MA May 2017