Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday June 30

Guess who we didn't see today. Pinball or Satula! After nearly an entire month of either Pinball or Satula being seen on the southern end of Jeffreys Ledge these whales reminded us that whales do move. Granted these two mammals have been spending plenty of time in our area whales can, and do(!), move from region to region searching for food. Whether these whales have moved on to other feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine or were just doing a really, really, REALLY good job at avoiding whale watching boats today (at one point today 5 boats, all at the same time, were in search of these mammals) we can only wait and see. Maybe they will return soon, maybe different whales will move in, maybe we will see both of them in completely different areas of the ledge; the only way to find out is to wait and keep looking. As we searched for these whales, and any others, during both of our trips today we were lucky enough to come across some Minke whales today.  All of the Minke whales we spent time with today were once again charging around. Not quite sure what is going on recently but our time spent with multiple Minke whales over the past week has been consistent with today's sightings. These whales were charging around full-force at the surface. They were creating crazy amounts of white water and lunging through the water almost resembling porpoising (similar to what dolphins can typically be seen doing at the surface) rather than what we typically see from these baleen whales which can be surfacing with minimal wave-action. Regardless of why, it was still fun to watch these whales dart through the water as they constantly changed directions both this morning and afternoon.

On a different note, please also help all marine life by disposing of your trash properly. We saw so many balloons floating out on the water today, both Mylar and latex made, which can be deadly to so many forms of life that call the ocean home. Remember that wind, streams, rivers, etc. can all carry so many things ultimately into the ocean. It doesn't matter where you live please let us all take responsibility and dispose of our human trash especially as graduation season continues in full swing and the 4th of July is right around the corner. Thank you!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday June 29

Today was quite the "exciting" ride. We knew there was a good chance the wind was going to blow it was just a question as to when it was going to start and how long it would be before we started to feel the affects. Turns out it made its appearance before we got to Jeffreys Ledge and brought a whole new element to the afternoon. The wind, tide, and increasing wave height brought smiles and laughs to some and the unfortunate queasiness to others. Luckily even with us feeling the affects of Mother Nature the whales aren't too deterred from such ocean surprises for we got the chance to spend time with Pinball once again today. 

Pinball at the surface
Wind, waves, and weather never seem to affect the daily activities of these watery mammals as Pinball continued to circle around the area, create multiple bubble clouds, and maneuver through the ocean with such ease.

Thanks to all our passengers who "rocked and rolled" with some of the ocean movements today and to Pinball for once again giving us some great looks at this 24-year old female.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday, June 25th

What a day! The skies were hazy as we left the dock this morning, but the warm temperature changed shortly after leaving the harbor. We started towards a Southern area of Jeffrey's Ledge in search of whales.  A little inshore of Thatcher's Island, we came upon several Minke whales and actually saw 7 different Minke's throughout this morning's trip. The first two that we started with were charging around in all directions after lots of bait located underneath the water's surface.

As we continued on our way further south, we spotted a blow from a larger whale and decided to check it out.  It tured out to be our old friend Satula.  This humpback whale has been spending quite a bit of time on Southern Jeffrey's Ledge and today was no different.  He continued to feed, using bubble clouds and also gave us quite the indication that he was a healthy feeding whale where we were witness to several instances of him defecating at the water's surface.  Whale poop always gets people laughing, but it is a good indication to us scientists that things are processing properly.

Notice the brown cloud right in front of Satula's tail...whale poop!

After spending time with Satula, we noticed a different whale about 2 miles away and decided to venture that way to see who may be there. Well, it tunrned out to be Pinball, a female humpback whale first sighted in 1989. She was busy feeding as well this morning and gave everyone great looks.

On our way home we spotted a few harbor porpoise, and it was a great way to end our morning trip.

We were looking forward to leaving the dock in the afternoon to beat the summer heat, and decided to start our afternoon in a place where we had had Minke whales on the way home and we were able to start our trip with one very cooperative Minke whale. This whale was circling around after bait and was taking very short dives. Right before leaving this whale, it exhaled close by and gave us all an indication of what it feeding on. That was one stinky Minke whale!

