Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday, July 31

The sun was shining all day long as we went in search of whales today. This morning it did not take long to come across marine life. We initially saw our fin-less Minke whale but was unable to relocate it. Instead we found something else at the surface. It was an Ocean sunfish. We have only seen a few sunfish thus far this season so this sighting was a great way to start the day.
Ocean sunfish in super calm ocean conditions!
This fish was just moseying around and even swam right in towards us a few times as we watched it swim around us. We soon were off to go find some mammals and again it wasn't long before we came across a whale. We started with a very familiar whale. Comet continues to be nearby! This whale was circling around as we got some great looks at this whale so close to home.
Comet the Fin whale
We then checked out a Minke whale just offshore before finding a few other Fin whales.
Minke whale cruising around just off the coastline
Our Fin whales were darting around, alternating from circling and then traveling, and enjoyed watching how quickly these massive creatures can move through the water.
A Fin whale circling around inside of Isles of Shoals
This Fin whale has a very noticeable patch on its body; a very distinguishing characteristic of this whale
This afternoon we found ourselves back in the same area. And guess who we watched first? Comet again! Even though this whale was spending a bit more time below the surface of the water we got some fantastic looks as this whale swam alongside us multiple times.
Comet swimming by us!
We were soon underway to look for some other marine life. All in all we found 7 Fin whales during our travels. Some of these whales would show up and then quickly disappear. We would see spouts only a short distance away, make our way up to the area just to find ourselves unable to find the whales again. As a few of the whales were being a bit elusive we were able to check out a pair moving through the water together, one of which was Fjord(!), and another single before it was time to head for home. It was another nice day full of wildlife!
Fjord cruising through the area

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday, July 30

Just as whales can move in and out of an area in a short period of time the weather can and does(!) change just as easily. Today was one of those days. We left the harbor this morning with cloudy skies and calm waters. Soon we were spending some time with Comet the Fin whale. We got some fantastic looks at this whale as she was slowly maneuvering around.
Comet at the surface
Comet and her distinctive scars
We then pressed on as we saw some fog heading our way and wanted to explore the area with the great visibility we had for as long as possible. We did just that but only managed to remain out of the fog for so long. This wonderful thick, thick fog made finding whales quite challenging. We maneuvered around checking areas where whales have been seen recently. We were able to check out a few Harbor porpoise throughout our travels but were unable to find anything else. This afternoon we left the harbor in thick fog but it didn't take long until the fog finally began to dissipate and we were once again surrounded by calm seas and now clear skies!
The layer of fog we watched disappear as we left Rye Harbor this afternoon
In a matter of minutes we found whales. And that was just the beginning. We ended up seeing 5 Minke whales and 5 Fin whales during the afternoon.
Fin-less Minke whale inside the Isles of Shoals
Close-up look at this Minke whale with it's lack of dorsal fin and large scar. We are so thankful this whale survived it's incident of human activity and continues to be seen!
This Minke whale was so small in comparison to the other Minke whales we saw during our trip
So many of the same areas we had moved through in the morning (and found nothing) was now thriving with life!
Harbor porpoise with White Island in the background
Sometimes these whales move into an area, sometimes they are there but extremely elusive, and sometimes we just have no idea as all aspects of nature can be equally as unique. Lots of conditions are out of our control and instead we do all that we can to check out as much wildlife as possible on each one of our trips no matter what conditions may roll in or out during our travels.
Fin whale
A few of the Fin whales we saw included #9709, Dingle and Comet as we spent time so close to shore again.
Fin whale
We even saw a couple Fin whale just over 3 miles from Rye Harbor on our way home today!
Comet so close to home!
So close and so amazing how the ocean, and all of its conditions, can change in such a short period of time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday, July 29

