Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seal on a Floe

The road from my house to town parallels the route of a tidal river. This river hosts lots of interesting wildlife, including various sea ducks, geese, anadramous and saltwater fishes and sometimes, seals.

So it wasn’t a great surprise to see a large animal on an ice floe. But making a sure identification was somewhat difficult. From a distance, the critter was shaped like a porcupine, hunched up in the middle. Of course it would have had to be the world’s largest porcupine. No, it was definitely a seal.

A powerful monocular usually sits in the catchall sleeve on the door of my car. But I had taken everything out recently in order to give the car a thorough cleaning and had forgotten to replace the scope. So I had to rely upon the naked eye.

Harbor seals have spots, though, and lack the high back that this animal displayed. This seal was of a solid, slate-gray color except that the sides appeared somewhat lighter. And it had an unusually large, bulky head. All this tells me that I was looking at a hooded seal.

With the mystery solved, I sat on some guardrails and watched the seal as it slowly slid downstream. The tide was running out and the seal was headed for the harbor. A warm, spring sun shone down on the river and the seal appeared to be enjoying the warm spell. It occasionally shifted its weight and moved its head around, as if taking in the scenery.

I imagined that the seal was enjoying itself immensely, doing what seals do on a fine, spring day. I wished that I could have stayed to watch the seal and ice floe disappear from sight, but business called. Nevertheless, I was grateful for such cheery, inspirational entertainment.

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