Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

August 2016

Vol. 44, No. 4

The Great Seabird Show of 2015

Peter Flood


Gulls and terns, Race Point, May 10, 2015. All photographs by the author unless otherwise indicated.

Provincetown and the surrounding waters have a rich history of attracting exciting marine fauna including many species of seabirds, marine mammals, and sport fish. It can be argued that there is no better land-based vantage point along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States to view and appreciate the spectacular marine diversity found just offshore.

Strong tidal currents, deep offshore rips, and the proximity of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to the north create dynamic oceanic conditions—mixing water masses and upwellings—that form the basis of a complex food web that attracts marine life. The abundance of sand lance (Ammodytes spp.) appears to be a significant driver in attracting seabirds and other marine fauna to the area. Two species of sand lance are likely at play off Provincetown, A. americanus, an inshore species, and A. dubius, an offshore species.

A banner year for seabirds off Provincetown, 2015 brought in thousands of seabirds of a variety of species during significant portions of the year. Seabirds from as far away as the eastern North Atlantic, the Arctic tundra, and islands off Antarctica arrived in and around Provincetown. A few mega-rarities also turned up and added additional sparkle to an already spectacular 2015 season. In many ways 2015 was a continuation and enhancement of a similarly extraordinary seabirding season off Provincetown in 2014. Given some of the recent mega-rarity sightings as well as late state records, the first few months of the 2016 seabirding season seem to be trending toward another spectacular year.


Fig. 1. Map of Provincetown.

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