Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday June 30

The day was filled with more Fin whale and Minke whale sightings during both trips today.  This morning we started our trip with a very familiar whale, it was Ladder again.  Even before seeing this whale go on a deeper dive we knew who was nearby just from capturing the smallest portion of this whale's body above the surface.
The dorsal  fin and beginnings of Ladder's scar pattern just breaks the surface
Ladder was definitely on the move as this whale was constantly heading in the same direction each time it surfaced.  We were able to get some great looks at this adult Fin whale (thanks to our great Captain and his "whale-sense!") before heading to other areas of Jeffreys Ledge.
Ladder
After spending time with some different Minke whales we ended up coming upon another Fin whale.  This whale was definitely utilizing the area as this whale was relatively staying in the general area each time it returned up from the depths of the ocean.  We were far from home and needed to start the journey back but we were able to get some nice looks at this whale who we were able to match to our Fin Whale Catalog as being #0417!  How exciting to have another Fin whale sighting match an animal in our catalog!
#0417

This afternoon we also started with a Fin whale but this whale was taking such short dives as it was literally returning to the surface every 2-3 minutes!  We were able to enjoy this whale from all sides of the boat as this animal kept surfacing every which direction not far from the boat!  Turns out it was one of the same Fin whales we had gotten the chance to see yesterday.  Great to know this animal is still swimming around Jeffreys going after lots of food in the water!
No official ID # yet but this whale can still easily be identified from other Fin whales we spot!

With Minke whales surfacing all throughout the afternoon, we documented 9 different Minkes, we also got the chance to spend time with another Fin whale.  As we made our way towards a spout in the distance we quickly realized there were two spouts; two Fin whales were swimming together!  They continued to follow alongside each other for two different surfacings and then on the third time they split apart.  One whale surfaced behind us and one off our port side.  We made our way to the animal a bit closer to us and got the chance to watch this whale do some filitering as this animal surfaced a couple times with a mouthful of food and ocean water inside its mouth!

Fin whale's right profile. Note the lower portion of the jaw line is bright white!

As seems to be the case oh so often, each sighting provides different behaviors, different experiences, and most importantly different memories for all when having the opportunity to witness such enormous mammals just going about their day!  Wonder what memories are to come tomorrow... Only time will tell!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday June 29

This morning brought a little bit of everything in terms of weather, everything that is except wind.  Clouds, rain, sprinkles, and eventually the sun finally came out.  Luckily whales are constantly surrounded by vast amounts of water so a few rain drops here and there do nothing to affect them, they just cause us humans to put on the jackets and pull up the hoods.  We got the chance to get some incredible looks at mulitple Minke whales and Fin whales this morning through, and around, the raindrops.
A very unique dorsal fin and marking on this Fin whale
Rain doesn't affect Minke whales either!
Fin whale just breaking the surface as it comes up from the depths of the ocean for some air
The sunshine continued for our afternoon trip and while the wind was barely even noticeable on the ocean this morning, this afternoon it continued to pick up the further offshore we went as the day progressed.  We also ended up getting the chance to spend time with multiple Fin whales this afternoon but wow, they never stayed in one spot for long!  Our whales were constantly shifting around in every which direction possible.  However, with some good predictions of boat placement, and a little bit of luck, we ended up getting some really nice looks at both of our Fin whales.  Best part was we were able to positively identify both animals!  Our first Fin whale sighting of the trip was #0402. 
 #0402
This whale was first seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 2004 and it wasn't until 2010 that we learned its gender.  #0402 is a female as she was seen in 2010 moving around Jeffreys Ledge with her calf!  While see was alone today we are thrilled to have her back on the Ledge!
The spout from #0402 gets pushed away by the wind we were surrounded by this afternoon

Our other whale was being just as "skirmish" at first.  Constantly moving around and spending a bit of extra time under the water it took a bit of time to get some looks at this whale.  The dorsal fin looked familiar but it wasn't until later on that I realized who this was.  It was Ladder!!!! 
Ladder
Seeing the less obvious side (non-scarred side) of this animal tried to throw us for a loop but sorry Ladder we still figured you out!  Today documented one of the few instances Ladder was sighted swimming on its own as opposed to usually being seen in association with another Fin whale.  We last saw Ladder June 9 so it has been almost 3 weeks to the day since we last saw this adult animal.  What a great surprise and a great way to wrap up our afternoon!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday June 28

There was a bit of land breeze today and at first glance thought perhaps it might be a bit breezy out on the ocean.  Clearly, that was not the case at all.  It was absolutely beautiful!  The only motion of the ocean was a meandering swell as the wind quickly dissipated and eventually disappeared all together resulting in lake-like conditions throughout our travels this morning.

