Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday August 31

We were fortunate enough to see 6 Minke whales on each of our trips today. Some whales were being a bit more cooperative than others but that can be very much expected for we go looking for wildlife (not tame or trained life). 
One of our Minke whales from this morning (above and below)

With a handful of our whales spending more time on the surface than others we were able to get some very nice looks at these mammals.
A few of our afternoon Minke whales (above and below)
We were also lucky enough to catch a few looks at a couple of other marine creatures roaming around Jeffreys Ledge today. This morning we came across a lone Atlantic white-sided dolphin. It is pretty uncommon to see this type of toothed-whale swimming along on its own. They need to swim in groups for one because they work together to help corral food they are chasing after which allows them to ultimately catch their prey. 
Getting some really good looks at a single dolphin this morning
Not only was this whale by itself it was also behaving oddly. Each time it surfaced it would spy-hop. This behavior involves bring the majority of a whale's head vertically above the waterline basically as a way to almost check out the world above the ocean. While we occasionally see this behavior from whales to see it occur every time this whale surfaced was very strange. We did not see anything visibly wrong with this animal (no line noted anywhere we could see on this whale's body or any visible injuries) so we can only hope this whale eventually met back up with a pod after leaving the area.  
Thinking good thoughts that this whale eventually met up with some other dolphin friends!
This afternoon we had an unexpected visitor to the area while we were watching one of our many Minke whales. A harbor seal surfaced close by and did not seem to be fazed by us in the least! 
Harbor seal looking at us looking at it!
It rested for a little before looking over at us, proceeded to swim around for a bit, and eventually disappeared from the ocean's surface. While we were a bit further offshore than what is typically an area to spot seals, they occasional venture further offshore before ultimately turning around and heading back towards land/islands. 
Seal swimming on through the waves
Some nice looks at all of our whales and a few extra surprises made for another successful journey to Jeffreys Ledge today!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday August 30

What a beautiful day today. The sun was shining, the winds from yesterday (which had kept us on land) had completely subsided, and the lack of humidity made for some perfect conditions to spend time out on the boat. We ended up seeing 6 Minke whales during our trip today including four in one area! 
Our first whale of the day swims right alongside the boat!
Many of the whales we spent time with today were maneuvering around such a concentrated area we didn't even know how many whales were around us! 

One of the many great looks at the Minke whales seen today
The whales would pop up and surface so close to us that we ended up starting with two Minke whales which later became three, and ultimately four (thanks to photographing these whales dorsal fins; each being uniquely shaped) as we spent time out in the Gulf of Maine today. Take a look at the following pictures to see how each Minke whale can have such differently shaped dorsal fins:

We were fortunate enough to get some incredible looks at so many of our whales while they swam just past the boat on multiple occasions. 
Another Minke whale swimming so close to us (the boat was shut down as we always give the whales the right of way when we are out on the water!)
A few times we could even track a couple of the whales' movements as they swam just below the surface allowing for us to keep an eye on their "Minke mittens" a few feet below the waterline.
A Minke whale surfacing with its snout breaking the surface first and a great look at its mittens (the light patch seen in the center of the photo; a white band found on the flipper of all Minke whales)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday August 28

There was no getting around it today. There was fog EVERYWHERE. In the harbor, out on the open ocean, and waiting for us as we returned; the fog was out in full-force. And even in all the fog we dealt with throughout the day we still not only saw whales but got some great looks at those animals. We ended up in an area where there were 2 Minke whales (possibly 3 but unfortunately we were not able to photo-document a third one) scooting all around. 
 Minke whale #1 of the day

Minke whale #2 (note the differently shaped dorsal fin of this whale compared to our other Minke whale of the day)
The whales were constantly changing direction that it took us a few minutes for us to even to realize just how many whales we had around. Since our whales were moving around so much (and not far, just in different directions) we were able to get some great looks as the whales swam alongside us, in front of us, and back behind us, allowing for all of us to check out these "piked whales." 
Minke whale swimming right past the boat
Sometimes even with weather conditions making finding whales a bit more tricky, the whales have their own way of providing such a memorable experience as they moved through the water this afternoon,
Minke whale swimming right in towards the boat

Our fish finder as we spent time in the area with our Minke whales. This split screen of the ocean just below us showcases a huge patch of food (condensed patch of color ranging from 100ft-200ft) in the ~200ft of ocean we are floating over. Probably some of the exact same food our Minke whales were going after!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday, August 27

Today's weather was fabulous and it looks like the nice weather is around to stay for awhile.  I cannot believe that Labor Day is right around the corner.  Today's journey started past the Isles of Shoals with 2 different minke whales, and one stayed close by and gave us great looks along both sides of the boat. It was such a nice way to start our trip.

A short while after leaving these 2 minke whales, we passed by a couple of harbor seals and a small pod of harbor porpoise on our way to Jeffrey's Ledge.  We had a couple of other whale watch boats out with us today and only one of the other boats had any luck finding whales, so we decided in the interest of time that we would travel to the Ledge and if necessary go all the way to the backside of the ledge to search for more whales and potential other species.  During our continued travel offshore we came across a few other minke whales

In total, our farthest point from Rye in search of other whale species was over 33 miles and even though we thought we may come up short, it was such a beautiful day that we all didn't mind spending a little extra time out on the water.  Before we ran out of time for searching offshore we came across an Ocean Sunfish.  This sunfish decided to hang out by the stern of our boat for a little while, but I was able to get a few photos as it coasted along the right side before doing so.

