After work, Kathy and I rode our bikes over to the island to look for shells. When I went out with the plover crew last Wednesday, I couldn’t help but pick up shells along the way (and probably appeared useless or had ADD: oh, look! A nearly intact whelk shell! Over there - Isn’t that a plover?) and found some really large clam shells I wanted to paint.
My sexy beach cruiser bike: my mode of transportation around the island.
So many of them have been bleached out by the sun and are completely white – yet still have beautiful ridges running along the length of their outer sides. I thought that I could paint sunset scenes or other images on these stark white shells to give them some color. When I told Kathy this, she thought it was a grand idea and proposed we comb the shore this evening.
Kathy, clad in rather stylish chest waders and green life jacket, with sampling cup in hand, collecting beach water for our Monday beachwater survey.
I finally decided to be a tourist today (while simultaneously taking water samples) and brought my camera with me on our beachwater survey. Again, Kathy and I were lucky enough to spot the Assateague herd frolicking in the surf – babies in tow.
Two lovahs taking a nice stroll (while nuzzling) along the beach.
Check out the little foal and his mommy! (and the two lovers)
We were also graced by a wonderful sunrise this morning (although these pictures were taken about an hour after sunrise). One of these days, I will sacrifice my beauty sleep to leave the house around 4:45 in the morning to provide you all with some (hopefully stunning) sunrise photographs.
While riding along the beach, Kathy and I noticed a fin slice the surface of the water – a surface so smooth and unbroken it mirrored the sun in perfect symmetry. The dorsal fin was rather small, but not large enough to be mistaken for a shark or dolphin. As the fin rose from the surface, it then gently slid back down into the water, tailed by a large, half-moon gray back that suddenly spouted a breath of water and air. We both said to each other, “that is definitely not a dolphin.” We gazed out in the open ocean for another ten minutes, silently watching this sylph creature glide through the water in quiet amazement.
When we got back to the park headquarters, we asked one of the mammal biologists what whales frequent this area, and discovered that what we probably saw was a pilot whale.
This isn't my picture, but gives you an idea of what a pilot whale looks like.
Since the park does not have much of a marine mammal program or active research and management, Assateague mainly deals with stranded and beached marine creatures – so most of the marine animals they see are sadly, already dead. I felt pretty lucky that we saw a true living pilot whale – doing what whales do best. I am also hopeful that I will have the opportunity to help if an animal needs “rescuing” or has been beached – I’ve been told sea turtles, seals, whales, and dolphins have been known to show up from time to time.
Well, that’s it for now. Hopefully by the next entry I will have some pictures of me in my stellar (i.e., sexy) uniform.