Sunday, August 11, 2019

August 6-9, 2019

Sorry for the delay in posting this week! It has been pretty hectic with two of our interns leaving this week to go back to school as well as getting all of the interns ready for the big research symposium at which they all presented their research projects! I'm very proud of this group of interns! Anyway, here are the updates from this past weeks' whale watches.

Tuesday morning, we found the humpback whale featured on our brochure cover, Patches! He was taking dives of varying times 3-8 minutes. 

During one dive, we noticed a little fin waving back and forth. This was an ocean sunfish nearby! We scooted over to check it out and then went back to see Patches again before moving on. We found two minke whales before heading back to the dock.

Tuesday afternoon, we headed out past the Isles of Shoals, prepared for a long(ish) trip to the southern end of Jeffreys Ledge, off Cape Ann, MA. As we headed past the Isles of Shoals, we saw an occasional harbor porpoise in the distance. Then, we saw some splashing ahead – Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  We got great looks at these toothed whales. There were about 40 dolphins, with several calves swimming next to their moms. We were even lucky enough to see them leap in the air a few times!

We continued on our way and started seeing some blows. Just off Cape Ann, we came upon Quote – a humpback whale we’re very familiar with, as we see her almost every year. We got a few looks at her distinctive tail markings before moving a bit further offshore. We saw a whale who we think was Dross, a whale first seen in 1997, and then came upon Pinball and her calf, who were traveling with another (unknown humpback).  Pinball breached right near the boat!  Soon after, we had another breach – we think this was a different humpback, but aren’t sure who it was.  We spent some time with the calf, who was swimming just off the bow and even flipper-slapped and rolled over a few times!  Our last looks were at a 6th humpback whale, Satula – we got great looks at his enormous fluke a couple times before we headed back to the harbor.

Wednesday morning we found Ravine and her calf! We love baby humpback whales, especially when they are playful and curious! While Ravine was on a dive, the calf surfaced right next to us and then tail-breached so close to us that some of our guests on board were splashed! Never thought we’d have to warn people about being in the “splash zone”.  The calf continued to tail-lob and roll at the surface. It seemed to be having a pretty good time while mom was away! 

 Eventually Ravine returned and the pair began to nurse. We took that opportunity to sneak away and look for another whale that was reported closer to shore. We eventually found it- it was another humpback whale named Dross. She was traveling and not lifting her tail much. Such different behaviors from what we had seen with the calf! (Photos to come soon!)

Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, we stayed at the dock and let Mother Nature do her thing and blow a bunch of wind around, stirring up the ocean and making for an uncomfortable whale watching adventure.

Thursday afternoon
It took a while to get where we needed to go, but we ended up with a spectacular trip.  Our first sighting was the humpback Zorro, who wasn’t spending much time at the surface. There would be a couple quick breaths, then a 5-6 minute dive. Eventually, we got a look closer to the boat but decided to move on because he wasn’t spending much time at the surface. We spotted a blow and went over to it, but never got a look at this baleen whale. But soon, we saw some splashing, and this turned out to be a large, widespread pod of about 125 Atlantic white-sided dolphins. They were very active – fluke-slapping, wiggling around, and even leaping from time to time! 

We then saw some more blows and it turned out to be multiple humpback whales. These whales turned out to be several familiar whales – Pinball and her calf, Satula, and Hornbill!  Pinball and her calf weren’t always together, and all the whales were moving around quite a bit.  We ended up spending most of our time with Pinball’s calf, as it lolled at the surface, took a short catnap, and even did a couple “headstands,” where it surfaced tail first!  After spending lots of quality time with the whales, we headed back to the harbor.

Friday morning, we passed a harbor seal while heading out to Jeffreys Ledge. There we found Ravine and her calf again. This time they were pretty mellow and just swimming slowly at the surface. Ravine rolled on her side briefly, showing us her big flipper. 

On our way home, we got a report of another humpback whale about 6 miles from the harbor. We found Zorro who was traveling to the south.

Friday afternoon, we headed out passing by a few pods of harbor porpoises and an ocean sunfish. We saw splashing and turned that way. A big pod of about 200 Atlantic white sided dolphins were charging around while northern gannets and gulls were swooping down, all trying to catch some little fish! It was a great show and the dolphins certainly didn’t disappoint.

Our first humpback whale was our adoptable whale, Satula! 

He had most certainly been doing some feeding as evidenced by the bubble clouds he was blowing to corral his prey, and also by the lovely “brown cloud” left behind at the surface. We call that “nutrient recycling”!  A minke or 2 were also in the area circling around Satula. We then saw Quote and Patches together. 

One of them would blow a  bubble cloud and then both came charging up through! It was quite the scene! They then splint up but later got back together. Dross was also around and feeding although she was blowing a bubble net- a ring of bubbles also used to concentrate the bait fish.