Our first whale of the morning was a Fin whale moving through the area.  Initially this whale was seen in an area where there were at least 3 Minke whales circling about but we quickly learned this whale had other plans.  Within minutes this whale was out ahead of us and we ended up playing a game of "catch."  This whale was on the move and we were attempting our best to stay within the movements of this Fin whale.  We were able to get a few looks before the whale would be under the water once more, moving in a direction only the whale knew before surfacing out in the distance once again.  Sometime these whales have their own plans that involve NOT being watched by our passengers (which can and does happen when you are dealing with wild animals!) so off we were to check out other areas of Jeffreys Ledge.

Soon we came across another Fin whale.  This whale was behaving quite differently than our first.  This enormous mammal was pretty much just circling the area as with each breath the whale took it would effortlessly swim in an arc.  We were able to get some incredible looks since this whale was being so slow in its movements allowing us to easily stay parallel to it. 
Fin whale spout
Turns out, thanks to the dorsal fin and chevron pattern, we were able to recognize this whale as one of the same animals we had seen just yesterday.  The coolest part was, after spending more time looking through our Fin Whale Catalog we knew exactly who this animal was.  It was #0837!  This whale was first sighted by Blue Ocean Society affiliates in 2008 and while it has been a few years it is great to know this whale decided to return back to Jeffreys Ledge this year.
Fin whale #0837's head


#0837's body and dorsal fin
The trip wasn't over as after spending more time with #0837 who even suddenly had another Fin whale surface alongside for just a moment (and then moved off in their own separate directions!) we had come across a group of toothed whales.

We had about 30-40 Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  It has been well over a month and a half since we've last gotten the chance to see these whales and were super excited to have that streak end! 
Atlantic white-sided dolphin

Conditions were spectacular as the flat calm ocean allowed everyone to follow our group of whales as they swam at the surface and even sometimes below the surface!  What a great way to end our morning.

This afternoon also started with a Fin whale but a different animal just a few miles past the Isles of Shoals.  This whale spent a little time circling the area before making its way further north.  Since we wanted to head offshore, not towards the Maine coast, we left our whale and continued to scan the horizon for more whale activity. 
Fin whale just off the port side before it decided to venture further away
More activity appeared out in the distance as we saw plenty of splashing up ahead of us.  We had found more dolphins!  Our afternoon crowd also got the opportunity to spend time with a group of ~30 animals.  Such a fun species to watch as Atlantic white-sided dolphins every second sometimes appear to change directions.
More Atlantic white-sided dolphins!
Active dolphins

Further offshore, thanks to our friends on the Atlantic Queen, we came into an area where we had a handful of Fin whales around.  At least 5 of these whales were scattered about.  They all appeared to come up for a few breaths and spend considerably more time under water but we ended up getting some great looks at a pair of these animals as they grouped up and swam just off our starboard side.  Another great way to end the trip as the whole time we were in the area we were not watching any animals surface in association with another.  Who knows how long those two animals remained side-by-side but it was great to see them in their grandeur so close to each other and the boat!

