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!

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