We unfortunately ran out of time looking for other whale species and headed for home.  On our travels back to Rye, we came across a larger whale that was traveling through the area and were only able to see it for one surfacing before it disappeared under the water and we unfortunately were not able to relocate it.  We are however about 99% sure that it may have been a rare sighting of a Sei whale!  If so, this is the first Sei whale sighting of the year!  How exciting is this news!!  
We continued on home once again and we were able to see another sunfish and another minke whale before getting back to the dock.  With such great conditions and lots of activity still around we are looking forward to what tomorrow may bring.  A big thank you to all who joined us...2-legged and 4-legged alike!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday, August 25

What a beautiful day on the water today. The weather held all day with blue skies and perfectly calm seas. The excellent sighting conditions allowed us to spend some quality time with some minke whales both in the morning and the afternoon.

This minke whale has some serious scarring.
 It is easy to see from the dorsal fins of these animals that we saw a variety of different animals. In fact, the animals seemed almost totally different in the afternoon from the morning. Dorsal fins are one of the main ways, we can identify individual minke whales.

This minke whale has a distinctively different dorsal fin.

Another way we can tell animals apart is from any scars on the body both natural markings and unnatural markings. You can see above, one of our minke whales totally had a large unnatural scar on its body. We suspect that this scar is from a serious interaction with a boat this whale experienced earlier in its life. We have pictures of this whale from as early as 1995 on the Granite State and at that point it had already acquired this scar. Since then, this whale has been sighted many times, so it seems like it has been able to survive well despite what must have been a serious injury more than 18 years ago.

What a cookie cutter of marks on this fin whales dorsal fin.
We also spotted a large slowly moving fin whale this morning. You can see this whale also has a unique dorsal fin. We believe it is a whale first seen in the area in the early 90s as well.

A morning minke whale sliding through the glassy water.
 We were reminded once again of how easily even the largest whales can disappear when we did not relocate the fin whale in the afternoon. Either the way used its great speed to move out of the area, or it was using its massive lung capacity to stay underwater for deep dives while we passed through. Nevertheless, we were rewarded with excellent sightings in the afternoon in addition to some great looks at about 3 minke whales apparently feeding in a small area. Out towards Jeffreys Ledge we spotted an Ocean Sunfish, one of the largest boney fishes in the world! This animal was just coasting slowly at the surface under the sun, living up to its name.

The wind picked up a tiny bit at the very end of the day giving these dolphins a chance to show off their expert swimming skills.

Can you see a tiny dolphin blow?

On our way back in on the afternoon trip we were also lucky enough to run into a fairly large pod of Atlantic White Sided Dolphins. This pod was really a treat to watch with several extremely small whales in the group which we presume were calves. These animals were making their way steadily south the whole time we watched, but did not seem disturbed by our presence and allowed us to get some excellent looks at them as they cruised effortlessly through the water.

A morning minke.

An afternoon minke.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tuesday, August 20

As we left the harbor, we actually saw a harbor seal and a few harbor porpoise on our way to the Isles of Shoals.  Soon after passing the Islands, we came upon our first whale of the day, a Minke whale.  As we stopped to try and get some looks at our first whale, we noticed that this whale was not surfacing in a normal fashion.  Minke whales are known as the "little piked whales," because their pointed snout will usually break the surface completely before arching to take a breath and this whale was not surfacing that way.  In fact, we could never really see in front of the whale's blowholes real well and that concerned us.  A few days ago, our associates from the Atlantic Queen II had spotted an entangled minke whale that had yellow line going across it's rostrum (top part of whales mouth in front of the blowholes).  They however never saw any trailing line.  We started wondering if this was the same whale that they had had just a few days earlier.  It would only surface for 2 breaths at a time and wouldn't surface normally.  We informed all our passengers on board about the situation at hand and that we needed to try and get as much documentation on this whale as possible.  We matched photographs of this whale's dorsal fin with photos from the whale seen on saturday and we were 99% sure that it was the same whale.  After close to 45 minutes of following this whale and by photographing it as much as possible, it was determined that this whale appeared to be gear free. How this whale was able to free itself, no one knows, but there was no further evidence of line around the mouth or any trailing line noticed during our time watching it.  There may be a small indentation in the top of the whales mouth, but that is still unclear.   The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) are in charge of disentangling any whales in the NE and we were able to get in contact with them regarding this whale.  We were happy to know that this whale did not appear to have any gear on its body, but it is important to still document its current and future condition.  The whale's skin color was lighter than it should be, which can be a sign of illness, but it still has a great chance of surviving the unfortunate human interaction like a fish gear entanglement.  We will certainly be on the lookout for this whale on future whale watches and will try to keep everyone posted on its progress if seen again.

