Cape Cod Wildlife

Dogs Banned From Popular Mashpee Beach

Dogs Banned From Popular Mashpee Beach

By SAM HOUGHTON    May 4, 2017

Dogs, whether with leashes or without, have been banned from Popponesset   Spit for the season.

A newsletter from Save Popponesset Bay sent out April 27 reads that no dogs would be allowed on the beach from April 1 until Labor Day in September in order to protect piping plovers and other threatened species.

New signs were recently installed at the beach highlighting the new rule.

"We have been warned by the [US] Department of Fish and Wildlife about dogs on the Spit,” the newsletter states. “Failure to comply can result in severe actions to protect the endangered species who populate the Spit during the spring/summer season.”

Michael Oleksak, president of the board of directors of Save Popponesset Bay, said that the organization has worked with Mass Audubon to keep the beach safe for the threatened species, and that dogs could thwart that effort.

The spit is a privately owned barrier beach separating Popponesset Bay from Nantucket Sound, aside from a boating channel. Save Popponesset Bay, a nonprofit organization that aims to protect the spit from erosion, owns two-thirds of the barrier beach to the southwest, while Mass Audubon owns the eastern one-third.

The one-mile-long barrier beach protects both Popponesset Bay and homes in New Seabury, as well as the many channels that filter into the bay, including the Mashpee River. It is a popular spot for boaters and fishermen.

Piping plovers, a threatened species along the Atlantic Coast, nest and raise their young along the barrier beach through the spring and summer.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, piping plovers were common along the East Coast during much of the 19th century, until commercial hunting of the birds for their feathers to decorate hats nearly wiped them out. Following passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, plovers recovered until the 1940s, when increased development and beach recreation after World War II caused the population to decline. The plover was given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1986.

The Spit also provides nesting habitat for least terns and common terns. The wildlife sanctuary also serves as a pre-migration fall staging area for common terns and sometimes roseate terns as well as many shore bird species.

“If you see dogs on the Spit this summer, please say something to the owners,” the Save Popponesset Bay newsletter stated. “We do not want to lose our rights to visit the Spit. Don’t let the actions of a few ruin it for others.”


Ten dolphins rescued from Wellfleet Harbor on New Year's Day

By Steve Annear


It took a lot of heavy lifting, three transport vehicles, and a few mugs of hot cocoa from a nearby resident to keep warm and motivated. But after many hours of coordinated efforts, dozens of volunteers and staff from the International Fund for Animal Welfare rescued 10 Risso’s dolphins that had become stranded in Wellfleet Harbor on New Year’s Day.

Kerry Branon, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit animal welfare group, said calls from residents that three dolphins were swimming in the harbor first came in around 8 a.m. By the time crews arrived a few hours later, they determined that there was a total of 10 Risso’s in the area. She said the dolphins may have come close to shore while trying to capture prey.

Three of the same dolphins restranded in Truro on Monday, before being rescued and later released at Herring Cove in Provincetown.

On Sunday, rescuers at first spent several hours trying to herd the dolphins toward the open seas using two boats, said Branon. But as the tide went out, the stubborn marine animals became stuck in a part of the harbor called Chipman’s Cove. “So we went with plan B,” Branon said. “And it was all hands on deck.” Rescue teams braved cold and biting winds as they trudged through the thick mud in the harbor to safely move the dolphins, one-by-one. The marine animals were placed on stretchers, and then wheeled using special carts to the three nearby transport trucks — a flatbed that could fit two of the dolphins, and two enclosed vehicles that could each hold four of the marine animals.

Crews were familiar with the territory. In September, the group rescued 16 Atlantic white-sided dolphins that had stranded in a cove near Chequessett Neck Road.

Risso’s, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, are not an endangered species, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. They are sometimes called “gray dolphins” because of their light coloration, and can weigh 660 to 1,100 pounds, according to the federal agency.Branon said it took 15 people to move from the mud flats to the vehicles some of the larger dolphins. “They are pretty big, and really quite heavy,” she said, adding that this was the largest stranding of Risso’s the nonprofit has ever responded to. “It’s a massive undertaking, 10 dolphins.”

Once the Risso’s were placed inside the transport vehicles, they were driven to Corn Hill Beach in nearby Truro. The dolphins were taken there after the group determined the favorable winds and tides would help the animals make it back out to sea. Branon said staff and volunteers from the group, as well as curious residents who happened upon the scene and local police all contributed to the successful rescue mission.

“It was an amazing team effort over many, many hours on a blustery, cold winter day,” she said. “Everyone was doing everything they could to save those dolphins. . . . I even saw a guy on the side of the road in Wellfleet, and he was standing there with a tray of hot cocoa. He had fresh mugs of cocoa that he made for everyone.”




Yellow-nosed Albatross Makes Rare Appearance on Cape Cod

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By   OCT 19, 2016

Already one of the great seabird watching locations in the world, Cape Cod recently produced yet another staggering record. Following last weekend’s storm, a Yellow-nosed Albatross was spotted doing what albatrosses do, casually gliding around in the wicked winds off First Encounter Beach in Eastham.

First Encounter has long been known in the birding world as the place to be following the passage of a Nor’easter, and the legendary location came through again.

During a Nor’easter, seabirds that would normally be well offshore get blown into Cape Cod Bay, where they wait for the right conditions to exit the bay and head back out to sea. During the easterly blow, the north facing beach at Sandy Neck in Barnstable is a good place to see these birds as they struggle to fly into the strong headwinds. But when the storm has passed and the winds shift to the northwest, the west-facing First Encounter offers the best chance to see birds typically difficult or impossible to see from land in this part of the world, and often right off the beach. Everything from puffins to rare Caribbean petrels have passed this beach over the years. And this is the second Yellow-nosed Albatross for First Encounter, the last one recorded in 2003. Local sea birding legend Blair Nikula is responsible for both of these records

Albatrosses hold a special place in the hearts of local birders, because of their rarity in the North Atlantic, which has no regularly occurring albatross species, and also because of their general impressiveness as animals. They are way bigger than other seabirds, sporting the longest wing spans of any living bird. The Wandering Albatross would have given a pterodactyl a fright, with wings spanning almost 12 feet. And albatrosses use these wings to great effect, gliding effortlessly for days at a time as they cover huge areas of ocean. One satellite tracked Wandering Albatross traveled over 3000 miles of ocean in 12 days, and others commute 2000 miles a week between their nests and feeding areas when raising their young.

From wing span to life span, these birds present a veritable cornucopia of natural history extremes. A Laysan Albatross named Wisdom was banded on Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in 1956, when she was at least 5 years old. This almost septuagenarian is still alive and nesting on Midway today, having dodged threats like long-line fisheries and plastic ingestion that currently threaten albatross populations worldwide. Albatrosses feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans on the ocean surface, often at night, when they ingest the plastic trash that has collected in certain areas of the oceans, which they then feed to their chicks. Now iconic photos of the plastic-filled remains of the many dead albatross chicks on Midway have acutely illustrated the problem of plastic in our oceans.

Here in New England, we are just happy to see the very occasional albatross visiting from the southern hemisphere oceans they normally haunt. History tells us you are not likely to find one, and even when they do turn up, they are not seen again. Given the ground they can cover, this bird could be halfway to Europe by now. But even the slimmest chance of seeing one of these most impressive animals should be enough to draw you out to your local sea watching spot, because it may be a decade before we see another.

This article was taken from Cape & Island