Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saturday, October 8

Today officially marks the end of our 2016 whale watching season.  We are saddened to have to say goodbye to all the whales that are still in the area, but we wish them well on their impending migrations and look forward to seeing them return in the spring.

Today we found a pair of humpback whales named Fern and Pitcher who were taking 10+ minute long dives. Although 10 minutes isn't long for a humpback whale to hold its breath, it seemed like forever as we eagerly anticipated them returning to the surface. 

We decided to continue on as we had a report of more whales nearby. We got to the specified location and waited and waited. Eventually we saw a spout from another humpback whale. This whale was apparently sleepy as it would spout a few times and then just sink (no arch or obvious dive behavior) and remain subsurface for 5-10 minutes.  As we waited for this whale, we kept seeing a more active humpback whale a little further away. We soon found our friend named Jabiru, who was acting more like a typical humpback whale, surfacing every 5-10 minutes and lifting her flukes out of the water when going down. 

We also saw a small pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins in the area with Jabiru, as well as a couple of harbor seals throughout the trip! Not a bad way to wrap up another wonderful season!   We wish everyone one a happy and safe winter and look forward to seeing you, and the whales, again in the spring!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday, October 7

Today was a day we wish could be experienced every day. Most of the day we had no wind to speak of and the swell we were seeing/feeling continued to diminish as the trip went on making for picture perfect conditions for wildlife spotting. Add in some phenomenal looks at so much marine life and it was a stellar kind of day. Multiple pods of harbor porpoise, a few harbor seals, 1 Ocean sunfish, 1 Blue shark, 1 Minke whale, 9 Humpback whales and a pod of 6-8 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were the sightings of the day. Among all that activity there was (no joke) trillions of comb jellies 'littering' the ocean.
A slightly tricky photo to understand but basically any/all egg-shaped items seen are comb jellies found all around us all day long!
These creatures are technically not true jelly fish as they have no stinging cells and fall into the category known as ctenophores. The first whale we stopped on was initially being a bit elusive so we checked out an Ocean sunfish as we waited.
Ocean sunfish
Eventually we decided to move on from the area and little did we know our whale had similar plans. A pair of whales we had been watching in the distance turned into three when our original whale joined the mix! All three of these whales were resting the majority of the time we watched them but as they did we got some incredible looks when they occasionally checked us out.
Fern the Humpback whale

Platform the Humpback whale who grouped up with the pair of Humpback whales we had seen in the distance
Two of the three whales in our trio
Turns out the majority of the Humpback whales seen today were all in pairs and most of them were napping!
Owl and Patches (surprise, surprise) resting at the surface
A-plus and Jabiru
One whale however, was VERY much awake. We spent time with a mother/calf pair. The calf rolled, flipper slapped, lob-tailed and even breached almost the entire time we watched this pair. Some truly specials moments.
Bright white flipper sky high
This calf is currently 'belly-up' lob-tailing at the surface
The ocean was so calm you could +see the reflection of the flipper on the ocean surface
Before heading for home we even checked out a small group of dolphins moving through the area. Truly an incredible day.
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday, October 5

After being tied to the dock for 10 days, we finally got to head out in search of whales once more! We had no idea what or who we might see, as it had been a while since our last trip and the seas were pretty treacherous during that time. Fortunately, we were happily surprised by our findings today! We ended up wtih 5 humpback whales (Jabiru, Patches, Daffodil, Pitcher and one unidentified whale) along with a huge fin whale and a minke whale. Not bad for an adventure in swelly seas!  Patches and Jabiru were together at first and then seemed to split up. The 3rd humpback whale we couldn't get near- that whale has something other than being watched by us on its mind. Then we found Daffodil and Pitcher in the distance. One (or both) of them were spotted jumping out of the water as we approached. Once we arrived, the pair were slapping their flippers and creating quite the show.  A minke whale was scooting through the area as well! Great day had by all!

Fin whale

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday, September 25

Today I was reminded yet again as to why I love my job. Not just being a naturalist on a whale watch boat, but also being the research coordinator for a small non-profit that studies whales.  Today, during my wrap up in the harbor, I told our guests on board a snippet of information that we learned today regarding the social lives of whales.  For the rest you, you’ll have to wait to learn about our finding after we do a bit more data-sleuthing this winter.  But it’s really cool!!! 

Today we started off by looking at an ocean sunfish just a few miles from Rye Harbor.  This started off as a typical sighting with the sunfish just lazing at the surface as we gazed at its uniqueness. Then the big fish dove quickly, out of sight. Captain Pete told me to get ready to see it breach. I said, “Uh, OK…”.  Then, just as if our captain had this fish trained, it breached completely out of the water, not just once, but 3 times!! I have seen sunfish jump out of the water before, but never so predicted!!  Captain Pete had noticed this behavior several times before in his many years on the ocean and totally called it!  The sunfish is just hanging out, then it dives quickly out of sight, and then it breaches! So cool!!! Yet another little bit of knowledge I learned today!
Ocean Sunfish
 From there, we headed out to where the whales have been seen recently and soon came upon a pair of humpback whales and a small pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins. The whales were identified as Owl and Jabiru (named for a species of stork), who were also seen on yesterday’s trip. This pair was being pretty mellow, barely even lifting their flukes when they dove. The dolphins seemed to be tracking them underwater and staying right with them. It's also really cool that these 2 whales are both named after avian species!

