Hammer Time.

Almost shark week… ūüôā

The ocean on the south shore of Long Island really starts lighting up with life this time of year.   Along with tropical fish and startles, we also get some sharks that are better known to more southern waters.   The most common shark I have seen in the last few years is the Hammerhead.  They seem to like the surface.  I’m not sure of the species, but I would guess scalloped hammerhead.  (Hit the comments if you can identify!)  They are definitely feeding on the bunker (first pic).  These sharks are amazing to watch.  They are extremely maneuverable, and slice and dice through the ball up bait.  

Its been found that unusually structured vertebrae are what allow this tight maneuvering.  That crazy head Рthe Cephalofoil Рhelps with lift and turning, however its main function is more of a sensory organ.  All sharks have electroreceptors called ampullae of Lorenzini that help detect prey.   By spreading these out over the wider area of the cephalofoil, it acts like a radio antenna, allowing the shark to sweep broader areas for prey.

While we wait for this south wind to calm, here are some older pics from last year, this week.  

 

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I suspect  little photoshop on that last one, but look at that water.  Thats real!   Hit the comments for any questions or um..  comments!    Enjoy!

Bottlenose Dolphin, South Shore, Long Island.

FINS to the left! Pics at the end!

The Fourth of July brought with it, not only fireworks and celebration, but also a very flat, mellow ocean.   The north wind and a lack of swell made for smooth lake-like conditions.   

I love these conditions for running the boat out there because the surface is relatively smooth in shape and texture.  No whitecaps to distract the eye.  It essentially becomes a backdrop from which your eyes can pick out anomalies Рsmall disturbances emerging out of the overall pattern.

All too often, these visual stand-outs turn out to be helium balloons.  (Please, folks, think about curbing the balloon use, or at least don’t let them go fly away.  They land on the ocean, and I can fill garbage bag picking them up.  They kill.)  

The next common thing you will see are seagulls.   Kind of boring, but worth a second glance.  I have found sea turtles that I initially thought were birds.

Now if you keep your eyes scanning, there is a good chance that you will see some wonderful things Р dolphin, shark, turtle, an occasional humpback or fin whale.  Keep looking for the anomaly in the pattern.  You eyes will learn to see what you are looking for._DSC5364-2

On the Fourth, I spotted a few pods of migratory, bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus.    They were actively corralling and feeding on atlantic menhaden, also known as bunker.  (See video of a bunker school below.)  Many babies were in the mix. There seemed to be two separate pods of 15 to 30 individuals.  I was between 1/2 mile and 2 miles off, between Robert Moses and Kismet.  

 

I often see dolphin very close to shore.  On these calm days, consider bring binoculars to the beach with you.  You might get a nice surprise!

Photo tips:  You really need a telephoto lens with some reach.  You cannot get too close to these guys.  Its not safe, legal, or effective.  If you get too close, they dive deep and split.   I try to maneuver to within no more than 50 yards, and then stay parallel to the direction they are heading and get a bit ahead of them. Turn off engine, and let them swim towards you, on a line that still maintains your distance.

I‚Äôm shooting with a relatively cheap Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens. ¬† At 600mm, I really want some wide depth of field, so I keep my F-stop at 8 or higher. ¬†Shutter speed needs to be fast –¬†subject is moving at a distance, so I try not to go below 1/1000th of a second. ¬†For me, this works well in aperture priority mode. ¬†If I can‚Äôt keep the shutter speed up at F8, ¬†I raise the ISO just enough to get that fast shutter. ¬† I use back button focus, because its faster for me, and you need to be fast for when a dolphin pops up. ¬†It also allows me to pre-focus on where I think they will be, and then just snap the shutter.¬†

I can’t really say enough about keeping your eyes on the water, and observing the surface.   On the way in, at a slow cruising speed, I saw a small disturbance that I though might be a turtle.   Turns out it was the dorsal fin of a triggerfish.  I stopped and he swam under the cover of the shadow of the boat!

 

Enjoy, and keep those eyes open!  Here are a few shots from the Fourth of July, as well as a few from previous trips!

 

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Continue reading “Bottlenose Dolphin, South Shore, Long Island.”

Seal Cruise Groupon

Nice discount available from American Princess Cruises out of Riis Point.