We continued on towards Southern Jeffrey's once again and were able to find both Pinball and Satula once again. This time we found Pinball first and I think at one point she decided to watch us instead. With this close approach you can see her "big wings" underneath the surface.

Pinball's showing her "big wings"

We found Satula about 2 miles away and I think this whale was full from all the food he consumed in the monring because he kept moving his body in a snaking motion in what seemed to be a way to help him digest his food. He also rolled to one side at one point and slapped his flipper along the surface as well.

Since we had just a little bit more time to spend in the area, we were going to try and find Pinball one more time when we found an adult Fin whale instead. This whale turned out to be #9709, an adult female. She was on quite the mission, charging through the water and travelling very quickly through the area.
#9709's chevron pattern

As we tunred for home, we were able to see Pinball one last time and it was such a nice way to end our day.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunday June 23

It was a very nice day on the water for we got the chance to see multiple species of whales today. We first spent some time with a Fin whale once we got to Jeffreys Ledge. This whale was on the move but only staying under the water for a few minutes at a time giving us the opportunity to get some nice looks at such a large animal. 
Fin whales are such massive animals!
Did you know Fin whales are the second largest animals in the world? Yep, they are. We were even fortunate enough to learn this whale is a familiar whale to us. It was #9709! This whale has been seen on Jeffreys Ledge in the past and to see her back in the area for another feeding season it like seeing an old friend return home. What a nice surprise.
Fin whale #9709

We then headed to where Satula had been reported to be. This whale was once again circling around and left a poop cloud at the surface almost eveyr time it went for a dive. Certainly seems like Satula is having a grand ol' time staying put and eating for this whale hasn't really moved from its location for days now! As long as the food is there looks like Satula sees no reason to leave for this whale continues to enjoy its whale-food buffet!


As we headed for home after spending some time with Satula we came across two Minke whales charging around. And boy were they charging! These whales were seen in the first place because one of the Minke whales basically porpoised out of the water! These two whales were maybe chasing food or perhaps charging around each other. Unfortunately we only see such a small snippet into the lives of whales for we only see what their behaviors are above the surface as we completely are left in the dark as to what any whale is doing under the water. Regardless, these two whales were great animals to spend some time with as they created so much white water each time they surfaced.

Nice looks at multiple species of whales certainly made for another nice day out on Jeffreys Ledge.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday June 22

This morning we decided to once again chance our luck and head to different areas of Jeffreys Ledge to check out if other whales were swimming around. On our trip out to the ledge we ended up seeing a total of 6 Minke whales. Half of these whales were swimming around on their own but we did have an area where we had 3 close by. They kept surfacing in all directions around the boat so no matter where you were a Minke whale could be seen! It's fun when you have the whales circling around you while you just sit there and watch.
One of the multiple Minke whales seen today!
Once we got to Jeffreys we searched and searched and searched some more. We were running out of time for any more exploration in the offshore waters and decided to start heading in the direction where Satula had been yesterday. Except we never got to Satula. Instead we found and watched another very familiar whale, Pinball! It has been almost a week since the last time we saw her and were very excited to see her circling around.
Pinball (above and below)

This afternoon we also got the chance to spend more time with Pinball. She was on the move for a while but then did a complete 180 and started swimming back towards from where she came from! Soon she started to circle about, created a few bubble clouds and got some great looks at her.  On the way home we had an extra surprise as we briefly saw a Basking shark. Though this shark (the second largest species of shark in the world!) wasn't at the surface for long everyone jumped to their feet to get a quick look at a shark's fin even for just a moment.

Welcome back to the area Pinball!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday June 21

During both our trips today we got a chance to see 2 Minke whales and Satula the Humpback whale. This morning Satula was being quite sporadic in its surfacings. This whale would come up in one place and then show up in a completely different direction the next time. 
Even though this whale was being a bit unpredictable we were even more surprised when this whale suddenly tail breached! What a cool sight to see the back half of a whale's body suddenly be launched into the air and smack back down on the ocean! It occurred so quickly and unexpectedly that a photo couldn't even be captured to show everyone. Instead it was an awesome sight to see with the naked eye and a surprise to us all.