Throughout the remainder of the morning we were able to see 10 different Minke whales, 2 pods of harbor porpoise and even a blue shark during our travels.

Before heading home, we stopped at Boon Island and saw a few Harbor seals along with a large colony of Gray seals simply basking in the sun and taking a break from a mid morning meal.

In the afternoon, we decided to stop at Boon Island first to see if the seals were still around and were they ever!  The majority were gray seals and they were really enjoying the sun and we were able to get great views!

Once we left Boon Island, we travelled about 2-3 miles and saw our first whale of the afternoon, a Minke whale.  Well it didn't take long to realize that we didn't have 1 or 2 whales with us, we had 5 minke whales circling around the boat and no matter where you looked there was a whale.  They were all taking relatively short dives and spending a great deal of time at the surface.  With close approaches by several of them, it was such a nice way to spend the afternoon.

We then got word of different whale activity about 10 miles from our location with all the Minke whales that we had and since there was the potential of seeing a different species and we had time to explore, we figured we would give it a shot.  As we got closer and closer to the other area, we were not having any luck relocating the activity that had been there not long ago.  When searching for wild animals, there is never a guarantee of what one light find and we started running short on time.

As we turned for home, we found another minke whale to spend time with and when we stopped, our eagle-eyed captain spotted lots of splashing about a mile away from where we were.  We had dolphins in the area and that was the exact sighting we had been looking for earlier in the afternoon.  There was a pod of about 30-40 Atlantic white-sided dolphins swimming all around us and it was a great way to end the trip and our day as a whole.  A big thank you to all our passengers who joined us today, and a special thank you to our morning crowd for your patience and assistance with keeping track or our once entangled minke whale.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday August 17

The weather was ideal and the whales were incredible today. Both of our trips took us to some offshore areas around Jeffreys Ledge but our gambles of taking such a journey paid off as we watched some great behaviors from all the whales we spotted today. This morning we came across 7 Fin whales. Most of these whales were maneuvering around close to one another giving us the opportunity to watch multiple whales in such close proximity to each other.
One of the second largest animals in the world... a Fin whale!
These whales were circling around and even surfaced a few times with mouths full of water and food filtering out all that sea water! It was great as we sat there watching all these mammals on the move. Our most surprising sight of the morning was when one of our Fin whales, which was swimming alongside the boat, went to go on a deeper dive and fluked! This whale brought its tail (and thus all of its tail stock!) right out of the water! 
A Fin whale fluking!
Seeing a Fin whale raise its tail is extremely rare so seeing this sight was completely unexpected and extremely impressive!
The tail of a Fin whale!!!
On our travels home we also passed by an Ocean sunfish and a Minke whale as we made our way back to the mainland.

This afternoon we figured we'd press our luck again and head to where we had so much activity from the morning. Once again we lucked out as there was still plenty of life to look at! Before even getting to all the Fin whales we spent time with a group of 100 Atlantic white-sided dolphins.

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

Dolphin dorsal fins
With some nice looks at these toothed-whales we were back underway. Our next stop turned out to be our fluking Fin whale from this morning! As opposed to when we watched this whale this morning (when it only raised its tail twice while watching it) this afternoon it fluked every time it went on a deeper dive!
Seeing a fluking Fin whale once is amazing. Seeing it on both of our trips is incredible!

Fin whale tail!
It was just incredible to watch this behavior from one of the second largest animals on earth! While spending time with this whale we spotted more spouts out in the distance so we decided to venture in that direction. We ended up in an area where a few more Fin whales were circling around. 
Two Fin whales at the surface swimming in different directions

The tip of a tail from one Fin whale (left) and the dorsal fin of another Fin whale (right)
Lots of filtering was occurring as these whales would surface with their lower jaws completely bellowed outward causing a massive green sheen to be seen below the surface.
Fin whale filtering out lots of salt water

Another filtering Fin whale!
A few looks at these whales and we were off to one more area. Out in the distance we were seeing whales converging on a particular area. Two, three, four, wait... at least 7 Fin whales had suddenly moved into the same concentrated area!
Filtering Fin whale while another whale spouts out in the distance!

Fin whale spout while this animal filters out water trapping lots of food inside its mouth!

We stopped and watched as whales surfaced all around us, filtering towards us, swimming underneath us, and circling all around! Check out these photos below as two filtering Fin whales swam in towards the boat and underneath us over to the other side(!!!):

There were even a few more Fin whales on the outskirts of this specific spot. With so many whales around you didn't know where to look.
Two Fin whales on the move
Seeing one Fin whale is impressive but seeing so many maneuvering around each other in such a tight knit area, all probably chowing down, is unreal. 
Three of the many Fin whales surrounding us!
One Fin whale lunged through the water, and they all constantly changed directions producing quite the orchestrated event. Words can't even described how crazy it was to see so many 60+ft long, 60+ton, whales do this. In total we ended up seeing at least 15 Fin whales this afternoon!
A Fin whale "rain-blow" as we eased our way out of the area and back towards home

On our travels back home we also ended up passing by a Blue shark, a Minke whale, and multiple pods of Atlantic white-sided dolphins (totaling ~200 in 4 pods/groups for the trip). What a day and what a memory.