Fin whale #1 of the 2 that decided to join together for a few breaths
Fin whale #2 of our pair

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday June 27

This morning we spent time with a pair of Fin whales.  While both creatures were spending on average about 11 minutes under the surface of the water each time they would resurface, not only would they still be together, they were barely moving around.  These whales were being a bit sneaky as sometimes they would surface just high enough to take a breath of air but not enough to see their dorsal fins.  Unfortunately even when you did see the two whales dorsal fin's it was still difficult to determine exactly which of the two whales was at the surface as both whales at first glance appeared to be very similar looking.  However, after a little bit of a closer inspection you can see just the slightest differences that make each of these animals unique from one another.
First Fin whale of the pair
A closer look at our first Fin whale's dorsal fin. Note the slight indentation on the back portion of this whale's dorsal fin
 Versus:
Second Fin whale of our morning pair
A slightly broader dorsal fin with a small bend at the tip of the fin itself

With a bit of wave action, the whales seemed to be behaving better than the ocean!  We were able to get some incredible looks as these enormous mammals would cruise down either side of the boat crashing through the waves as they came up to get some big breaths of air.  I guess when you are one of the second largest animals on Earth the Fin whales just push the waves aside as opposed to being pushed aside by the waves!
Fin whale charging through the waves!
A small portion of the white lower jaw and even the chevron  pattern (silver/gray area along the side of this whale) as it swims with ease against the wind/waves!
This afternoon we went searching for our morning pair but had no luck.  Looks like those two animals had ventured off to other areas of the ocean, maybe together or maybe seperately, but they were gone and instead found a different Fin whale that had moved into the area!  This animal had such an interesting dorsal fin that it didn't take long for our crew to match this whale to our Blue Ocean Society Fin Whale Catalog.  It was #0811.  This whale was first sighted on Jeffreys Ledge in 2008 and had been most recently seen in 2010 until today.  Another familiar fin has returned to the Ledge, always a fun sight to see!
Fin whale #0811
A zoomed in look at Fin whale's #0811 dorsal fin.  This fin is completely different looking than the two Fin whales we spent time with this morning and one of the main features we use to tell each Fin whale apart from another!
With a few other Fin whales and some great looks at some of the Minke whales in the area we headed for home.  Thanks to all our passengers who took a bit of a "wild ride" this morning and to all our very inquisitive younger passengers this afternoon.  Some great questions were asked by some very young brains and we sure enjoyed the enthusiasm and eagerness to learn as much as possible about all aspects of whales during our trip!

Tuesday, June 26th

With grey skies looming in Rye harbor, we were unsure of what to expect when we left the dock in search of whales.  After passing the Isles of  Shoals, we headed towards a shouthern area of Jeffrey's Ledge and found several whales throughout our travels.  We started with not 1, but 2 very nice Minke whales and thought they were a great way to start our trip.  Shortly after spending time with our Minke whales, we saw an exhalation from a larger whale not to far away from where we were.  In the interest of time, we decided to see if we could spend time with the larger whale and I'm glad we did!  It turned out to be a very large Fin whale and it wasn't long before we realized who it was.  I'm happy to report that Dingle has returned to Jeffrey's Ledge, for yet another feeding season!  Today was the first time we have documented that Dingle has returned and it was great to share the happy news with all our passengers. 


Dingle seemed to be travelling in several different directions every time the whale would return to the surface and it didn't take long to figure out why. Photographed below is our fish finder. It does not help us find whales, but it does track bait fish and other food items underneath the surface of the water and there was a whole lot of food in this particular area.




The more time we spent in the area, the more whales we started to see. Before long, we had found 6 different Minke whales, and 3 different Fin whales. The food was plentiful and the whales were taking full advantage. What a great way to spend our day. As we headed for home, our course took us through some rain showers, but everyone did great. Thank you to all our passengers for joining us today and for helping us tract a familiar friend who has retunred to the Ledge for another feeding season.



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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday June 24

For the fourth day in a row we have spent time with some familiar whales.  While we often get the chance to see animals we recognize in the field and continue to see them over the course of a few consecutive days we've come to realize an interesting trait that has been reoccurring during our recent whale watches.  Today we got the chance to spend time with Halfmoon the Humpback whale during both of our trips. 
Halfmoon
Whales tend to move around constantly as they search for food so sometimes we are lucky enough to see the same animal in the same general location during our morning and afternoon trips, and sometimes these animals do a bit of travelling and end up on other parts of Jeffreys Ledge as the day progresses.  These behaviors are quite normal and sometimes even expected as we venture out throughout the day.  However, for the 4th day in a row we have not only gotten the chance to see Halfmoon we have also been seeing Fjord the Fin whale in relatively close proximity to each other. 
Fjord
While spending time with these two whales over the course of the past few days they have never crossed paths but instead have tended to be within a few miles of each other.  Again, this is not crazily unusual as both Fin whales and Humpback whales feed on the exact same food.  It simply makes sense that if one type of whale is around it is very much possible another type can be close by. 