 On our way home, one of our sharp-eyed guests spotted a basking shark! We thought it couldn’t be a basking shark because the water is 10 degrees warmer then they usually prefer. But it was most certainly a big basking shark! It was very mellow and stayed up at the surface as we circled around it, giving everyone a great view of this 2nd largest shark species!  We then passed by a grey seal and a harbor seal before heading to the dock.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

August 3-4, 2019

To see a whale, in its natural environment, is a moment like no other. We have been so fortunate to share so many of these experiences with our passengers. On Saturday morning we saw seven humpback whales and a few minke whales during our travels. Most of our time was spent checking out humpback whales Nike, Hornbill, Pinball and her 2019 calf, Satula, Quote and Spoon. Quite the plethora of familiar whales and Blue Ocean Society adoptable whales!
Humpback whale
On the afternoon trip we saw four minke whales, including Finke (on our way home!), four fin whales and two humpback whales. The fin whales and humpback whales (Clamp and Nike) were occasionally lunge feeding through the water and the birds were taking full advantage of the fish food!
Whale tail and birds!
Feeding humpback whale
Aftermath of a lunge feeding fin whale!
Fin whale
Sunday morning was full of fin whales. Many of these whales were spending a long time under the water but we got some great looks at seven of the second largest mammals in the world. One of our whales was even napping.
Fin whale (above and below)
On the afternoon trip we saw three fin whales, a couple of minke whales and seven humpback whales: Dross, Ravine and her 2019 calf, Hornbill, Satula and Pinball and her 2019 calf.
Remnant of a rain-blow

August 1-2, 2019

Thursday morning we ventured out to find a fin whale and minke whale in the same area. This fin whale had obvious entanglement scars.  

Further out, we found 6 or so more fin whales including a pair, and a single known as #0402. Next we found a humpback whale, Spoon, napping at the surface who was then joined by Quote, another adult female.  

A bit away we found humpback whales Pinball and her newest calf! 

Our trek home came upon a small group of Atlantic white sided dolphins!

Thursday afternoon, the fin whales apparently left the neighborhood. We saw one very briefly from a distance. Then we saw a very elusive humpback whale. Finally, we found a mellow humpback whale, Zorro, who was doing a bit of searching for food and then capturing food in a dramatic manner at the surface!   

A porpoise surprised us by a quick close look, and we passed by another humpback on our way home.

Friday morning, we found the humpback whale named Clamp.  

Numerous fin whales were in the area as well including one which was lunge-feeding at the surface! 

We stayed a little longer to hopefully catch a close look at the dramatic feeding tactic but this whale was very stealthy in it’s operations J  

We passed by 2 minke whales on our way home.

Friday afternoon’s trip started out pretty dramatically! We came upon an ocean sunfish, which are usually quite mellow. This one started out mellow and then suddenly kicked it into high gear and jumped out of the water right next to us! Amazing! They are known to do this occasionally but having it now happen twice in a week is pretty spectacular! This fish might have been the star of the day.

Venturing further, we found several fin whales, some of which were surface-feeding from a distance. 

A busy humpback named Nike was around but hard to keep track of.

 More fin whales on our way to the southwest area of Jeffreys Ledge. Then we found Zorro and Clamp. Clamp was blowing bubble clouds to catch her food.

We passed a minke and school of tuna on our way home.

The birds are decent including all of the common shearwater species, Wilson’s storm petrels, northern gannets and common terns.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

July 29-31, 2019

Recent trips have provided plenty of wildlife. On both the morning and afternoon trips on Monday we checked out multiple fin whales and humpback whales. The fin whales were spending long periods of time under the water and sleekly surfacing in all different directions.
Fin whale
There were seven fin whales, four humpback whales (Clamp, Spoon, Patches and Nike) and, after almost an entire month, a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins.
Distant look at Spoon flipper slapping
Clamp and Patches resting at the surface
Atlantic white-sided dolphin
Birds were scouring the skies from above working a few patches of areas near the whales.
Terns and shearwaters busy trying to catch fish!
The afternoon managed to compile of similar sights we saw during the morning trip but timing couldn't have been better. After checking out Zorro the humpback whale we found ourselves literally surrounded by whales. The whales move to where the fish are and apparently we were in the right spot! Fin whales were surfacing all around, some close, some out in the distance.
Fin whale surfacing
Humpback whales were forming associations with each other, lunging through the water occasionally, while the birds were at the ready to snatch up any scraps left behind.
Humpback whale

Whale spout among lots of birds
At least 10 fin whales were around (including a group of four!) Patches, Nike and Clamp the humpback whales were swimming in circles and a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins went through the middle of all the activity. It was whale-pandemonium!
Can you find the dolphin creeping into the picture of a humpback whale diving?
Clamp breached multiple times!
Tuesday morning was full of fin whales. We saw eight in total! There were also lots of shearwaters with a grand slam of species! We even wrapped up the trip with a small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins.
Fin whale
Fin whale
On the afternoon trip we headed to similar areas and found slightly different whales. First we found an ocean sunfish on our way offshore.
Ocean sunfish
Zorro the humpback whale was spotted and then we spent time with Clamp and Nike the humpback whales before checking out a pair of fin whales.
Humpback whale
Lunge feeding whale
A third fin whale was in the area while the pair was busy circling around getting some great looks at these large, sometimes feeding, whales!
Fin whale
Lunge feeding fin whales
Even when you think sightings couldn't provide more of their own excitement, they do! On Wednesday morning the trip started with an ocean sunfish. It breached! Everything likes to "fly" 😊
An ocean sunfish jumping out of the water!
We then saw two different humpback whales and four fin whales. Clamp and Nike were being active at the surface, and even in the distance, these behaviors were impressive to see.
Flipper slapping humpback whale
Humpback whale diving
Filtering humpback whale
We spent most of our time while watching fin whales with a pair, lunging through the water, feeding on occasion.
Fin whale
Fin whale upside down lunging through the water!
During the afternoon we saw four fin whales and again checked out a pair. This pair would lunge through the water every few surfacings as we got some incredible looks as they circled all around us!
Fin whale pair (above and below)

Fin whale swimming next to the boat!