Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunday July 15th

On Sunday, we had some of the nicest weather during a week of excellent weather. Barely any wind made for great sighting conditions. In the morning, we got excellent looks at a couple of Minke whales and then moved on to a group of two fin whales with another fin whale in the area. In the afternoon, we saw a good sized pod of atlantic white sided dolphins, as well as the familiar humpback whale Ebony.

One of the fin whales we identified as Ladder. Ladder is an adult male fin whale, first seen in the Gulf of Maine in 1984. Since then Ladder has been seen from Bar Harbor, ME, Jeffreys Ledge (where we were today), and off the coast of Boston, MA. For the past 12 years running Ladder has been sighted on Jeffreys Ledge by the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation.

In this picture of the fin whale Ladder, the white lower jaw can be seen. This whale is just starting to be exhale, as you can see from the tiny puff right above the blow holes.

Here is Ladder's dorsal fin. You can also see the scar just in front of the dorsal fin. At one point Ladder must have been struck by a boat, since these scars appear to have been made by a boat propeller.
In the afternoon we also ran into an adult female humpback whale named Ebony. We've been seeing Ebony a lot later, it seems she's been using Jeffreys Ledge for a couple of weeks now. Ebony was first seen in 1980 or 1981 and has had at least 10 calves since then. The first calf was born in 1983, and her most recent was born in 2007.
Ebony has a large healed scar on her right side which can be seen here. This scar looks like it might have been caused by a rope from fishing gear.

This is Ebony's tail flukes and the main way to identify her.  Though Ebony's tail is all dark, lacking the black and white patterns of many other humpback whales, she is easily identified by looking at the crags and valleys of the trailing edge (top edge in this picture) of the fluke.

In this picture of Ebony's flukes you can see all the barnacles stuck to her. Barnacles don't harm the whale, they just stick to the skin and get a free ride to their food sources. Barnacles filter tiny food items from the water and where There is a lot of food for the whales there tends to also be a lot of food for the Barnacles.

Early in the afternoon we were also lucky enough to see some atlantic white sided dolphins. We only see dolphins on about 25% of our trips. This is probably because these animals are very fast and move around quite a bit in a given day searching for fish to eat. Dolphins are always a great way to start off a trip and were impressive to watch as they deftly maneuvered through the water and around the boat. There were even a couple of baby dolphins in the group we were watching, easily identified as tiny animals swimming next to their mothers.
Dolphins are mammals just like humans and breath air. You can see this dolphin exhaling just before coming to the surface and then quickly inhaling. This is exactly how good human swimmers do it!

Some passengers enjoying dolphins on the front part of the boat. Dolphins often 'bow ride' or swim in the pressure wave created at the front of the boat. This pressure wave gives them a little extra boost and they don't need to pump their tail as hard to keep up speed.

You can see how calm it was today as this dolphin breaks the glassy surface.

This is a mom and calf dolphin pair. Calves may stay with their mother for several years even after they are weaned. Calves tend to swim right next to their mother perhaps for protection and perhaps to get a little hydrodynamic boost.

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