The real zinger of all this is that both animals have been up, down, and all around different portions of Jeffreys Ledge over the past 4 days.  One morning both are seen in one particular region, 24hrs later a completely different region, and the trend seems to be continuing each and every day.  While this may not seem to be all that exciting of news, we have been finding it quite intriguing.  Honestly it could be completely coincidental seeing these two animals day in and day out on different section of the Ledge but regardless we continue to chuckle as each time we end up seeing one, the other never seems to be too far away.  So thanks again to Halfmoon and Fjord for allowing our passengers to get some great looks at these two large adult whales (Fjord is at least 31 years old while Halfmoon is at least 33 years old!) and to all our passengers, many of whom are repeat whale-spotting pros, and our first time crowds, for another beautiful day spent watching such incredibly intriguing mammals.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday June 23

It was another beautiful morning on Jeffreys Ledge today.  The whales and weather were working hand in hand as the ocean looked like a lake and the whales were out and about!  Our trip started with a couple Minke whales perusing the area and after a few looks we knew we had to keep going and utilize the gorgeous conditions we were surrounded by to search for more marine life.
Minke whale
Next stop a Fin whale.  Can you guess who it was???  Low and behold we had found Fjord once again.  This animal was in a completely different location than where we had seen it just yesterday, but there it was moving through the area. 
Hello again Fjord!
What a pleasant surprise.  With some nice looks at such a familiar Fin whale we were off again to see what else was lurking on Jeffreys Ledge.

One familiar whale lead to another.  It was Halfmoon the Humpback whale.  Another animal we had seen less than 24hrs before in a section of Jeffreys Ledge miles away!  Halfmoon kept us keyed in on its movements as this whale created a few bubble clouds (something we have been seeing from this animal multiple days in a row no matter where on the Ledge we keep seeing this whale) all while meandering around the ocean for a bit.
Halfmoon

More Minke whales topped off this morning's adventure and before we knew it we were off again for our afternoon trip.  Sea conditions were still enjoyable as a light sea breeze picked up, cooling everyone down a few degrees as we ventured offshore.

Our first whales this afternoon were Pinball the Humpback whale and her calf.  Both animals were slowly moving around as we got some great looks as these two whales effortlessly swam in synchrony together. 
Pinball
With such great quality time spent with these two mammals we decided to move on to other areas of Jeffreys Ledge to search for more life.  Apparently Pinball and her calf had other plans...

With a flick of her tail, Pinball creates quite the saltwater disturbance
Pinball's calf showcasing the underside of it's tail for us
Within minutes of us leaving suddenly a frantic of activity occurred on the upper deck.  Our passengers informed us a whale was breaching out behind us.  With a quick turn of the head (and boat!) we all soon saw that Pinball's calf was jumping clear out of the water!  While the calf decided to go "aerial" Mom had her own plans as she started rolling over bringing her massive flippers above the surface and smacking them on the water! 
Half of Pinball's tail (left) and her large white flipper (right)
Pinball's calf breaches
What a sight.  Clearly we headed back to the area and got the chance to see these two whales continue to flipper slap the water (Pinball) and jump out of the salty sea multiple times (Pinball's calf). 

The behaviors of these two whales changed in a matter of moments and we had no idea how long any of it would last.  The thrill of all whales is the unpredicted nature these massive creatures exhibit and understanding the full luck and appreciation of any such movements these animals make.  Our time had been very much enjoyable before this pair started becoming active, making the whole experience that much more special as I hope you realize it was all luck to see such remarkable moments to begin with.