This afternoon Satula was working some food in the area for not only was this whale constantly leaving brown clouds at the surface (more whale poop!) but was once again creating plenty of bubble clouds around the area. 
One of the many bubble clouds seen this afternoon as Satula takes a breath of air in the distance
A few time this whale even surfaced as it was filtering out lots of salt water through all those baleen plates in its mouth! Happy Solstice everyone!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday June 20

The wind was pretty much non-existent this morning, and for that matter just barely blowing this afternoon, providing another gorgeous day out on the water as we ventured towards Jeffreys Ledge today. This morning we had an unexpected surprise when we spotted a whale before even getting to Jeffreys Ledge. A Fin whale was moving around the area. A few time this whale even flicked its tail above the surface, probably beginning to roll on its side, as it made its way through the water today.
Dorsal fin (left) and tip of the tail (right) as this Fin whale moves through the water
Before leaving we even became aware as to who this was in the first place. Dingle the Fin whale was only miles from land!  This whale was first seen in 2003 and Blue Ocean Society affiliates have seen this whale almost every year since then here on Jeffreys Ledge! What a great way to start out the day with such a familiar fin so close to home.
Hello Dingle!

Close up of Dingle's dorsal fin
We next came across Satula the Humpback whale. Once again this whale was circling around the area, creating bubble clouds, and even a few more brown clouds at the surface for people to see. Whale poop is always fun to see at any time of the day!  
Satula and some brown defecation
After spending most of our time watching this whale with the engine shut as it circled around us giving us the chance to listen to this whale exhale AND inhale (a sound that is amazing to hear if the opportunity arises!) and getting some incredible looks we eased our way out of the area to continue searching for more marine life.
Satula with a bit of disturbance in the background. Satula's remnants of a bubble cloud was rising to the surface where this whale had just been at the surface minutes ago

Our next sighting wasn't a whale, but instead a fish. It was an Ocean sunfish. We got some really nice looks as this critter swam along at the surface. What perfect conditions for checking out such an interesting looking creature!
Hello Ocean sunfish!
Before getting home we also spent some time with a Minke whale on the move. What a nice variety of life to see out on the ledge this morning.
Minke whale

This afternoon we attempted to relocate Dingle but this whale appeared to have moved away from the area so we headed back towards where Satula had been this morning. On our way we ended up spending time with two Minke whales moving around. Both whales were swimming in big circles and showing up on either side of the boat for our passengers to see. 
One of the Minke whales spotted this afternoon
Satula wasn't too far away and seeing that the other whale watching boats had left the whale we decided to ease our way into the area and spend some time with this other species. Satula certainly did a great job giving everyone a good look at it. A few times this whale returned to the surface right next to the boat, surprising everyone for a moment! 
Satula alongside us

Once again we were lucky enough to sit there with our engines shut off watching Satula create more bubble clouds and swim circles around us.

Thanks to Satula for allowing for some incredible looks at this whale today as we sat floating on ocean watching in awe the ease in which these animals move through the water. And of course to all the other marine life seen today for it was another good day on Jeffreys Ledge indeed!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday June 19

This morning we spent some time watching Satula the Humpback whale. The wind and waves made for some extra excitement as both we and Satula maneuvered through the area. 
Satula swimming into the wind and waves!
With more boats coming in to check out this whale we went off to investigate a spout we had seen not far from Satula. Alas, the other whale we had spotted only minutes ago was no where to be found. Such a sneaky animal.