Humpback whale, Owl, with a dolphin close by

Owl diving, Jabiru in the foreground
Then we spotted some more blows in the distance. We found another pair of humpback whales who we have yet to identify. A fifth blow was spotted nearby but we never got close looks at that mystery whale.  Fall whale watching continues to bring all sorts of surprises!!  I can’t wait to see what’s out there on Wednesday, our next trip!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday, September 24

Fall whale watching continues to be awesome! Today, after trying to look at some less-than-cooperative whales, we found a very obliging ocean sunfish, and then came upon a pile of whales, both toothed and baleen!    
Ocean sunfish
 A pod of around 75 Atlantic white sided dolphins were hanging out with a trio of humpbacks! 
Humpback trio

Atlantic white sided dolphins

Atlantic white sided dolphins
It is so amazing to have so much action all in one spot! We sometimes see dolphins near fin whales but it’s pretty rare to have them with humpbacks!  Our trio included 3 adult females (Owl, Jabiru and Fan). Owl, as she is known to do, surfaced close to the boat several times, bringing her 2 friends with her.  At one point we were downwind of the group and were privileged to be showered by humpback whale breath!   



As the dolphins swam around the boat (lots of calves in this group!!), we waited for the humpback to return. Before we knew it, a 4th humpback joined the group! This was a whale named “A+” for the distinct marking on the right side of its tail. I’m not sure if A+ is male or female. 
See the "A+" on the lower right side?
 Then a 5th humpback appeared on the outskirts of the group. This whale hasn’t been identified yet.   We decided to check out some of the other blows we saw nearby before heading for home. These blows were at least 3 different fin whales, the 2nd largest species of whale! 
Fin whale with Isles of Shoals and Portsmouth in the background
Awesome day! 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday, September 23

Today we had 5 Humpback whales and a small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Some of the whales we spent time with have been residing in the region recently. Additionally, we also had a few new visitors to the area. Our trip began as we attempted to check out 2 Fin whales. Unfortunately, those whales did not resurface for a LONG time, so unless you happened to see them initially, it was a tough sighting to attempt to work. Instead we decided to move on to other spouts we were seeing in the distance. We eased our way to a pair of Humpback whales that were in association with a small pod of 8-10 Atlantic white-sided dolphins.
Atlantic white-sided dolphins
Rarely do we get a chance to see inter-species interactions so it was a great surprise.
Dolphins alongside a Humpback whale
To add to the already enjoyable sighting a third Humpback whale came into the mix causing us to now have a trio of Humpback whales along with the dolphins. The icing on the cake was when we were able to determine exactly who the Humpback whales were. We had some new visitors to the area; Churn and Fan!
We are still working on the identification of the third whale but Churn and Fan are familiar whales however, not always seen in our area. In fact, it has been a few years since the last time we saw Fan in the Jeffreys Ledge region. What a fantastic surprise!
With some great looks at all of this activity we maneuvered out of the area and came across another pair of Humpback whales. Jabiru and A-plus were side by side one another. They were resting during most of the time we spent time in the area. Nothing like finishing off the day with some calm, relaxed marine mammals in their natural habitat today!
A-plus and Jabiru

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday, September 22

Happy Autumn all! Our last hours of Summer and first few hours of Autumn were quite lovely this morning especially since we were watching whales in such pristine sea conditions today. We had a school trip today and enjoyed showing young minds a variety of marine mammals during our travels! The day started with a large pod of 75-100 Atlantic white-sided dolphins.
Atlantic white-sided dolphins
These whales were busy feeding and traveling and didn't mind our presence as we watched them swim through the water.
Slightly too zoomed in capturing these dolphins swimming alongside us!
Doesn't get much better than this with these Atlantic white-sided dolphins
We then checked out a pair of Humpback whales which turned out to be Geometry and Daffodil.
First pair of Humpback whales for the day
From there we were seeing more spouts in the distance so off we went to investigate. Turns out there were two Fin whales moving through the area and another pair of Humpback whales.
Fin whale swimming past us
The Humpback whales, Owl and Jabiru, napped the whole time we were in the area! Even marine mammals need their rest and what beautiful conditions to do it in!
Humpback whales Owl and Jabiru
Before heading for home we passed by a few harbor seals, a Minke whale in the distance and re-found Geometry and Daffodil now napping as well. What a spectacular way to ring in the change of seasons!
Geometry and Daffodil again