Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monday September 17

We spent the entire day out on Jeffreys Ledge and for the most part were in search of something a bit different than whales... we were bird watching.  Our all-day pelagic birding adventure meant we got the chance to get to areas of Jeffreys Ledge we typically don't get the opportunity to travel to on our half-day trips so we were excited to see what may be spending time on the ledge in terms of birds, and obviously whales!

Our passengers were at the ready with binoculars (and plenty of chum!) in hand as the horizon was constantly being searched in all directions for feathery flying creatures.  While most folks were keeping an eye to the sky we of course were focused on the water's edge.  Maybe a few whales would be around.  Conditions could not have been better for searching for all kinds of life throughout our travels as we headed offshore. 

Birds were sporadic and at times so were the whales but when there were whales around, they certainly were not in short supply!  Our grand totals (keep in mind we were out on the water for 9 hrs so these numbers are not normal for a typical whale watch) included: 1 Ocean sunfish, 1 Minke whale, two pods of Atlantic white-sided dolphins consisting of around 200 individuals in total, 9 Fin whales, 1 Right whale, 10 Humpback whales, 1 Lion's Mane Jellyfish, and 1 Sperm whale!  WOW!!!!

Some of our whales were definitely feeding as we saw a pair of Fin whales surfacing with lots of salt water being filtered out through their baleen plates as well as a trio of Humpback whales surfacing with lower jaws completely bellowed out also filtering out water and trapping plenty of food inside!  A good handful of our Humpback whales certainly looked small, believing many of our sightings were juveniles, as we are still in the process of positively identifying all of our whales from the day.  Known Humpbacks of the day do include: Cinder, Talus, and Flyball feeding together, Benthic and calf, and Vault and Backstroke on the move together.  We also realized that Benthic has not been sighted at all this season (by any research organization in the Gulf of Maine) AND was with a calf.
Benthic's almost all black tail

A new mom to add to the Humpback mothers for the year and a very exciting find to see the two of them in our area on Jeffreys Ledge!  

Cinder, Talus and Flyball swimming in tandem with each other (above and below)
We also had a trio of Fin whales moving through the water and spent time over the course of the day seeing spouts out in the distance but had to remind ourselves we were on a bird trip, not a full-blown whale watching adventure :) 
One of the many Fin whales seen

A day of dolphins is always a great day!
Young dolphin getting a breath of air

Not only did we see so many of our "typical" whale species of the day we were also treated to some VERY UNEXPECTED surprises.  Our distant look at a Right whale was a fun addition to the species of the day but nothing beat out the ultimate species of the day... a Sperm whale!!!

The ocean was so calm due to almost the complete lack of wind and visibility was fabulous so seeing spouts to a trained-eye was ideal.  At one point as we were scouting out birds one of our eagle-eyed crew members started to become very intrigued with a spout out in the distance.  A few times the exhalation from this creature was very much angled from the whale.   No way... that couldn't be possible.  Feasible yes, but still highly unlikely.  The longer we all started to hone in on this whale we all started to realize what was near by.  We in fact had a Sperm whale in the area!  A quick check with our ornithologist to head towards a whale not a bird, and we were off to investigate this particular animal.  Indeed it really was what we thought we had.  It was some of the best looks ever at a Sperm whale mainly because we very, very, very rarely have one of the deepest diving whales in all the world out on Jeffreys Ledge! 
Sperm whale spout so distinctive from any other whale

Even our birders were ecstatic to get such awesome looks at such a bizarre, and unique, species.  It was absolutely awesome.
The "wrinkly" body of a Sperm whale

Though not only were we seeing whales and birds we also had a bit of extra excitement for all on board.  We got the chance to check out a Lion's Mane Jellyfish throughout our travels!  The ocean certainly holds lots of interesting looking creatures and we were all astounded by what we got the chance to see and spend time with. 
Lion's Mane Jellyfish providing a safe haven for some small schooling fish that certainly appeared to be unaffected by the jelly's stinging tentacles
Can you see some of the Lion's Mane's tentacles in the water? It's the string-like objects you see on the left side of this photo!

What an incredible day of sighting so many ocean-dwelling creatures.  We had wonderful weather, great passengers, hardcore chum-masters (for the birds, not for attracting whales) and fantastic sightings that truly made for an absolutely astonishing day surrounded by wildlife.

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