This afternoon we started with a Minke whale just beyond the Isles of Shoals. Since this whale spent most of its time changing directions it managed to surface all around the boat giving everyone some nice looks so early on in the trip.
Minke whale

We were then off to Jeffreys Ledge for more whales. We saw 3 Minke whales and 2 Ocean sunfish this afternoon. With the wind slacking off and changing directions we were fortunate enough to have absolutely gorgeous conditions out on the open ocean this afternoon. What a change from the morning! 
Minke whale at the surface with barely a breath of wind on Jeffreys Ledge
Our sightings this afternoon were busy circling around the boat allowing for some great views at both the mammals and some fish species that inhabit the Gulf of Maine.
The smaller of the two Ocean Sunfish seen today

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday June 17

The weather and the whales certainly did a great job shaking things up today. This morning we had beautiful conditions to go searching. We decided to take advantage of the great weather and head to areas of Jeffreys Ledge that provided us with whale sightings earlier this week, areas that haven't been explored by many boats recently. By going to areas less boats have been to the outcome can go either way. Sometimes we end up finding whales that no one else has seen and now know where other animals are spending time on Jeffreys Ledge. Sometimes these excursions do not turn out as well as we always hope. Today luck was not on our side. We searched, and searched, and searched some more. We did a round-trip voyage of 71 miles this morning and the whales wanted nothing to do with us! A total of 5 Minke whales were seen but each and every time we made our way into the area where we had seen these whales, they disappeared. The whales had no desire to get their picture taken by anyone this morning. We were on a wild goose chase literally! Well more like a wild whale chase but when you think about it that's what we do everything single day. So we did see some whales but boy were they being sneaky this morning!

This afternoon the sun was out but quickly disappeared. The wind would pick up for a bit, die off, and repeat as we decided to head to different regions of Jeffreys Ledge than from where we were this morning. Low and behold the first thing we saw were some splashes out in the distance. Dolphins were around! As we made our way towards the dolphins suddenly a blow appeared. There were dolphins and a whale ahead of us.  We ended up getting a few looks at a Fin whale as well as 8-10 Atlantic white-sided dolphins. The Fin whale was on the move and the dolphins were darting around everywhere but we managed some looks at both species before venturing further offshore.

We then got a chance to check out a Minke whale. This whale was also on the move, but moving in circles allowing for some great looks as it swam past the boat. 
Minke whale
Before we ran out of time another species was nearby. Satula the Humpback whale had returned to Jeffreys Ledge. We last saw this whale on May 19 this year. 
Satula was definitely doing some feeding for we even saw a few bubble clouds form as this whale circled around. What a completely different change from the morning. Luckily also we managed to sneak around the storms that popped up as the day went on and only dealt with some crazy wind shifts/gusts on our way home today!
Satula with its lack of dorsal fin surfaces while some storm clouds pass by us to the north

Thanks to all our passengers today who searched and spotted and searched some more as our travels took us to all different corners of Jeffreys Ledge today!
Ominous clouds out towards the east

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday June 15

We had two trips today both very different in their own ways. Perhaps the only similarity of the day was that we continued to see lots of Minke whales throughout our travels to and from Jeffreys Ledge today. This morning we spotted 7 Minke whales and this afternoon we saw 6 Minke whales during our whale watches. 
One of the 13 Minke whales we saw throughout the course of our trips today!

Check out these Minke mittens! This Minke whale swam right towards us allowing for a great view of the white patches all Minke whales possess on their flippers!
This morning we also spent some time with Pinball the Humpback whale. She would travel for a bit before stopping, circling around the area, eating some food, and then continuing on in search of more food! We also saw a handful of bubble clouds created by Pinball which is a technique used by Humpback whales to help gather more fish food. 
Bubbles reaching the surface. By creating bubbles under a school of fish a whale can corral those fish into a tighter group allowing for a greater chance of more fish in each mouthful.
We even had an extra surprise seen at the surface thanks to Pinball this morning. Some whale poop! Brown clouds formed behind Pinball a few times which always tends to get a few chuckles from our passengers when we are lucky enough to point out such a "sighting."
There is a small patch of brown dissipating on the surface. Guess what? It's whale defecation from Pinball!

On our way home this morning we even got a few looks at an Ocean sunfish. Perhaps even this fish was happy the sun was finally shining!

