Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday July 26

With the weather forecasters on land calling for all kinds of potential weather today we were beyond pleased when we only dealt with a few sprinkles this morning and very calm seas for most of the day!  The cloudy skies provided the perfect dark background for spotting whale spouts out in the distance as the exhalations were a vibrant white contrast to the darker skies beyond. 

This morning between seeing 11 different Minke whales throughout our travels today we also got the chance to see more marine life before we even got to Jeffreys Ledge. 
You can even tell Minke whales apart from each other based on their dorsal fin shapes.  Two of the many different Minke whales we spotted this morning (above and below)
Early on in our travels we found a pair of Fin whales which turned out to be a mother and her calf!  The pair didn't remain together for long as after a few minutes, mom started to circle the area, probably going in search of some small schooling fish as the calf was spending time almost a 1/2 mile away. 
Fin whale mom #9904 (above) and her calf (below)

Looks like this calf is quite adventuresome as it maneuvered around on it's own while we ended up being in an area a bit closer towards mom.  We were able to identify the pair as #9904 and her calf as these whales have definitely been seen over the course of the season this year continuously breaking apart for periods of time before returning back up together.  Glad both whales continue to be spending time in our area!

As we made our way offshore we passed a few more Fin whales as we came into an area where 2 Humpback whales and another Fin whale were working the area!  The Humpback whale pair was another mom/calf pair!  One trip and two species of mothers and their calves....AWESOME.  While the Humpback whales, Cardhu and her calf, swam around a Fin whale was utilizing the abundance of food too as both Carhdu and the Fin whale were leaving indications of feeding behaviors on the surface for us. 
Cardhu was creating bubble clouds while our Fin whale was lunging through the water and even left some brown defecation at the surface, both sure-fire signs of feeding!  At one point Cardhu was surfacing just behind where the Fin whale surfaced.  Both were right in line with each other!  It was a great sight seeing two very large species enjoy the supply of food swimming underneath the surface.
Cardhu's calf surfacing and spending some time right next to the boat while mom was searching for fish!

Before heading home we took a slight detour as we heard reports of dolphins not terribly far away.  We knew it was going to be a gamble as these whales swim so quickly but luckily enough we were able to spot them and spend a bit of time with the ~75 animals in the pod.  A very nice ending to an already very nice trip.

This afternoon we were heading offshore when once again plenty of Minke whales surfaced near by.  Knowing there were more Minke whales, and other species, further offshore we chanced the fact of passing by a few of these animals to give us a bit more time offshore in case other critters had moved around the area a bit.  Luckily we were able to find 4 Fin whales and 3 Humpback whales during our afternoon excursion.  We got a really nice look at one of the Fin whales as it spent time surfacing just along side the boat, surprising many of us as it would effortlessly rise to the surface with barely a ripple on the water and exhale at a rate of 300mph!  Now that's a lot of air and ultimately quite the noise especially when you are not expecting it!
Dorsal fin of our sneaky close Fin whale

We pressed further offshore and got a chance to spend time with Cardhu and her calf again. 
Cardhu's calf crashing through the waves as it surfaces with its lower jaw slightly extended all the while staying right alongside mom
Cardhu's calf being "just like mom"
Both whales were meandering through the water giving us some very nice looks when out of the blue the calf came clear out of the water!  As is always the case this behavior is always very unexpected and as quickly as the calf did it, it was over.  A few of us on board even missed the jump in the first place as you truly had to be looking in the right place at the right time.  Otherwise, many folks saw the big splash as this whale crashed back onto the surface of the ocean.  The whale quickly went back to doing what it had been doing prior to the breach, swimming alongside mom as if nothing had happened.  Just incredible how in an instant a whale can, and does, change up its behavior.  Definitely not something you see out on the ocean every day but a very special treat for those of us who were lucky enough to see such an event.

Before turning for home we saw one last spout out in the distance and wanted to go investigate it.  There was another Humpback whale near by.  Beyond this whale we even saw a spout from another Fin whale but we were already 25 miles from home and we needed to head back to land soon.  Luckily we got the chance to snap a quick picture of our other Humpback whale in the area.  It is another whale to add to the list for 2012 sightings.  Backstroke, a whale seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 2010 is back once again.  Nice seeing you again Backstroke!
Backstroke's unique pigmentation pattern!

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