Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday, July 30

It was quite a nice day on the ocean today.  Blue skies and clam winds were a perfect combination and despite a small fog bank that we encountered for a short time in the morning, the weather remained that way throughout the whole day.

Our morning was filled with several Minke whale sightings.  These whales were slightly sporadic with their movement, but we were able to get great look at a couple of them as they started to settle on some food for a mid morning meal.  We were also surprised to find a Blue Shark as well and the kids onboard were certainly impressed by its size.

On our way home, we made a quick stop at Boon Island and were able to see several grey and harbor seals resting on the rocks.  We even found a baby harbor seal lounging on a log and taking a break from all that swimming.

Our afternoon was very similar in sightings, except instead of a blue shark and seals, we were treated to a great pod of harbor porpoise.  Harbor porpoise are among the smallest of whales species that we see in our study area in the Gulf of Maine reaching lengths of 3-4 feet long.  They are also sometimes elusive around boats and therefore can be difficult to track.  Today was quite different, where we were able to spend quality time with them and get some great looks as well.  

Before heading home we stopped to pick up a few pieces of marine debris in the water.  Even though we cannot possibly pick up every piece of marine debris that we see while on the ocean, we do try to pick up large aggregations of balloons or single large ones that we may see, especially if they are in an area where we are watching whales.  Often times marine life will mistake balloons for food along the water's surface and eating these items can prove to be life threatening where they can become lodged in their digestive tract.  I found it ironic that one of the balloons we picked up was of a fish.  Please remember to place any and all trash in the proper place and dispose of balloons appropriately. It could truly save a life.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday July 28

We spent time watching 5 Minke whales and even a quick look at a blue shark during our morning trip today. 
First Minke whale of the day

A different Minke whale at the surface
Most of the whales we saw were spending a bit of time underneath the surface of the water but were mostly staying put, swimming in circles, allowing for some great looks at these marine mammals once they were in eyesight.
Another Minke whale swims past the boat
Having the opportunity to see these animals allows us to help track their movements as these whales tend to have very uniquely shaped dorsal fins thus being able to be distinguished from one another. Check out a sampling of the whales we spotted this morning (below) to see just how different their fins are compared with one another!

This afternoon we were unfortunately overtaken by Mother Nature. Fog rolled in once we got out to where we had seen our Minke whales from the morning. The leftover chop from the wind and swells of the morning were causing quite the "washing machine" feeling to many on board as we searched for whale activity in the ever-moving extra motions of the ocean this afternoon. Even with a few other whale watching boats in the area who were also out searching we were all having difficultly finding whales. Alas we ran out of time, had to end our searching efforts, and head home without finding any whales. We do hope to see all of our passengers again in the future for hopefully a much more whale-full day of whale watching!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday July 27

The good news of the morning...there was sunshine! Rain was nowhere in sight and with the wind finally calming down, we were able to head out to Jeffreys Ledge this morning. The not so good news...where were the whales? Both ourselves and our friends on the Captain's Lady 3 were out in search of whales this morning. Knowing that none of us had been out on the water in a couple of days meant we were out on a scouting mission to explore as many areas of Jeffreys Ledge as possible between our two boats giving us greater chances of finding whale activity. Keep in mind even though whales are large mammals the ocean they reside in is a whole lot larger so the more people out looking most definitely helps to maximize the searching efforts!  Well we looked, and looked, and looked some more. We had stopped in an area in the morning as many of our passengers were adamantly pointing close by. A whale! Unfortunately, this Minke whale wanted nothing to do with us. It surfaced only a couple of times and after a while we cut our losses and continued on.  However, we were coming up short everywhere else we were traveling. There were just no signs of whales. We decided our best bet was to head back to the area where we had seen the Minke whale hours ago and hope it was spending more time on the surface so that all of our passengers could get a chance to see a wild whale. Once back in the area we slowed down and took a really, really, really good look around. All was quiet. We were almost out of time when out of nowhere we saw a spout! A Fin whale was at the surface, and not far away at all! Where had this whale been only hours ago when we had stopped and looked around this area earlier? Where had it been as we eased our way into the area in the slight hope we might re-find our Minke whale from just minutes earlier? While we cannot answer these questions (only the whale knows) we were elated to have a whale in our midst. Not only did it turn out to be a familiar fin, we got some absolutely incredible looks at this whale as it swam right next to us multiple times! Dingle the Fin whale was back in the area!
Dingle's white lower jaw can be seen as this whale swims at the surface to get some air

Dingle's dorsal fin and part of its body
We last saw this particular whale July 6! Three weeks later it surprises us by being only 13 miles from home! What a great turn of events as our morning trip ended in a wonderful success.

This afternoon we were off again to where Dingle had been from the morning trip. This time however it was not Dingle we watched. Another Fin whale had come into the area. It was another familiar Fin whale. Comet was spending time in the area as well! 
We got some incredible looks at this whale too as Comet spent a good amount of time on the ocean's surface when it came up for some breaths of air. 
This is not even all of Comet's body at the surface; what a large whale!
Due in part to Comet's maneuvering in the water, and probably a bit to do with the swell, we were fortunate enough to catch a few looks at a Fin whale's tail! 
Check out the back part of Comet's body all the way down to this whale's tail seen just above the waterline!

