Gannets on the Horizon

After several days of a persistent east wind, the Gulf of Mexico was smooth as glass this morning.  Unfortunately, the resident birds were unimpressed and, during our two mile walk along the beach, we encountered only small numbers of shorebirds, least terns, brown pelicans and double-crested cormorants.

However, whenever I stopped to scan the calm sea, I observed flocks of northern gannets on the horizon, diving for their breakfast; at one point, a few moved closer to shore and could be observed without binoculars.  After breeding on rocky cliffs along the northern Atlantic Ocean (see Gannets of Bird Rock and Bonaventure Island National Park), these large sea birds disperse across the Atlantic for the winter months, where juveniles remain year-round until old enough to breed.  In North America, they may be observed off the East Coast, from the Canadian Maritimes to the Gulf of Mexico.

Today's events highlight the importance of knowing what to look for, having the patience to stop and scan the environment and having the tools (binoculars or spotting scopes) to observe distant wildlife. What may have been an unproductive birding walk proved to be far more interesting.