The wind quieted down as the day went on and with whales close to land once again today we were able to get some great looks so close to home. This morning we first checked out a familiar whale, though it has not been seen by us for 12 days. It was #9709. This whale has spent the past month showing up, disappearing, and once again coming into our camera viewfinders. What a nice surprise to see this whale back again today. However, this whale was being a bit tricky to get good looks at this morning. It was darting all around in so many different directions, taking minimal breaths at the surface and was being a bit challenging. Our patience paid off though as we did manage to get a few nice looks.
Beautiful rainbow-blow!
Fin whale surfacing
We decided to venture towards Jeffreys Ledge to look for other activity but unfortunately did not come across anything while on our offshore adventures. As we headed for home we ended up seeing 3 Fin whales! In just a few short hours things had moved on in. We found #9709 again as well as newcomers Fjord and one of the other Fin whales circling around the area.
Fjord just off the coast!
This afternoon we first started with a Minke whale. This animal was spending only a few minutes under the water giving us some great opportunities to spend time watching this whale.
Minke whale
We then got a chance to spend time with 4 Fin whales! First it was Comet inside of Isles of Shoals. We got some great looks at this adult female before moving further down the coastline.
Comet coming to the surface
Next Fjord was spotted. We even got an incredible look as this whale surfaced right next to the boat! What huge animals Fin whales are!
Fjord surfacing right next to us!
Fjord's dorsal fin
Fjord continued to move along and so did we as soon we were once again checking out another whale spout. This time it was yet another familiar whale. Dingle!
Dingle so close to land!
While we do see many of these whales almost every season, it is not normal to see them all on the same day, during the same trip, all in the same area! We wrapped up our day with a final Fin whale, #9709. We even saw Dingle and #9709 pair up for just a brief period in time before once again separating in their own directions.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday, July 27

Our time today was spent with some of the second largest animals on the planet! This morning we got some great looks at Comet, Fjord and #1008. Each time we were stopped on a whale we would see another spout in the distance. One whale would lead to another whale and yet another one out in the distance.
Comet on the move this morning
Comet passing by us!
Seeing these three whales today as they continue to remain in the same area over the course of the past week is great as we continue to collect data and learn more about such massive and mysterious creatures.
Fin whale spout
This afternoon we continued to dodge a few rain showers and a bit more wind than our morning travels but that did not deter our passengers. We were once again spending time with Comet the Fin whale.

Perhaps Comet was taking advantage of the waves at the surface and tried to "surf" with part of her body. Probably not really the case at all but it was pretty cool to see so much of the back portion of her body move above the waterline
We got some great looks as this whale moved around before we decided to do some more searching. We next came across another Fin whale. While this whale has yet to get an identifying number associated with it, we know it is a whale we have seen in the past (earlier this season and even in past years) and was happy to see this whale back in the area.
This Fin whale was just barely coming above the waterline as it cruised around the area this afternoon
Before heading home we also spotted two other Fin whales close to the Isles of Shoals. Unfortunately once we stopped to check them out they completely disappeared. Whether they were doing a phenomenal job holding their breaths or had just moved to other regions of the area we may never know but we were unable to spot them again. Such is the case with wildlife. Whales are not on our schedules, they are on their own accord as we are always lucky to see even just one whale at any point in time in the vast ocean we go looking in.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday, July 26

We are really getting spoiled with all these whales so close to home!!  

This morning we started our trip with a harbor seal pup close to the boat, and then an ocean sunfish! This fish was one of the largest that we’ve seen- around 6-feet in diameter! It stayed up at the surface just long enough for us to maneuver to get some close looks. Ocean sunfish are the largest species of bony fish in the world!

Next, we found fin whale #1008 again! This whale has been in the area for several days now.  Some fin whales have names, but most just go by an ID number. Perhaps this whale will be given a name soon since it has been seen on a regular basis the past few years! #1008 was circling around a lot and even passed by us really closely several times! Sometimes we’d just see its “footprints” form right next to us, but we didn’t actually see the whale until it surfaced a little ways away! Fin whales always impress me with not only their size, but also their grace! When else can you say that a 65-foot animal snuck up on you without you knowing??

Fin whale #1008

Fin whale's white lower jaw

As we continued, two minke whales were spotted close to each other.  One was poking it’s pointy snout out of the water pretty far each time it came up for a breath!  These understated little (20-30 feet!) whales can be a bit tricky to keep track of now and then but today they were great!!

Minke whale
We cruised the inshore waters and soon found another big fin whale. This was Dingle, one of Blue Ocean Society’s adoptable fin whales!  Dingle was first seen in the Jeffreys Ledge area in 2003 and has been seen nearly every year since!
Fin whale "Dingle"
We headed out towards the Ledge since we had spent a good amount of time inshore with the fin and minke whales. But offshore was pretty quiet as far as whale activity was concerned so we headed back in, but our course took us through the Isles of Shoals! What a great way to end a whale watch- a scenic tour of this group of islands off of the ME/NH coast! 