Comet once again bringing her tail to the ocean's surface; an incredibly rare treat to see from a Fin whale!

Comet's tail broke the surface a few times as it could be seen just above the waterline as this large whale moved around the ocean. Incredible.

One again Jeffreys Ledge held us in suspense as the whales seem to appear, and sometimes disappear, just as quickly this season! We'll be back out expecting the unexpected tomorrow!

Fin whales certainly are large, amazing, graceful mammals, like Dingle seen here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday July 24

Minke whales were most definitely out and about today as we spotted 7 Minke whales this morning and 9 this afternoon! 
First Minke whale of the day

This Minke whale's dorsal fin is definitely unique due to some interesting indentations seen on this whale's fin from our morning trip.
Along with all of these whales sighted today we also had a few extra stops on marine life this morning. We were fortunate to find a small group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins during our travels to Jeffreys Ledge today. 
Dolphins swimming in towards us
This group of 10-12 whales were being so mellow we were able to get some incredible looks as they would swim in towards the boat, circle around, and mosey around the area with minimal speed. There were even a few mother/calf pairs with some super tiny young ones in the mix! Our last sighting of Atlantic white-sided dolphins was on July 6 so it was definitely a special treat to once again get a chance to spend time with these toothed whales. 
Atlantic white-sided dolphins (above and below)
Not soon after our dolphins we also found another creature-feature in our area. An Ocean sunfish was at the surface. 
Ocean sunfish

This fish swam full circle around the boat giving all of our passengers some nice looks at this large bony fish. 
Dolphins weren't the only types of marine life swimming around the boat. This Ocean sunfish also spent time circling us!
Before heading back home we were lucky enough to find one more species spending time on Jeffreys Ledge this morning. A humpback whale suddenly made itself known off of our starboard side. Low and behold, guess who it was??? Pinball was apparently on the move as this whale, in which we had just seen on Monday morning, was miles and miles from her last sighting. Whales are constantly searching for large amounts of food so it is quite normal to see the same animal in different locations. The major questions always ends up being when do they decide to move and what direction do they decide to swim? That is something only a whale can answer, all we can do is attempt to predict/guess some of these answers. What a lucky sighting of one of the familiar individuals seen this year.
Incoming Pinball!

Pinball's large tail as she dives next to us
This afternoon we once again stopped, watched, and sometimes even passed a few Minke whales as they kept showing up! A total of 9 of these whales were seen throughout out travels this afternoon getting some great looks at so many whales. 
Minke whale beyond the Isles of Shoals

Another Minke whale
We then headed a bit further offshore in attempts to relocate Pinball from our morning travels. Our luck paid off, not a moment too late, for just as we turned for home one of our crew members saw a spout! Pinball was still around as she was actually 6 miles away from where we had left her this morning! 
Luck, a bit of predictions as to her movements, and a lot of hope helped us search as much as possible in order to find this whale once again this afternoon. What a nice way to end our day with some more looks at this adult female Humpback whale. 
Deeper dive for Pinball
Thanks to all the whales, and all of our passengers, for searching and enjoying today's sightings as much as we did.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday July 21

This season has shown time and time again that whales are unpredictable. They appear they disappear. They show up in one place and in no time suddenly are found miles away from their previous known location. Whales move and as they do so we attempt to predict their movements and check out areas of Jeffreys Ledge that might be conducive to a whale that can easily eat a million calories a day! Today showcased the sometimes random/chaotic/unknown agendas these wild whales have.

This morning we began our trip with a Minke whale just beyond the Isles of Shoals. After only a couple of looks at this whale a spout was sighted not far away. A Fin whales was only 8 miles from Rye Harbor! It didn't take long to realize who this whale was. It was a whale we've been seeing multiple times this season...Comet! While she was charging around the area, constantly changing directions, we got some amazing looks at this large female as multiple times she would surface right next to us and swim alongside us during her entire time at the surface! Wow.
Comet surfacing right next to the boat!

What a Fin whale looks like when it surfaces right next to the pulpit! Believe me, there were a lot of surprise reactions from some of our passengers at the front part of the boat...Awesome.
We did some exploring after leaving Comet to continue on with her day but turns out she ended up heading our way. While spending time a bit further offshore Comet once again surfaced close by allowing for yet another look at one of the second largest animals ever to roam the earth!
Comet swimming along off the coast of Maine

