Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday September 9

Perhaps the only similarity between our two trips was the fact that we had "Grand Slams" during both our offshore adventures yesterday.  Though we saw at least 4 species of whales during each trip the species of whales couldn't have been more different.  Once again Jeffreys Ledge proved to be full of life AND variety!

Our morning trip ended up including sightings of four kinds of baleen whales!  Typically if we are lucky enough to spot 4 types of whales in one trip it usually ends up being mostly baleen whales (Minke whale, Fin whales, and Humpback whales) as well as the toothed-whale variety of the area; Atlantic white-sided dolphins.  Well this morning it was a very unexpected species that completed the 4 types of whales for the trip and even that didn't occur until during our travels home.  The day began with a quick look at a Minke whale before heading towards Jeffreys Ledge and coming across a single Humpback whale.  It was Patches!  This whale continues to be spending time on the ledge and was moving ever so slowly around this morning.  With minimal travel movements we were able to get some great looks at this particular whale. 

As we spent time with Patches we had an unexpected visitor swim by.  Fin whale #9709 suddenly surfaced just beyond Patches, swam in front of the boat, and dove down just off our port side!  What a great look at another species just going about its daily activities.  It was also a great size comparison to witness a full grown Humpback whale (a medium-sized whale species) to that of a Fin whale which is one of the second largest animals on the planet! 
Fin whale #9709 moving through the area!

We spent a bit more time with Patches awaiting to see if our Fin whale would circle around the area, which it most definitely didn't, before continuing on our way.  Soon we saw another Humpback whale which was in fact a mother and her calf.  Tornado and calf were meandering around as well.  The calf spent much of its time on the surface while Tornado continued to move around further down in the ocean column.
Tornado off on a deeper dive while her calf remains at the surface

Before leaving this pair we did get a chance to see the calf grab a quick morning snack from mom as it began alternating surfacing on either side of mom; an indication that nursing was most likely occurring.  Before we were out of time we also got the chance to see another pair of Humpback whales.  This time it was two adults moving around together.  Tectonic and Nile were also out on the ledge this morning.  What a nice way to get some last looks at whales before turning for home.  Little did we know we had one more surprise before getting back to Rye Harbor.
Tectonic's dorsal fin (above) and Nile's tail (below)

Every now and then we come across whales during our travels home for many times we are traveling through areas we have not yet been through.  Such was the case today but no one was expecting the species that surfaced in the area.  A highly endangered Right whale suddenly surfaced from the depths of the ocean as we moved through the area.  The tell-tale sign, a v-shaped spout, meant a very endangered whale was in the vicinity.  Being such a low-profile species and swimming almost directly away from us made it quite tricky for our passengers to see much other than that distinct spout out in the distance.  As regulations require boats of all shapes and sizes need to remain a certain distance from this type of whale so with our rare species on the move away from us we were clear to continue on home.  Just being in the presence of such a rare animal is incredible even though I know many people could barely even make out what was moving along out in the distance.  The whales once again provided quite the experience for all on board this morning.

With such a unique morning cruise we were all interested to see what Jeffreys Ledge had in store for us this afternoon.  Well the surprises continued in a completely different manor than from the morning.  For starters our first sighting was inshore of the Isles of Shoals.  Not even six miles from land we found ourselves watching a group of 100 Atlantic white-sided dolphins!
The sun was shining, the ocean was calm, and the dolphins were so close to land!
Our group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins inside of the Isles of Shoals (in the background)

This group was feeding as these were creating their own ripples in the water since they constantly were circling/turning/speeding around. 
The change in the ocean (all the extra ripples) are being caused by the pod of dolphins!

All the whales were in such a confined area that were were able to get some incredible looks at these toothed-whales just barely after begin the afternoon trip!
Dolphins surfacing for a breath of air
This dolphin certainly made a point to tail slap a few times

Once we were underway again we were hearing reports of more toothed-whales offshore.  But they weren't Atlantic white-sided dolphins.  Instead the reports were of a species about twice the size of the whales we had such been watching.  Pilot whales were out on the distant side of Jeffreys Ledge.  We have not gotten the chance to see Pilot whales at all this season and having a group of them in our region we knew it was an opportunity we could not pass up.  Two types of toothed-whales all of which had not been around only hours ago during our morning trip!  Wow.  It was another completely unexpected surprise.  We made our way to the area and ended up spending time with ~30 Pilot whales though twice as many were also further out in the distance.  These whales are so different looking than our typically, and still not common, sightings of white-sided dolphins.  All dark in color, large dorsal fins, and bulbous flat heads are all characteristics so unique to this whale species. 
Young Pilot whale face!
Large dorsal fin of a Pilot whale
One of the many Pilot whales moving around the area

Not every day we get the chance to see two types of toothed-whales but especially having these species providing the absolutely perfect conditions to shut off the engines and just float alongside these animals was just icing on the cake!  As these whales meandered around the area we sat bobbing up and down with the swells giving all of us the chance to not only enjoy seeing these whales but also hearing each little spout these whales were making.  Awesome, awesome, moments.

After all of our toothed-whale activities we knew it was time to investigate the larger visible spouts we were seeing from other whales in the area.  Fin whales and Humpback whales were plentiful.  It was almost a bit of whale chaos as we had to ease around the area as we figured out just how many whales were around and where in fact they were moving towards.  We got some incredible looks at a few of the Fin whales circling around the area before making our way towards a pair of whales. 
One of the many Fin whales in the area

The pair we were heading towards was another mother and calf Humpback whale pair.  However, this time it was not Tornado.  A new mom decided to make herself known to Jeffreys Ledge for the first time this season.  Welcome to the area Palette and her calf! 
Palette's tail as her calf takes a breath of air along side her

More spouts continued to be seen but we knew it was time to head back to the mainland.  Jeffreys Ledge certainly did a good job today reminding all of us that when it comes to wildlife anything is possible.

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