From Groupon:

“Choose Between Two Options
  • $16 for a seal- and bird-watching adventure cruise for one ($30 value)
  • $30 for two Groupons, each good for a weekend seal- and bird-watching adventure cruise for one ($60 value)
“Cruises run on Saturdays from March 18th to April 29th, as well as a Friday cruise on April 14th. Boarding is at 11:15 a.m., with the tour leaving at 12 p.m. and returning at approximately 2 p.m.
The large vessel has a full bar, including hot chocolate, tea, coffee, spiked coffee, and other beverages, and is also equipped with a snack bar and galley. Passengers spend 2 hours gazing out of sizable viewing windows in a large, heated cabin with cushioned seating, enjoying scenic skyline views and spotting Harbor and Grey seals, with the occasional Harp and Hooded seal sighting, as well as a variety of birds. On warmer days, guests can take in sights from the ship‚Äôs canopy-covered upper deck. There is a naturalist on board guiding the tour, that gives a presentation on marine life, seals, birds, and the surrounding area on the way. There is also a slide show which is displayed on big screen tv‚Äôs, showing pictures, posters and exhibits. The naturalist is available throughout the trip for any questions.‚ÄĚ

Hit the link:  Groupon link.

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Seal FYI

Long Island. Our harbor and grey seals will probably not be sticking around too long in some parts. If you love seals, but don’t have time to head out east, head down to Robert Moses, or the Oak Beach area. You will need to go at low tide, and you will need binoculars, telescope, or a huge lens. The haul out is towards the middle of Great South Bay, so they are far out there, but they are there. This picture, and this info should help you find them. Remember, they are federally protected marine mammals. If you alter their behavior, you are too close. Please keep that in mind if you are in a boat.  Enjoy.

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A Plastic Love

for the love of Ocean

Everyone loves the Ocean! ¬† Just kidding… You love disposable plastic more.

We’ve all heard the stories of sea turtles eating plastic bags and balloons, mistaken for jellyfish, and dying as a result. Fish, seabirds, whales, dolphin… all seem to consume plastic, many dying as a result. (44% of seabirds eat plastic by mistake.) But the problem runs deeper. This video is well worth watching:

Plastic breaks down. As opposed to the old idea that plastic is virtually indestructible and lingers for centuries, it does, in fact break down. Through physical and chemical means, it gets broken up into smaller and smaller pieces. These smaller pieces disperse at a local level, basically creating a plastic soup. Most fish and birds can eat the smaller pieces.

To make matters worse, plastic acts as a sponge, sucking up dangerous organic pollutants such as PCP, DDT, BPA, etc. We now are creating toxic plastic soup in the far reaches of the ocean.
Maybe lay off the plastic water bottles for a start???

Harbor Seals

…almost overslept

It was a nice morning.


 

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Almost over slept this morning.  Got up, but I was a bit slow getting enough coffee in me after yesterday’s fantastic game.  I wanted to get some landscape shots before the sunrise РI like an hour to a half hour before for photography and observing.  Those times often offer the best color.  Running a bit late, I caught the sun coming up over the ocean, always a blessing, but I missed all the good color from earlier.

The light was still great so I changed plans.  I switched out the wide-angle for the Tamron 150-600mm and went looking for wildlife.  I was hoping to get lucky, maybe see some raptors or a fox.  Drove around a bit, nothing.  Had another thought and this is what I found this morning. (Phoca vitulina)

All shots are cropped considerably, even at 600mm, the harbor seals were pretty far away. Because the low sun was hitting them just right, I set exposure compensation at -1.0, to help prevent any overexposure of the seal’s light fur. (Seal fur, btw, belongs on a seal.)  I was shooting in aperture priority, not manual mode, since I was kind of parked in the middle of the road, with a park ranger behind me tooting his horn for me to get back in my car.

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All shots:   ISO 500, F9.0, 1/1250th sec., 600mm.  The ISO was bumped up to increase shutter speed, as I was hand holding 600mm.  Aperture was 9.0, because this lens is very sharp there, and figured I needed some depth of field.

 

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There are some better places to find seals on Long Island and I will try to hit that in another post.  Seals are federally protected marine mammals.  Please respect them by staying at least 50 yards away.  If your presence alters their behavior, you are too close.

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Continue reading “Harbor Seals”