The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: birds

Whale Burps up Sea Gulls: Sadly They Don’t Survive the Ride


Dead seagulls floating. Photograph posted on Facebook by James Mead Maya.

Last week, over 30 dead seagulls were sighted by James Mead Maya while he was captaining his boat at sea. Perplexed as to what happened to the seagulls, he reached out to a fellow captain who was nearby. That captain recalled having seen a humpback whale come up through a school of herring to feed and the seagulls, who were also feeding on the herring and became the whale’s ‘bycatch’.

After the humpback’s huge gulp that allows it capture and filter a large amount of prey, the whale went down for about five minutes. When the whale resurfaced, it proceeded to burp up/expel the dead gulls, thus the picture of the sighting above.

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You Can Now Download Free High-Resolution Prints of John J. Audubon’s “Birds of America”


White Heron (Ardea alba). Image: The National Audubon Society.

My parents had John J. Audubon prints hanging in our house while I was growing up, and while I didn’t bother to read much in those days–that is, not even so much as to know who’d painted them–I was always enamored by the delicate brushstrokes he took to detail the feathers of his subjects. I used to press my nose up against the glass frame just to try to get a better understanding of how he formed these masterful portraits.

This week, The National Audubon Society published a full gallery of high-res, interactive and even downloadable prints of his hand-engraved plates from the artist and naturalist’s series Birds of America.

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This Is Why The Osprey Might Be the World’s Best Fisherman


Perhaps it was sheer luck, but that’s beside the point. Photo: Kristofer Rowe.

Along the western Atlantic seaboard, a massive migration of menhaden (also known as “bunker” or “moss bunker”) begins in late summer. This means foraging time for the North American osprey (P. h. carolinensis), among other species.

Every summer and fall I would watch these birds, one after another, calculate and execute flawless raids on these hopeless fish. Indeed, ospreys are among the most adept hunters of the sea I’ve ever known, but never have I seen one plant its talons in two fish at once.


A diving osprey can reach speeds of 80 miles an hour. Photo: Kristofer Rowe.

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PBS’ “Big Blue Live” Tonight: A Multi-day and Live Affair in Celebration of the Monterey Bay

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Humpback whale in the Monterey Bay, California. Photo courtesy of Cathy Munsch.

Editor’s Note: A few years ago, Scuttlefish writer Carolyn Sotka and Dr. Stephen R. Palumbi authored a terrific book, The Death and Life of the Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival. The book was inspired by the deep human and natural history of the Monterey Bay and its rich, ecological tapestry. But it wasn’t always like it is today. Over hundreds of years, there was serial exploitation of marine animals that weakened and disrupted the health and resilience of the Bay – beginning with whaling and otter hunts and through the intense boom and bust of the sardine fishery. Tonight PBS will launch Big Blue Live, a unique 3-day TV event. Watch the broadcast and read the book about one of the most amazing places on earth, the Monterey Bay. 

PBS and BBC joined forces to bring you an event inspired by the ocean and unlike anything you have seen before. Big Blue Live debuts tonight, August 31 – September 2, 2015 on PBS. This live television and online broadcast program will celebrate one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Monterey Bay, California.

While Monterey Bay is full of life year-round, this program focuses on a once-a-year phenomenon where humpback whales, blue whales, sea lions, dolphins, elephant seals, sea otters, great white sharks, and shearwaters all converge in the Bay during August and September.

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Sea otter wrapped in kelp in the Monterey Bay. Photo by Jim Capwell.

Watch the Big Blue Live trailer below:

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100 Feet Deep in a Mexican Sinkhole, This Incredible Scotch Ad Nods to a Dying Chinese Tradition


“What really works in an image is when people cannot tell what’s real, and those lines get blurred.” – Photographer Benjamin Von Wong.

A photographer, a veteran freediver, and a team of 13 divers convened 100 feet deep in a cenote (sinkhole) near Tulum, Mexico to shoot what will likely go down in history as the world’s coolest booze ad.

100 feet, or 30 meters down, below the aqua-blue, gin-clear waters of the cenote lies a deadly layer of hydrogen sulfide, which happens to give off the visual effect that the water above it is pure O2.

