Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday August 22

Marine mammals: check.  Fish: check.  Beautiful weather: check.  Variety on Jeffreys Ledge: double check.

As we made our way out to Jeffreys Ledge this morning we made a few circles as we attempted to get some looks at a few Minke whales and even a couple Fin whales.  In the midst of our attempts to maneuver through the area there was a different type of fin above the water.  An Ocean sunfish was nearby!  These unique looking fish can be fearless sometimes and after we slowed down, the fish decided to swim over towards us!  The Ocean sunfish literally starting swimming laps around the boat. 
A stare-off between fish and human
No need for you to move just wait for the fish to come to you!  It was definitely one of the top best looks at an Ocean sunfish I have seen before this particular fish eventually swam down into the deep ocean.  It was time to press on and look for some marine mammals.
Such the interesting looking creature of the ocean

Most of the whales we were seeing were spending a good deal of time under the water, and as for the Fin whales, on the move.  Just as we were about to cut our losses with a pair of Fin whales spending plenty of time under the water and surfacing out in the distance we suddenly saw splashing, and there was a lot of splashing.  A pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins suddenly had made themselves known.  We quickly realized why they seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.  These whales were on the move. 
From tail to the tip of the nose, these dolphins move with such ease!
Even as we continuously had to move along with this pod of 150 whales, we got some gorgeous looks as they appeared to move effortlessly in the water and yet were still keeping up a good pace.  With such a large group moving through the water they appeared everywhere and many times there were so many of them at the surface you just didn't know where to focus your attention towards! 
Atlantic white-sided dolphin
What a very pleasant surprise to find such a species considering we only see Atlantic white-sided dolphins on about 20% of our trips!  More marine life and yet we still had more time to do some exploring.

Next stop was back in the fish world.  We saw the dorsal fin of a Blue shark.  Unfortunately we were a bit late in spotting the fish for as soon as we slowed and our wake rolled over the area, the shark quickly disappeared.  Then just ahead of us we saw more ripples.  Another shark was near by!  Nope, wrong.  The small disturbance we were seeing was actually from another fish.  This fish appeared to be feeding on the seaweed floating at the surface of the water.  So of course since the fish appeared to be going nowhere fast we stopped to snap a few pictures.  Yes we know we are on a whale watching boat, but how often does a free swimming fish spend time on the surface without a baited hook in the water? 
Our fish was chowing down on the seaweed!
We have not gotten a positive identity on our fish-friend but what great conditions to be out on the open ocean peering down into the water.  Okay, it was time to go see those whales again.

A bit more travelling and we found another Fin whale.  Once again even this Fin whale was spending lots of time under the water.  A few times we needed to catch up to this whale and eventually got some nice looks as this whale went down on a deeper dive.
Fin whale
With a bit more time to search the horizon we decided to see if anything else was out on the ledge.  Low and behold we saw a whale surface out in the distance.  As quickly as it surfaced we stopped.  A highly endangered North Atlantic Right whale had just come up for a few breaths of air.  The rarest of the whale species here in our area was amongst us.  Extremely strict regulations are in effect for any sized boat when in the vicinity of such a rarity and so as quickly as we saw it out in the distance we knew it was time for us to go home.  Even from afar it was a special occasion to be witness to such a marine mammal.

This afternoon we had no idea what to expect since this morning's trip had been completely unusual and exciting all on its own.  Once again Mother Nature provided more unexpectedness.  Whale sighting number one was a Fin whale our friends aboard the Atlantic Queen were spending time with.  They had informed us this whale was only spending a few minutes under the water.  Considering the lengthy time all our morning Fin whales had been taking under the water we couldn't pass up the chance to check out this whale.  Turns out it was #9709, a whale first seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 1997!  We got some great looks at this animal as it circled around. 
The white lower jaw of #9709
As we spent time in the area we started to see a spout out in the distance.  One became two.  Then through the binoculars two became three then quickly four.  There were more whales just a few miles away!  After a bit more time with our large Fin whale we were off to check out exactly what was out in the distance.  Turns out there were 5 Humpback whales around!

We first started with a few singles circling around the area.  Crystal is still out there, circling around, and spending yet another day out on Jeffreys Ledge.  The other whale, a newcomer for the season, was Pumpkin Seed.

Pumpkin Seed
This whale was also doing some circling and even produced a bubble cloud, a sign of some feeding occurring further down in the ocean.  With some nice looks at these whales, and time beginning to run short, we eased our way through the Minke whales popping up and over to the trio of Humpback whales were were seeing.

Soon all three whales while still synchronizing their surfacings and dive times were also sleeping.  These whales were in the process of taking some naps.  They all remained floating on the surface, breathing every now and then, and really not moving through the water at all.
3 Humpbacks all in a row
We were able to get some incredible looks as Pina, Chablis, and Churn seemed to be motionless on the water's edge.  What a fun and once again different experience out on Jeffreys Ledge. 
Chablis' tail and Churn's dorsal fin
We actually saw Chablis May 26 this year and it has been almost 3 months before this whale has once again been around our part of the ocean.  Who knows what might swim in, or out, of the area tomorrow but we are surely intrigued to find out!


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