Hello again Comet!
This afternoon we had all intentions of spending time with Comet, except for one thing. She disappeared! In a matter of hours, and multiple whale watching boats looking for her, no one could find her. Maybe she swam on out of the area, maybe she was heading towards other areas of Jeffreys Ledge, only Comet knew her actual travel plans. After learning this news we went for our next best option: head to where we had seen whales most recently. In this case it was going to be quite further offshore. It was a plan as good as any...head to where we had seen Pinball a few days ago. Last time we were there (yesterday morning) we came up short. We found no whales and traveled lots of miles. We knew it was a gamble to take. And yet we figured now was as good as time as any. Sometimes our adventures to areas less traveled turn up short since we are in pursuit of wild animals but today our gut instincts were right. We ended up finding multiple Minke whales and 2 Humpback whales. Pinball, another frequent visitor to Jeffreys Ledge, was still around. 
Pinball swimming just off our starboard side

Pinball's tail
This whale was making a few bubble clouds and even leaving some brown defecation (yep, whale poop!) at the surface. What made things even more exciting was that as we spent time watching Pinball suddenly another whale surfaced out in the distance. Soon Pinball and this other whale were almost next to each other. Who was this mystery Humpback whale? As we saw this whale raise its tail and go on a deeper dive we quickly knew a new visitor was on Jeffreys Ledge. Sword was swimming along with Pinball! What a surprise.
Even without seeing this whale's entire tail there are enough markings to recognize this whale as being Sword the Humpback whale!

Unbeknown to my knowledge three whales were captured in this photograph. Two Humpback whales and a Minke whale can be depicted (and are so labeled) only after looking through the day's photos once back on land.
Even though some whales can weigh 20+ tons it is incredible to see them effortlessly move through the water which can cause them to sometimes appear, or disappear, just as quickly. Who knows what tomorrow will bring but once again it was a pleasure showcasing to our passengers the amazingness wildlife has to offer on Jeffreys Ledge.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday July 20

We were eager to head out to Jeffreys Ledge this morning knowing we had had such good luck with whales the previous afternoon offshore. Little did we know we were in for a bit of a surprise. A good swell, random wind pockets, and some big-time haze welcomed us as we got out to Jeffreys this morning. We searched, and searched, and searched as much as time would allow. Unfortunately we came up empty-handed as far as any offshore whale sightings went. The worst part was, after travelling all that way this morning and dealing with the unexpected conditions offshore all of us were still incredibly confident something was out there. Perhaps it is our eternal optimism, or maybe we have spent too much time inhaling the ocean air, but there was a moment where we actually stopped and contemplated going back offshore this afternoon to search and search some more. What stopped us? The random clouds that looked to be looming over land. So instead we opted for a different plan and started inshore where we had seen a Minke whale this morning.
Minke whale from our morning trip
During our travels to that area this afternoon we actually ended up stopping short for a different Minke whale was even more inshore. As we attempted to keep up with this whale's ever changing directions we realized there were actually 2 Minke whales in the area. 
One of our afternoon Minke whales not at all affected by the rain falling from the sky
We ended up staying in this area for a bit because a good storm cloud was passing to our south. Since we were right on the edge of this cloud we just all ended up a good fresh water rinse which really wasn't all that bad considering the hot temperatures we had just left back on land.
Summer storm cloud passing south of us
After the cloud passed we were left with sunny skies and super calm ocean conditions. How nice! We ended up seeing 4 Minke whales in total this afternoon.
Calms seas helped to get some great looks at this Minke whale this afternoon
Many thanks to all of our eagle-eyed passengers today who did a great job not only searching the ocean for signs of whale life but also spotting and re-spotting many of our Minke whales!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday July 19

This morning we were full of Minke whales as our travels brought us a total of 9 Minke whales over the course of the morning. Many of these whales were doing a good bit of circling around so much so a few decided it would be a good idea to swim right in towards the boat! 
First Minke whale of the day enjoyed surfacing right next to the pulpit!
These whales were being crazy! But no worries we would just shut off our engines and let these whales have the right of way (as always!) whichever direction they decided to swim towards next. 

Another incoming Minke whale!

Minke whale coming to the surface for a breath of air
By snapping photographs of these whales we were even able to determine, based on their dorsal fin shape, that we have seen a few of them already this season including some from a couple of weeks ago!
Check out the dorsal fins of all these Minke whale photographs and you can see they all have their own uniquely shaped fins and thus different individuals!

This afternoon we got reports of other whale activity in areas different from where we had travelled to during our morning trip. With the wind not extremely noticeable after leaving the harbor we decided to give it a go and do some searching. Our luck paid off as we were able to find two species of whales offshore. We were able to check out a Fin whale before heading over to an old friend. Our Fin whale, even though it swam on through the area, was a whale we were able to identify based on its dorsal fin shape. Fin whale #0813 was in the area! This is the first time we have seen this whale this season so we were thrilled to get a chance to see it swim on by.
Distant look at Fin whale #0813 swimming around
We then spent time with Pinball, who was once again back on the ledge. We saw her earlier this week but prior to that we haven't seen Pinball since June 29! 

Spout from Pinball as she surfaces for another breath of air (after this exhalation!)
Jeffreys Ledge once again proved to share some of the wildlife that calls this place a summer feeding ground with all of us today for another great day out on the open ocean.
Hello again Pinball