Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday September 3

Happy Labor Day everyone!  Even though for many this marks the "unofficial" end of summer for us it marks the start of our fall season!  Whales over the years have continued to keep us on our toes all the way to the end of our season (which ends mid-October!) and today was no exception.  Our trip today involved a little bit of patience which surely paid off as the trip progressed.  We once again had a few long-diving whales including a Fin whale we attempted to get looks at before heading to an area where we got reports from our friends on the Prince of Whales of a few Humpback whales and even another Fin whale around.  We headed in that direction and started with a tail breach from one of the Humpback whales.  Even with this behavior occurring out in the distance it was still a large splash as one of these whales launched the back part of its body into the air and then came crashing back down on the surface.  That was actually the most activity we ended up seeing from any of the whales in the area as 3 Humpback whales, a pair and a single animal, were moving around.  We made our way over to the pair which was steadily swimming together and yet neither one made even the smallest indication of a deeper dive.  No strong arches were seen, no tails above the surface, just a few breaths before disappearing for a while.  Luckily we made some good predictions and with a little luck on our side both whales returned back up to the surface close by for everyone to check out these mammals! 
The dorsal fins from our Humpback whale pair showing just how differently these fins can be shaped on each whale (above and below)
We then decided to press our luck with the other Humpback whale in the area.  Unfortunately we saw this whale for even less amounts of the time above the surface than our pair.  Still no fluking and on the move.  Sometimes these whales surely like to remind us all that being wild animals means these whales are on their own schedule doing whatever they want whenever they want.  We see such a small glimpse into their lives and anytime a whale is around is a treat all on its own.  We decided to maneuver our way back over to the pair of Humpback whales since the third one in the area was being less than cooperative for our purposes.  Instead of the Humpback whales though we quickly were diverted.  Splashing quickly began evident just off our starboard side!  The whole time we were in the area random splashing was being seen but, it was so brief and so sporadic we were on a waiting game.  Eventually the wait was worth it.  These dolphins were coming right in towards us.  However, they weren't white-sided dolphins at all which is typically the toothed whale species we sometimes get the chance to see during our travels.  No these whales were something much different.  A pod of Common dolphins were coming straight towards us! 
One look and we knew these weren't the type of dolphins we most commonly see.  Instead these were Common dolphins (even though they are quite uncommon to us out on Jeffreys Ledge!)

Today is only the second time the Granite State has ever gotten the chance to see this particular type of whale.  Interesting enough our first sighting was last year on September 27.  Almost one year later and we got the completely unexpected opportunity to spend time with these whales. 
Common dolphin leaping out of the water
Not only were we watching Common dolphins but there were also two young whales in this group.  Watching them dart back and forth just as easily as the larger adults was a blast.  Can you pick out the young whales in the photos that follow?
What a completely awesome, unsuspecting, find!!!  After some incredible looks at the Common dolphins we made our way back over towards the original pair of Humpback whales.  They had continued in their travel patterns but were still synchronizing their movements.  Just before leaving we even got to see one of these whale's tails giving us the opportunity to positively identify this whale as Scratch, an adult female!
As we travelled back towards Rye Harbor our Captain spotted more splashing.  No way.  We were about to show everyone on board another type of toothed whale.  A pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins were just off course from home. 
Atlantic white-sided dolphin
So we diverted for a bit and got to see more dolphins, the type we typically see, if we are even lucky enough to see dolphins to begin with.  What an incredible way to wrap up a fantastic day!
An Atlantic white-sided dolphin half above the water being a bit playful as it constantly surfaced with "belly flop" each time it came above the waterline

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