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Friday, March 25, 2011

Stranded Harbor Porpoise

This afternoon I was walking at American Camp with a friend when we came across a bald eagle feeding on a harbor porpoise carcass. This is something I've never seen before! After our walk I went back with my camera in hand. There were four eagles nearby, but unfortunately none of them were feeding at the time. I took advantage of the feeding break to take a closer look at the adult porpoise.

I've written before about my mixed fascination at/aversion to having the chance to look at dead animals, in relation to the beached bird surveys I do. While it's not something I particularly enjoy, it is an opportunity to look at a wild animal closer than is possible when they are alive. This porpoise was the same type of experience for me. While the open innards of the porpoise were pretty gross, it was still amazing to see this animal up close. I was particularly fascinated with the tail, which is just a beautiful shape:


Here's a close-up of the face. In addition to being amazed at the tiny teeth in the mouth, I thought the striations in the gray coloration, particularly around the mouth, were pretty remarkable. (Click on the image to get a better look.)


Other than the eagles, the birdy highlight of the visit was the two pairs of black oystercatchers on the nearby rocks. There were some sea birds well offshore, including a flock of red-breasted mergansers and ten surf scoters, but most of them were too far away and too backlit to be identified.


6 comments:

Anne McCormack said...

Fascinating photos. It makes me wonder about how much scavengers may have declined because we tidy up our beaches, parks, and developed areas.

eileeninmd said...

Sad to see and hear about the Porpoise. But ,it must have been a wild sight to see the eagles feeding off the carcass. I would love to see the Black Oystercatchers someday.

Kinipella said...

Could you tell at all how old the porpoise was? I hope he died of natural causes :( Poor guy.

Very interesting just the same. Those tiny teeth are wild!

Monika said...

Anne - That's a good question. Around here, there's quite a bit of shoreline that's remote enough that carcasses probably don't get cleaned up, which I'm sure the eagles appreciate.

Eileen - It was very cool!

Kinipella - It was an adult porpoise, and it didn't have any external sign of a boat strike or anything like that. That's about all I know for sure! Of course porpoises die sometimes due to illness or old age, but we just don't often see them wash up on beaches.

Warren Baker said...

Hmmmmmm......Monika have you not been taking your pills :-)

Only joking!

Monika said...

Warren - I must have forgotten something because I'm not sure what you're talking about!