Saturday, August 06, 2011

Cape Cod Vacation - August 2011

The first week of August I took a relaxing beach vacation in Cape Cod. I had plenty of time to walk the beach, bike ride, observe whales and seals, and enjoy the height of summer.

Sunday, July 31

Today was my driving day to Cape Cod. I arrived late afternoon, time for relaxing over a bite to eat and then a long walk along Nauset Beach in Orleans.

Monday August 1

I spent all day on Nauset Beach. The best vacations have plenty of beach time.

Tuesday August 2

I spent today whale watching in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary near Provincetown. Our official observation count for today was 19 to 24 humpback whales and 10 to 12 minke whales. We saw several of the humpback whales breaching, or throwing their entire bodies out of the water. I didn't capture any pictures because it happens so quickly, and is such an amazing surprise!

Open mouth feeding. This whale is filtering water through its baleen and eating the fish it catches.

Birds surround the whale to catch any leftovers. If you look closely, you can see that a bird is actually sitting on this whale!

More open mouth feeding

You can see the bubble ring near this whale. Humpback whales create a net of bubble rings to gather fish and confuse them. Then the whale comes up through the water with its mouth open catching all the fish. Often the bubble ring is the first sign you will see of the whale.

More feeding. This whale's flipper is visible also.

A tail of a whale.

Whale tails are distinctive and can be used to identify the whale.

Open mouth feeding, whale tail

This whale is "flippering". A whale will turn on its back or side and slap the water repeatedly with its flipper. We watched this whale for about ten to twenty minutes slapping the water with its flipper. We don't know exactly why a whale will do this; it might be for communication, it might be to stun prey, or it might be to knock barnacles off a flipper. The sound carries underwater for miles.

Video of a whale flippering:

Minke whale

Wednesday, August 3

Today I rode the Cape Cod Rail Trail past Nickerson State Park.

Namskaket Creek is a protected estuary with unique wildlife which can live in this salty environment.

Several beautiful ponds are visible from the rail trail.

Kayakers enjoying Hinckleys Pond

Long Pond

I stopped for a sandwich at Bayside Market which also had summer produce for sale.

Thursday August 4

Today I went on a sightseeing seal cruise with Blue Claw Boat Tours from Orleans to Chatham. Our captain told us all about the history of the area, how the topography has been shaped by storms, and the ecology of the animals that live there.

Hanging out, being seals... Seals are now protected in Cape Cod, which is resulting in a large increase in their numbers. The increased population is drawing the top predator, the great white shark. In fact, one of the Chatham beaches was closed during my visit due to the presence of one of these magnificent and powerful animals.

View of Chatham

Seals are very curious animals: we were watching them, they were watching us! The ones with their noses pointed in the air are actually sleeping. Apparently we were not a captivating sight. Most likely they only want to categorize us as predators or merely a curiosity.

Strong Island in Pleasant Bay

These cliffs are caused by erosion and the pounding of waves.

I spent late afternoon on Nauset Beach. Late afternoon is my favorite time on the beach because the crowds are mostly gone and the heat is less severe.

I could watch waves for hours.

Protected dunes

Last view of Cape Cod!

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