Black Dots Make Me Smile

Good morning everyone. Happy Ground Hogs Day to all. If today’s forecast comes true folklore tells us we will see an early spring here in our neighborhood. What does the groundhog say about your weather forecast? We start a new month, albeit a short one but a month in which we gain an emotionally crucial 1 hour and 13 minutes of light. By months end the sunrise will be at 0620, a full 37 minutes ahead of this morning. Jen and I were shocked how light it was so early yesterday even though it was overcast. So while the weather is one thing we spend much time talking about the light is what really makes the psychic difference here.
One of the things you will find me talking about in blogs, especially in summer, is seals. We have more lousy, unfocused pictures of little black dots on the ledges and every one of them makes me smile. Each picture reminds us how delighted we are to see seals. Harbor seals (phoca vitulina) are the most common seal here in Maine and their numbers have grown from about 5,800 in the early 70s to a number estimated to be well over 100,000 based on a 2001 census. Their recovery since the Marine Mammal Protection Act is fantastic. Maybe a little too good if you ask some local fisherman. So where do all these seals go in the winter? The easy answer is south. Yes, they migrate. We do see a very few here in the winter but a vast majority of seals appear to head for the waters south of here and evidently the south shore of Cape Cod. The largest congregations appear around Monomoy Island near the “elbow” at Chatham. Some seals head as far south as the Carolinas! During one study seals from Penobscot Bay were tagged and tracked directly to the area around the Monomoy Island National Wildlife Refuge. The waters south of Cape Cod do not appear to my untrained eye to be any warmer than they are here in Maine at this time of year but certainly the duration of cold south of the Cape is shorter than here in Maine. The ocean temperature along the coast has hovered around 38 degrees just outside the bays and the air temperature has been well below the average Cape Cod temperature. Perhaps it is the undisturbed wildlife refuge that draws them? Could they be following their food source? Our naturalist/researcher friends Erika and Ethan Rhile who sail on our late June Naturalist/Photography Cruise rescue stranded seals in southern Maine so we know that some seals stay around or migrate here from Canada. The research I have come across raises as many questions as it does answers. What I do know is that I look forward to seeing them return in great numbers each spring with pups in tow. And once again we’ll be taking tons of pictures of little black dots on the ledges, reminders to be thankful to experience such a wonderful and wild place.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

P.S. We do get lucky to get really close to seals sometimes as you can see from this photo that Jen took in Stonington with a 300mm zoom lens. The little hole just behind the eye is actually the seals’s ear. Click on the photo to see an enlarged version. How cool is that!


  1. I’m not aware that there are any wild Alabama groundhogs. You see I don’t trust the prognostications of tame groundhogs or even groundhogs in a zoo. What do they know about real life? But if there is a wild groundhog out there he/she couldn’t see his/her shadow today. It is raining across much of the state and about 50 degrees so maybe we will have an early spring. In my backyard the first daffodils of the spring are starting to bloom. The bulbs have been sending up their shoots since early January.

  2. The groundhogs are a rather unreliable bunch. They can’t seem to agree on anything! Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday and predicted another 6 weeks of winter. However, in New York, Charles G Hogg, did not see his shadow. He also ungraciously bit Mayor Bloomberg. Ed, I would say that his behavior is more like that of a wild animal than a tame one. Then again, maybe it was just your average New York attitude. LOL. I would love to see daffodils and tulips somewhere other than in a florist shop. Right now, all we see is a lot of dirty snow. Let’s hear it for spring, groundhogs, seals, and the eternal cycle of nature. Thanks for the great pictures. Hugs to all.

  3. I was looking at the large version of the seal photograph. One of the amazing things about that amazing photo Jen took is the reflection in the wavelet of the side of the seal’s head. That reflection is as clear and sharp as the portion of the photo that is the side of the seal’s head. To have captured that wavelet at its peak just as it was standing still capturing the sunlight at the angle to create that perfect reflection. I knew Jen was good but that good!?

    PS Wednesday 2/4 temperatures in the teens in parts of Alabama. I hope my daffodils survive.

  4. Good morning Ed, Lois, and Michelle,

    Thanks for your comments. Ed….. Jen is that good!! We were driving down our road yesterday and had a bald eagle cross the road in front of us and land in a tree just a few yards away. After what had been a stressful mroning we ran home to get the camera and came to take a few shots with our big lens. The restorative effects of being so close to such a maginficent creature was remarkable. Jen just has a way of being in the right place at the right time. Jen once caught a picture of the breath of a blue jay on an incredibly cold morning here. That was back in the days of film and goodness knows where it is but I will never forget it. By the way, Jen wants you to know that the crocuses are almost in bloom here. They sit in a little pot by the door.

    You folks down south stay warm. Bruce and I were working on the sawmill in just long sleeved shirts on Monday. It was close to 35 degrees. A heat wave by Maine standards. Thankfully things have cooled off and snow is falling this morning. As Michelle points out groundhogs in different places all have different weather predictions. Turns out I did finally see my shadow on Monday for about 3 seconds of an otherwise overcast day. Now what do I do? Should I order more firewood?

    Be well. Do good.


  5. Barry, considering yesterday’s snowfall and today’s single-digit temperatures, I would advise you to get more firewood. Here in New England winter is far from over!
    Whatever you do, please don’t follow Long Island Charles’s example and bite anyone! I don’t want to have to read about you in the papers! LOL

    Jenn, you are such a multi-talented lady! Your pictures are a real treat.

    Hugs to all. Stay warm.

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