Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday July 27

It was a day full of whale activity as we ended up recording 11 Fin whales, 2 Minke whales, 3 pods of Atlantic white-sided dolphins, and 4 Humpback whales seen throughout our whale watch today.  So many signs of life and all in one trip!  While we definitely had some incredible highlights (those to be discussed further below) things started out a bit skirmish to say the least.  We first attempted to get a look at a very low-profile Fin whale inshore of Jeffreys Ledge.  Staying under the water for 8 or 9 minutes is fairly average for these large mammals but boy oh boy was this whale on the move.  We had to try to catch up to this animal each time it surfaced but had to keep a sharp eye out on the horizon as when this whale was at the surface it was barely making a disturbance in the water!  A very, very sneaky Fin whale.  We finally cut our losses and moved further offshore in hopes of finding other Fin whales or species that perhaps were not on quite the "stealth mission" this whale seemed to be on.

Soon out in the distance we spotted two blows.  They were close together; great a pair of whales!  Oh no, not at all the case.  Instead, once we got closer the pair split off and a third whale was seen in the area.  Three Fin whales all darting back and forth.  It was a bit tricky to figure out which whale was which and where they all were so we could maneuver through the area without disturbing any of these whales.  Eventually we figured out at least the pair we had seen from afar.  It was #9904 and her calf.  Once again these two animals were together for a split second before heading out in different directions.  We ended up seeing Mom surface, though sporadically, much more frequently than the calf who kept surfacing out in the distance.
Fin whale #9904

Eventually we got a few looks at our Fin whales and with our friends aboard the Prince of Whales not too far away with other whale activity we ventured towards them.  A Humpback whale was in the area.  This animal was also being a bit squirrely as it would come up only for a couple breaths before diving down into the water column once again.  However, soon the whale chaos began.  While we sat waiting for the Humpback whale to resurface, #9904 surfaced just behind the boat!  Out of nowhere she too had moved into this area and so we got the best looks at her in that moment.  Then the Humpback whale surfaced and was matched in the catalog as being a two-year old named Mountain.  Another new Humpback for the season. 
Mountain, a whale that was just given it's name this past month!
As we watched Mountain soon we saw a whole slew of dorsal fins.  A pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins were transversing through the area. 
Final look at a jumping Atlantic white-sided dolphin
We had 3 species all in one spot: a Fin whale, a Humpback whale, and dolphins!  With plenty to look at in all directions around the boat we spent a bit more time with the dolphins before passing them back off to the Prince of Whales and we were off to do a little more exploring. 

Thanks to our great whale-spotting passengers this morning a spout was seen out in the distance.  One spout turned into two and soon we had a pair of large Fin whales moving alongside the boat.  As we spent time with the whales a small group of ~6 Atlantic white-sided dolphins also appeared in close proximity before continuing on in their travel pattern. We stayed with our two Fin whales that had very distinct dorsal fins which we were not able to match up with any of the whales we have in our on-board Fin whale catalog but will definitely help in identifying them again in the future. 
Our Fin whale pair (above and below)

A few surfacings later and these two whales began to circle the area.  Both whales, while continuing to synchronize their movements and surfacings, were also constantly changing directions.  Both whales were working so intrinsically with each other it was quite mesmerizing. 
Our Fin whales at the surface together
The trance quick subsided when both whales literally surfaced just off the front of the boat with their lower jaws fully expanded.  Both whales were filtering massive amounts of salt water through their baleen plates!  Seeing not one, but two, of the second largest living animals on the planet rise up from the depths of the ocean filtering out water soon makes you realize just how impressively large these mammals really are.  Incredible.

With some fantastic looks at our pair we got word from a fishing boat a few miles away of a bit more whale activity.  We decided to check it out before heading home to see just what was out there.  A few minutes later we saw what is was as it had leaped clear out of the water.  A Humpback whale had breached!  Turns out it was Cardhu and her calf as one more distant breach and a tail-breach later we were in the area.  No more aerial activity was seen but even from a distance it was very cool watching a whale propel its body high above the waterline! 
Cardhu at the surface as her calf moves back in towards Mom
We even got the chance to see both whales decide to surface just off our right-hand side at one point as both Cardhu and her calf swam under the boat and went down on deeper dives.
Cardhu's large tail
Cardhu's calf
A few Minke whale sightings and another pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins wrapped up our trip as we made our way back towards Rye Harbor.  It was a wonderful day of whales and will be anxiously awaiting to be back out on the water tomorrow!

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