Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sunday May 27th

As has been the case so far this season, whether it is an entire week later or only 24hrs later, the whales around Jeffreys Ledge are doing a great job changing things up for us!  The thrill of the unexpected keeps us hooked and just when you think you can anticipate where the whales might be, they go and remind us we are very much in the dark.  You might think creatures weighing well over 20 tons would be easy to keep track of but if you then take into consideration how vast of an area they call "home" for the Spring through Fall seasons, it becomes a whole new ballgame.  Luckily having underwater geographical features that ultimately provide the beginnings of massive amounts of food sources for whales, and also resides quite close to us land mammals, definitely provides a good place to look for these creatures of the deep.  It was a day in which animals that had been seen less than 24hrs beforehand had vanished as far as we could determine (at least in the small amount of time we took to the sea!) and different individuals once again made themselves known elsewhere.

We ended up spending time with 4 Humpback whales all of which are individuals we have yet to see thus far this season.  The first tail we spotted was a whale we knew instantly. 
Chickadee had returned again, a whale that had spent many days on Jeffreys Ledge last year feeding and even becoming air-borne a few times throughout the 2011 season.  Chickadee wasn't the only one around the area as it turned out two other Humpback whales were zig-zagging all around.  All 3 whales were holding their breaths for a while and each time they surfaced, all three whales were in completely different orientations from each other than previously seen.  We were able to get some nice looks at two of the three, as the third animal was being a bit more elusive for us.  Turns out the other animal was Cosmos as our friends aboard the Prince of Whales had passed along the news! 
Cosmos' tip of its head above the waterline

Before heading for home we even got the chance to see Highlighter the Humpback whale passing through the area.
Highlighter on the move
Our last sighting of Highlighter was during the start of the 2010 whale watching season so we enjoyed having the chance to see this particular Humpback whale back in our area once again!   For now we will all be waiting in anticipation to see just what, and where, the whales will be next weekend!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday May 26

You know it is going to be a good day when the first view you have of a whale during a trip is the entire tail of an animal hovering in the air!  As can be the case when you are in search of wild animals, they have the ability to surprise even us sometimes whether it be based on their behaviors, or location, or just them being themselves.  Today we started our trip on a couple of whales not even near Jeffreys Ledge.  We spent time Isthmus and Draco actively feeding just below the surface! 
Isthmus and Draco filtering out lots of salt water while using their baleen plates to keep all the fish they just gulped up inside their mouths!
The pair definitely had a system going as we watched Isthmus use her enormous tail to slap the surface of the water while Draco was further down in the depth of the ocean blowing bubbles to stun the schools of fish these two whales were going after.

Isthmus using a unique behavior only seen by this species in the Atlantic as a way to stun their food
Isthmus sticking the back part of her whale body high above the water!
Isthmus's activities were stunning the food from the surface while more confusion was coming from under the water thanks to the massive amounts of bubbles coming from Draco's underwater exhalation resulting in complete chaos for the fish who ultimately would think "safety in numbers" was the only way to survive.

Bubbles created by both Isthmus and Draco to help coral the fish
Little did the fish know once they grouped up together, it only made it that much easier for a whale's large mouth to scoop the bait ball up in one foul swoop aka. lunch!
Isthmus's dorsal fin and tail

We all enjoyed the show and with such good looks we decided to press on further offshore and head to Jeffreys Ledge to see what else may be lurking in the waters today.  Our next stop was on a different species.  It was a Fin whale.  With one look as this whale went down on a deeper dive, we knew who it was.  It was Fjord, a whale that has utilized Jeffreys Ledge for years!!!
Great to see you once again Fjord!
Fjord was first sighted in 1981 off the coast of Long Island and has been sighted by the Blue Ocean Society every single year on Jeffreys Ledge since 2000!  With now 12 consecutive years strong, we were super excited to have such a familiar Fin back for another season!

A familiar whale only continued the streak as our next stop was on yet another familiar animal, make that two.  We found another pair of Humpback whales.  It was Valley and Sickle.  Both animals have been seen many a time feeding in our area and once again we were thrilled to have these animals allowing us time to watch them go about their daily maneuvers out on the Ledge.
Valley's lack of dorsal fin
Sickle's sickle-shaped dorsal fin
With the final stop of the day, two more Humpback whales, we got the chance to watch different behaviors than we had seen from any other creatures of the day.  Both animals were enjoying an afternoon siesta!  As we coasted parallel with the whales we were able to watch them as they seemed to almost remain suspended just below the surface.  They would surface very slowly for a breath before returning just as slowly to the same depth just under the water.  Looks like we caught them during a quick nap! 
One of our sleeping whales!
With a few looks and wanting not to disturb them from their behaviors we left our sleeping pair and headed for home.

Many thanks to all our passengers today as we had many a familiar face on board!  Whether it was your first, or your 50th, the excitement that results from spending time out on the water watching whales is quite the experience.  Thanks for sharing it with you all today!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday May 20th

Clamp and her calf were the talk of the whale watch again today.  A different day came different behaviors from this pair as we spent time watching them on Jeffreys Ledge. 
Clamp and her calf
Mom was doing some feeding as each time she surfaced after having raised her tail just minutes earlier, she would appear just beyond a cloud of bubbles.  Somewhere in the depths of the ocean Clamp was going after fish.  Based on the large expanse of bubbles we were seeing on the surface Clamp was finding fish, swimming underneath them, then exhaling to release massive amounts of bubbles, which would then scare the fish into a nice tight ball.  Well with the fish grouped up tight all Clamp had to do was then open her mouth wide open to capture all those fish in one big bite!  However, when both Mom and her calf were at the surface both of them were being a bit inquisitive towards us.  Multiple times the two of them would change swimming directions and head straight in for the boat!  Coasting at the surface, folks at the bow could literally watch both Clamp and her calf swim just under the pulpit.
Clamp checking out some of our passengers as she cruises by the front of the boat
Then when the next time both whales were up for breaths, they would go investigate the stern of the boat! 
Clamp and her calf surface just off the back of the boat
Needless to say we all got some incredible looks at these two mammals of the deep.  Next trips are over Memorial Day weekend so start off the unofficial start of summer on a great note and head out whale watching! See you on board!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Active Animals on Jeffreys: May 19th