Our afternoon trip took us to the same area as the morning trip to try to relocate the fin whales. On our way out we spotted a group of harbor porpoises. We sometimes don’t bother to stop for these shy critters, but we did this time and it really paid off! We got some very nice, close looks at this group of 8-10 porpoises!  We heard that our friends on the Atlantic Queen were spending time with one whale so decided to pay them a visit as they were getting ready to move on. This whale was Comet, another one of our adoptable fin whales!!   Comet was acting a little bit wiggly this afternoon, racing back and forth a bit and showing us just how fast she can swim to catch fish, so we decided to keep on going.

Fin whale "Comet" close to shore

Comet's unique scar

We soon came across a pair of fin whales! These two were also whales that we know very well: #1008 from the morning’s trip, and Fjord, another adoptable fin whale!!!  It seems the same 4-5 fin whales have been hanging out in the same general area for a few days now!  But this pair was a bit unique.  Just as we saw Fjord seemingly chase around Comet a few days ago, he was now following around #1008! We haven’t seen this type of interaction very often, so we don’t know what it means yet. Is it a territory dispute? Courtship? Something else?? We have so much to learn about fin whale behavior!
Fin whale #1008
Fin whale "Fjord"

Fjord chasing after #1008
This afternoon we also saw the fin whale named Dingle again! But we were getting short on time so didn’t spent too much time with him. I have to say, it is a rare day that we see 3 of the 4 Blue Ocean Society adoptable fin whales all on the same trip!!   What an awesome day!
And I have to say, there are very few whale watch companies in New England where the crew knows the fin whales by name AND can give you not only a catalog history of the individuals (when it was first seen, gender, etc), but also a personal experience history of these whales! We have been studying the fin whales around Jeffreys Ledge since the mid-1990’s and have been lucky enough to really spend some time with the individuals, getting to know each one’s “personality” as it may be.  The whales here are like family to us and we are always really excited to see our whales return each year.

How much longer will these whales be within just a few miles of shore? Only the whales know!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday, July 25

Awesome day today with whales VERY close to home!!   It is really rare for us to be watching whales in about 80 feet of water, with houses, not just land, in the background!

During our morning trip, we saw several small pods of harbor porpoises on our way out. Then we saw a minke whale and spent a bit of time with it. This one I’m certain we’ve seen before- it has a pretty good-sized nick in its fin.   

First minke with notched fin
 Next, we saw another minke whale, and then passed by 4 more minkes!   

Second minke- cool gray coloring!
 We saw two harbor seals, one of which was lounging on a fishing buoy like it was its own personal floatie toy!  How ingenious!!
Harbor seal resting on a "high flyer" buoy
 Then we got a report of a larger whale just behind the Isle of Shoals. There we found 2 fin whales; the first of which was first documented in 2012, and the second was first seen in 2010.   Another minke whale popped up to surprise us as well!
Fin whale's beautiful chevron marking!
Fin whale first seen in 2013 with "flower" marking

Fin whale really close to shore- check out the Seabrook power plant and bridge in the background!

Such a great morning trip!    We headed back to those inshore areas for our afternoon trip. Within about a half hour of leaving the harbor, we were looking at a huge fin whale!! It really is nuts that we have been seeing whales so close to shore lately! But the fish seem to be here, and the whales will follow the fish.  The first fin whale we found was Fjord!! He is one of our whales available for adoption!! We have been watching Fjord since 1996, although his first sighting dates back to 1981!

We headed in a bit from there to see a whale that our friends on the Atlantic Queen had found. This was the same whale we saw on the morning trip- #1008! 
Fin whale #1008's chevron pattern

#1008 close to shore!

 As we were pretty much reading the street signs on land while watching whales, we decided to venture offshore a bit in search of any other forms of marine life. We did see several species of offshore birds including shearwaters and petrels, and even a couple gannets.   
Gannet taking off
We spotted a third fin whale but this one wasn’t all that cooperative so we kept going.  Eventually it was time to start heading for home, but we decided to pass by the area where we saw the coastal fin whales earlier. We did see a blow just a few miles from Rye Harbor. But this wasn’t one of the whales we had seen earlier. This was Comet, another one of our adoptable fin whales!! Where had she been all day?  Certainly a great finale to our day!