Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question came from Gail in Florida: "For the past three days there have been hundreds of cownose rays along the beach. Not knowing what they were, we are surprised to find they are from the Chesapeake Bay when we researched them. Thought you would be interested to know they were down here in the gulf...even with the oil! Why would they be here?"
It's important to remember is that many of the species we associate with the Chesapeake Bay are actually just seasonal visitors. So, while an Internet search for a cownose ray may have brought Gail to, for example, our Bay Field Guide entry on the cownose ray, that does not mean they are only present in the Chesapeake Bay.
In fact, in the case of the cownose ray, they are mainly summer visitors to the Chesapeake Bay area, reaching about as far north as Kent Island, Md. from the months of May through October. They are the most common ray found in the Bay, but are not necessarily found more often in the Bay than in other places.
Cownose rays are actually found throughout the Atlantic: in the eastern Atlantic near Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea as well as in the western Atlantic from New England to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. So Gail spotting hundreds of cownose rays in the Gulf is not that unusual. While they are not "from" the Chesapeake, those that she saw may have been in the process of migrating from the Gulf north to the Bay for the summer months.
Now to turn the tables: Have you ever seen a cownose ray in the Chesapeake Bay?
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!