The weather, and the whales, were on our side today. A very calm ocean and miles of visibility made just being out on the boat an enjoyable time.  Add in our whale sightings and you've got yourself one great Saturday. Our first animal of the day was Obsidian the Humpback whale.  This particular whale was first sighted in 1976, making Obsidian at least 36 years old! 
Obsidian remained swimming slowly around so we were able to get some nice looks at such an old whale before continuing on to some other spouts in the distance.  One spout turned into two, then three, and then SPLASH; a breach!  Then another!  Then a few minutes of quiet, then more splashing!  We were heading to all the activity when SPLASH again in another direction!  We came into an area where we had 2 mother/calf Humpback whale pairs being quite active.  On one side of the boat there was constant flipper slapping and tail breaching from one of the pairs, while on the other side of the boat a calf started to continually jump out of the water.  Giant white flippers were constantly above the water off our right side and off our left side we kept seeing an air-borne whale.  Where to look!

The pair that we ended up spending the majority of our time with was a mother very well known to Jeffreys Ledge.  It was Clamp and her calf born just this past winter. 
Clamp with her calf in the foreground

We got a chance to see Clamp last year during one of our 2011 whale watches though little did we know she was pregnant with such the "showcaser" today! 
Clamp's calf breaching while Clamp herself surfaces nearby
Turns out both Clamp and her calf breached for us but it was the calf who also did multiple head breaches, tail breaches, and showcased just about every portion of its body above the water.
Clamp's calf checking out the world above the ocean!

Clamp's calf head breaches with its mouth slightly agape
More head breaches for the calf while Clamp's dorsal fin just barely breaks the surface
With so much excitement going on so close by it was difficult, even for a moment, to take a glimpse out in any other direction around the boat as even more Humpback whales were nearby.  However, it wasn't just Humpback whales today.  There were also Minke whales surfacing, a couple of Fin whales around, and even a large Basking shark utilizing this portion of Jeffreys Ledge today.

Whales, weather, and wonderful sightings were the words of the day.  Now to just wait for tomorrow and see what the whales may have in store for us back out on the Ledge.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Very Successful Opening Weekend!

The start of the 2012 whale watching season began for the Granite State this weekend. We were thrilled to have the weather on our side, especially for this time of the year, so all we needed to do was just "find the whales."  Well we did all weekend long.  On Saturday the 12th we left the dock with lots of familiar faces on board as the crew and our passengers were equally excited for what was to come on our first voyage. Our first whale of the season turned out to be a very cooperative Minke whale.

Minke whale
With the first whale under our belt we were able to sigh a bit of relief knowing that at least one whale was spending time on and around Jeffreys Ledge.  Little did we know that was just the beginning. We next found an animal almost 3 times the size of a Minke whale, this time it was a Fin whale.  Thanks to the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, we were able to use their continually updating Fin Whale Catalog to match this particular Fin whale to #0902, a whale first seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 2009.  
Fin whale #0902
From there, we just kept seeing whale spouts, and more whale spouts, out in the distance.  Amongst other Fin whales in the area we also spotted at least 6 Humpback whales including Spar, Nine, Joy, and Badge.
Nine the Humpback whale

Joy the Humpback whale
Humpback whales
Even on the way home as this whale went down for a dive we were still able to identify this unique whale's tail pigmentation pattern as a Humpback whale named Badge.
With already a great day on the water we were equally happy to find even more life on our way home of yet another species.  Approximately 40 Atlantic white-sided dolphins in two different pods were seen on our ride in.  Nothing like a 4 species, aka. a Grand Slam, to start a new whale watching season!
Atlantic white-sided dolphins cruising around the boat

On Sunday, the 13th, the first sighting we found was not even a whale, it was a shark! A Basking shark was doing some feeding just below the surface of the water as it's dorsal fin was sticking out of the water while slowly swimming along with its mouth wide open.
Basking shark
Traveling further offshore we spent some time with a Minke whale before coming across a Humpback whale. Turns out it was Wigwam, a whale first sighted in the Gulf of Maine in 1992. 
Wigwam the Humpback whale
Soon thereafter we were spending time with one of the second largest animals in the world; a Fin whale.
Fin whale showcasing its very large body
With some nice looks we decided to use the remaining time offshore to do some searching.  Well things paid off as we ended up coming upon 3 Humpback whales.  These animals were maneuvering around the area and at one point made a tight turn in towards the boat.  Little did we know what was in store for us...

All three whales decided to check us out as they circled the boat.  Looks like maybe the whales were as curious about us as we were about them.  These massive beings were literally hovering in the water all around the boat as we sat floating in the Atlantic Ocean.  An experience that definitely doesn't happen often and most definitely never gets old.  What a feeling to contemplate just what mammal is watching whom? Quite incredible.
Nine the Humpback whale watching the Granite State
The tip of a Humpback whale's head
Hello there whale!
Only after the whales decided to move on did we ease our way out of the area and head back to the mainland.
Magpie the Humpback whale
Many thanks to all of our passengers who braved the cooler ocean temperatures to catch a glimpse of some of the majestic mammals of the sea that reside here in the Northeast.  We are looking forward to next weekend and just what we might find on our trips!