This afternoon we decided to head in the complete opposite direction from where we went during our morning travels. We knew there was a good chance Pinball would still be in the same area but we also knew there were a lot of other whale watching boats from Boston, MA up to our neck of the woods planning on heading out this afternoon. With so many boats coming and going all day long we knew if Pinball was still around she was going to have whale watching boat after whale watching boat near her all day long. In our gut we knew we couldn't add another vessel to Pinball's already boat-filled action surrounding her. Today was one of those days where we had to pause and realize for the best interest of the whale we should not venture towards this animal. Not only would there have been multiple boats on a single whale for the majority of time we were in the vicinity, she had pretty much had passenger vessels around her all day. Don't get us wrong (remember we spent time with this whale this morning) we just knew adding yet another boat into the mix of an already cluster of whale watching boats this afternoon was in our minds not fair or necessary. Granted no one knows how much any vessel, or vessels, can affect a whale (good or bad) but with such a nice day for searching opportunities we decided to try our luck and venture off on our own. Turns out Pinball isn't the only whale around.

We got a chance to spend time with 2 Fin whales this afternoon in addition to all the Minke whales we were seeing. Both of these Fin whales were on the move but with a bit of patience we were able to get some great looks. One of these whales has some very distinct scars on either side of its body but was being a bit more unpredictable with its surfacings so capturing some good photographs was a bit tricky. 
Light-colored linear marks can be seen just below the dorsal fin on this whale. Not sure who it is just yet but those scars will help to identify this whale if we have ever seen it on Jeffreys Ledge before!
The other whale in the area however was spending a bit more time on the surface. Turns out it was Streak. We had seen this whale on our second whale watch of the season this year way back on May 18. What a nice surprise to see this whale around again almost a month later! Streak was first seen in the Gulf of Maine in 1982 making this Fin whale at least 31 years old!

While we do try to show our passengers everything we can during our whale watches sometimes we need to remember that these wild animals need their space too. The ocean is plenty big enough for the whales and all of us to stretch our legs and tails.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday June 14

Happy Flag Day everyone! It looks like the weather is finally going to cooperate for us (at least for a couple days!) as today's weather set the stage for hopefully more of the same to come this weekend. Granted we had a bit of a swell but the combination of almost no wind and great visibility for miles and miles was once again providing ideal conditions for whale spotting. And spot whales we did. We ended up seeing 13 Minke whales, Pinball the Humpback whale, and a very quick look at an elusive Fin whale during today's trip.

We started the day off with Minke whales circling around. At one point we had 4 of these animals in one general area! 
One of the many Minke whales spotted today

Another Minke!
Did you know you can tell individual Minke whales apart from each other? Just like some of the other whale species in the Gulf of Maine you can help to individually identify Minke whales from one another based on the shape of their dorsal fins! 
Upon closer inspection of our Minke whale photographs you can see the shape of a Minke whale's dorsal fin is very unique. Small nicks and the overall shape can help distinguish one Minke whale from another. Check out the close-up view of two different Minke whales in the photos (above and below). Can you see the a difference?

This Minke whale has multiple nicks on its dorsal fin
After some nice looks at a handful of these whales we continued on towards Jeffreys Ledge. With a few more Minke whale sightings on our way out we had come across a different species. It was a Humpback whale. It was Pinball and she was all over the place. Darting here. Darting there and then back again. 
Pinball on the move
She was circling around, making a few bubble clouds and even pooped for us twice! Yep, we like to point out whale defecation to our passengers for it is something no one really expects to witness while watching whales! 
Can you pick out brown color seen at the base of Pinball's tail in the water? That's whale poop!
Before heading home we also attempted to get a look at one more kind of whale. There was a Fin whale out in the distance. Unfortunately after a few breaths at the surface this whale dove and disappeared. We searched and searched the horizon but had no luck relocating it. Then again since all whales are wild animals they always have the upper hand as they know exactly where they are going and how fast they are going to get there. All we can do is see what they do!

It was a very nice day out on the water and we look forward to this weekend as always we can only hope the weather and the whales continue!

A "rainbow blow" from Pinball