Many thanks to Pinball and her calf for permanently embedding quite the memory into so many of our passengers today as we also got to add to this trip 2 Fin whales and a couple of Minke whales as well into our afternoon outing.
Pinball's calf

Before making it back to the harbor we did get a nice fresh water rinse as the rain came down but had stopped before we even got back to the harbor.  Fact is, this was just the icing on the cake with all that we experienced today.  Nothing like Mother Nature showing her beauty is all kinds of ways today on the water.

Rainbow at Rye Harbor

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday June 22

Boy oh boy was the ocean clam as calm could be today.  Almost the entire day we were treated to very calm seas and minimal breezes.  It was truly an enjoyable sight.  Add in our whales and it was another great day on Jeffreys Ledge!

This morning we first started with a couple of Minke whales.  Turns out these two animals in the area would be the start to the 7 we saw throughout our travels of the morning. 
Minke whale in the lake-like conditions known as the ocean this morning
With some nice looks we were off to the Ledge and hopefully more whale sighting.  Our next sightings of the morning time was one of the 3 Fin whales we saw in the area.  This whale was easy to identify... it was Fjord.  Not only have we been seeing this whale for a few days now, this whale's dorsal fin is so unique that with just a quick glance we smile knowing a familiar "friend" is in our mists. 
Fjord
Fjord creating its own wake as it surfaces for a breath of air
One of the other Fin whales in the area ended up just alongside Fjord at one point.  As quickly as this whale had moved in near Fjord, the two whales seemed to join up for a brief moment, and then just as quickly part ways.  It was an interesting sight to see as we watched the two whales maneuver in towards each other, synchronize their surfaces for only 3 breaths, and then back off in completely different directions.  Interesting how we are always intrigued to see the interactions between some of the largest creatures on this planet.

We left the Fin whales behind and saw out in the distance a different species.  With such incredible ocean conditions we ended up making our way to another whale a few miles away.  It was Halfmoon the Humpback whale. 
Halfmoon
Halfmoon was circling the area, spending only a few minutes underwater, and even blew a few bubble clouds, allowing for some some great looks at this animal. 
The unique black and white pattern of the underside of Halfmoon's tail
With a bit more time we decided to venture off to search for more marine life.  Turns out our next sighting wasn't even a whale.  As we moved over Jeffreys Ledge we ended up "sneaking" up on a dorsal fin... it was a Basking shark!  The tip of this large shark's fin was breaking the surface and by slowly coming into the area, the shark just continued to swim just below the water's surface and we got a chance to check out this fish!
Basking shark's dorsal fin
Our afternoon trip also started with a couple of Minke whales.  These two animals were staying confined to a particular area of ocean as we soon realized not only the whales, but the birds in the area, were all trying to catch some food. 
Birds and bait are just beyond where this Minke whale surfaces
We had one Minke whale lunge through the water just off the pulpit, extending its pleats on its lower jaw maximizing the amount of food, and consequently salt water, inside its mouth!  While the whale was trying to munch up all the fish, the seagulls were attempting to do the same as life from the sky and sea were attempting to catch as much as possible.

As we continued around Jeffreys Ledge we saw a few blows in the distance and decided to first check out a Fin whale.  This animal was all over the place!  Only coming up for maximum 2 breaths before diving under the surface, this whale was on a mission.  Luckily it wasn't moving great distances in between dives so we got some nice looks at this very quick moving animal this afternoon.
The scars along this Fin whale's tail stock will help to positively identify exactly who this whale is
Next we got to spend some time with yet another species of whale.  This time it was a pair of Humpback whales.  It was Pinball and her calf.  When we first approached this mother and calf pair we got the chance to watch both of them sleeping on the surface. 
Shhhh... Humpback whale sleeping zone!
These two were suspended right on the surface and got the chance to float right alongside them as all three of us (Pinball, her calf, and the boat) sat there floating in the mid-afternoon sun.  After eventually waking up the two circled around as Mom did a bit of feeding, creating bubble clouds, while the calf kept swimming to catch up to wherever mom was moving to.
Pinball
If only the weather, and the whales, were like this everyday... Alas, we get to enjoy the unexpectedness of it all: the weather, the whales, and the pure excitement of the unknown each and every time we go whale watching.  And that is the best part.