Thursday, July 23, 2009

Race Point and Monomoy Island (kind of)

Monday morning I sneaked out of the hotel room at 5, drove to Race Point, and found out that the beach doesn't open until 6 a.m. (this is quite unlike the dawn policies at most nature preserves). I killed some time, came back, and walked the beach, spending time with the least terns and piping plovers.

Race Point is a good place to get a glimpse of genuine sea birds, so I sat on the beach and stared through my binoculars at the ocean for a long while. (I now genuinely understand the need for spotting scopes). One distant bird stood out, flying close to the surface of the water, alternately flapping its wings and gliding: a shearwater!

And what was that large bump in the water right off the beach? A gray seal (actually a pair of seals) casually swimming along, apparently unconcerned about me.

Which was interesting because that was going to be theme of the rest of the day, a seal-watching excursion with Lily to Monomoy at the southern tip of the Cape. We had considered going whale-watching but the 4 hour trip seemed a bit much for a 5 year-old. So why not take a shorter trip to see some seals and get some nice sea bird action at the same time?

We hooked up with an outfit based in Harwich, waited at the dock for a while, and then we were off. And rather soon, we saw seals, a whole bunch of them, just bobbing in the water.

Good close-up views, though it didn't take long for Lily to lose interest. They weren't really doing anything. Just bobbing, half asleep.

Yawning even.

As for my seabird goal? Dashed. Despite the excursion map on the official brochure, which showed us circling Monomoy, with close views of the coast (and nesting seabirds), the captain decided to take us into Stage Harbor on a guided tour of yachts and fishing boats. We had got our seals, so we should be happy, was the response to protests. Next time I'm going to hook up with a more nature-centered organization, like the Wellfleet Audubon, to satisfy the seabird itch.

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