The photograph, which is for scotch producer Ballentine’s, pays tribute to the dying culture of the Chinese cormorant fisherman. This ancient fishing method involves the fisherman tying a noose-like knot around the bird’s neck and sending it down to dive for small fish. When the bird surfaces, the fisherman deftly yanks the line and loop tight, pulling the bird back in before it has a chance to swallow its catch. He’ll repeat this until the boat’s full, and then the cormorant gets its meal. Cruel? Yes. But, effective and ingenious? You betcha.

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Stop. Watch This Now. This is What Happened in Santa Barbara and Will Happen to Your Coast if Proposed Offshore Oil and Gas Proceeds


Reeve Woolpert carries an oil-covered Brown Pelican from Refugio State Beach. Photo from Ventura County Star via Audubon.

On May 19, 2015, more than 100,000 gallons of thick, crude oil poured out of a ruptured pipeline in Santa Barbara County. The pipeline is owned by Plains All American, one of the worst violators of safety and maintenance regulations in the industry, according to a list by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration.

The local community, some arguably still scarred from the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, watched in despair as a pool of oil spread and began to wash up onshore over a 10-mile stretch of coast and continues to wash up today.


A day after the pipeline rupture, the oil sheen—and oil-soaked kelp—makes its way toward the shore. Photo by Brian van der Brug/LA Times/Getty via Audubon.

Ironically, members of the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) were in Alaska, attending a conference about the effects of oil on wildlife, when the real thing happened. OWCN Director Mike Ziccardi, who has experienced more than 50 spills in California and abroad, booked a red-eye flight from Anchorage to Santa Barbara.

“California is the best region in the world for oiled wildlife response,” Ziccardi said in the UC Davis Today article. “Through the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, we have over 35 organizations we work with regularly. We train, do drills and exercises; we’ve built 12 facilities throughout the state for oiled wildlife.”

Regardless of the group’s preparedness, no community is truly prepared to witness the devastation a spill can wreak on their beaches and wildlife. The following video shows the impact of the spill’s aftermath to wildlife.

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‘Typically, the number of birds far outweighs the number of marine mammals brought into the wildlife care facilities. With the Santa Barbara spill, the ratio is much less distinct.’ said marine biologist Kyra Mills-Parker with OWCN.

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Mine? Watch This Artful, Wily Gull Pry a Fish from Someone’s Lips.

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Poor, clueless fool. Screenshot from a video (below) posted by Florida Fishing Is the Best.

Having spent the better part of my life along coastlines, I’ve seen gulls pull just about every trick in the book short of grand theft auto, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen them take food out of unwitting hand (mine, even, while working on a charter boat holding bait).

We’ve all had our run-ins with the gulls, and some of us fortunate few have have had the great pleasure of being defecated upon–twice, in my experience–but never have I ever seen a gull act so brazenly as to pluck a fried fish directly from a beachgoer’s gaping gob. Clearly, this exercise was calculated, and deserving of a long, slow round of applause.

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Aerials of the African Coast Weave Together a “Narrative of the Life, Landscapes and Moods of Places”


The nets of Bangue, Mozambique. Photograph by Jan and Jay Roode & Skyhawk Design & Photography/Big Sky Studio

Over the last five years, Jan and Jay Roode have combined their passion for aviation, conservation and adventure into these stunning images of the African coast. Their company Skyhawk Photography began as a dream to photograph Southern Africa from above, but evolved into an insatiable addiction to the vast space and endless horizons only flight can bring.

The Roodes have flown over 40,000 nautical miles to capture images of life sewn into the tapestry of a sometimes unimaginable African landscape. The photographs featured here represent both coastal life and landscape in Mozambique and Namibia.

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Sandwich Harbour, to be found approximately 80km south of the coastal town of Walvis Bay on the Namibian coastline and forms part of the Namib Naukluft National Park. Sandwich harbour is an IBA (Important Bird Area) for a plethora of bird species such as Great White pelican and thousands of Lesser and Greater Flamingo. Photograph by Jan and Jay Roode & Skyhawk Design & Photography/Big Sky Studios.

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