Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday, August 31

The ocean will never cease to amaze us. Today we spent time with a few whales and got some fantastic looks. Our first whale of the day was of a very large Fin whale.
Fin whale moving with such ease through the water just off our starboard side
At first glance we knew this Fin whale was a new visitor to the area this season. This whale's dorsal fin was very distinctive and as we checked out the Fin whale Catalog from our friends Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation we were able to match up exactly who this whale was. It was #9619, a whale first seen in 1996 and has not been seen in our area since 2009. What a great surprise!
Fin whale #9619!
With some very nice looks at this whale as it surfaced so close to us multiple times we decided to go off and do some searching. We have no special equipment we use to find whales. We rely completely on our eyesight so by covering as much ocean as possible during any one of our trips that is what gives us the best chance of seeing/finding what might be nearby. Today was one of those days. As we were cruising around searching for any sign of whale activity we saw a spout out in the distance. It only took a nanosecond to realize it was a different species. A Humpback whale was ahead of us! Not only had we come across another type of whale but it only took another second to recognize exactly who this whale was: Owl! This whale has a very prominent scar on its body so even without seeing the underside pattern of this whale's tail we were thrilled to see such a familiar whale in our area!
Owl's distinctive scar on her back
We got some fantastic looks as this whale circled around the area a few times, filtering at the surface, and literally circled around the boat.
Owl did circles around us for a moment (as we just sat with our engines off of course!) as in this image she is about to cross right in front of our pulpit!
Owl swimming past the boat
What a great way to wrap up a day on the water. A new visitor to our neck of the ocean this year and a familiar whale in which we haven't seen in almost a month!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday, August 30

The ocean definitely took us for a ride today.  The wind was a bit more than predicted but even with the roller coaster seas, we found whales, dolphins, harbor porpoises and seals throughout the day! 

This morning, after passing by some harbor porpoises and harbor seals, we spotted a minke whale. We saw this whale a couple of times but then saw a larger whale not too far away. As we headed for what turned out to be a fin whale, our intern Hannah spotted a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins! Fantastic!! We tried to keep track of the fin whale while we checked out the dolphins. These dolphins were pretty active and soon were surrounding the boat! 

 We didn’t want to lose the fin whale so we headed out in search of it. It seemed that there were actually 3 fin whales in the area- a pair and a solo one!  We stayed with the pair (“Dingle” and his friend from the past couple days), and as we waited for them to surface, we noticed the dolphins were heading our way! They were also interested in the fin whales! The group of toothed and baleen whales hung out together for a bit before going along their separate ways!   Even after many years of whale watching on both US coasts, my favorite thing to watch is fin whales and dolphins together!  Not only is the activity incredible, but the size difference is amazing.

Dingle approaching his friend

This afternoon, the wind continued to howl making for some interesting sea conditions.  We headed out to see what the conditions would be like, and were pleased to find that the steep waves in the shallow inshore water seemed to lessen as we got further offshore, in the deeper water.  We spotted some minke whales and a number of harbor porpoises before getting a report from some other whale watch boats ahead of us. It seemed that our pair of fin whales from the morning trip was still in the area!  Although these big whales were a bit busy at the start, they eventually mellowed and gave us some great looks! In the meantime we were treated to wave-surfing porpoises and a minke whale!  We even saw a tiny bit of Dingle’s fluke as he cruised a wave next to us!
Fin whale spout with a bit of a rainbow!

Fin whale "Dingle" surfing through a wave

Fin whales "Dingle" and his friend
 It was really fun to see what whales do in wavy sea conditions!  So what we thought might be a tricky day turned out to be a really fun one!  One of our passengers told us that she had been on 5 whale watches before and had never seen a whale. Today was her lucky day!  Congratulations!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday, August 29

As Labor Day weekend is upon us, it certainly felt like fall out on the ocean today.  The wind and sea spray certainly cooled us down and the marine life was great!  We first spotted a couple of harbor porpoises but these little guys were a big shy and we quickly lost track of them. As we continued on, we spotted the spouts of 2 fin whales ahead.  As we got some closer looks, we could tell that this was “Dingle” and his friend who were seen together yesterday!  The friend is a whale we have seen several times this season and will be added to our catalog this winter. 
Fin Whale Spout

Fin whale swirly chevron marking
Fin whale stretching out

Why are these whales together for an extended amount of time?  We aren’t quite sure. There is quite a lot that we don’t understand or know about fin whale behavior. Generally, they hang out alone, but now and then they seek the company of others. Whatever the pairing was all about, we were happy to see them and watch as they surfaced repeatedly around the boat, taking short dives and not moving very far. 
2 Fin Whales, Dingle and his friend!

Also in the area were at least 2 minke whales. The minkes are a little quicker at the surface making them a bit trickier to see, but one of them swam right across the bow, apparently wanting to be seen!

Minke Whale
As we headed home, we got word that a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins was in the area. We detoured slightly and were treated to some phenomenal views of this pod (50-75 dolphins!).  The dolphins are always more playful and willing to be seen than the porpoises. We saw some of the big males cruise right alongside us, while the mothers with calves were curious too! These dolphins were really interested in the boat and even played in our wake a bit as we left! Atlantic white sided dolphins are normally seen on about 25% of our whale watching trips, but this year they have been elusive making today’s sighting even more exciting for us!

Such a great day on the water! Thanks to all of you for joining us!  Happy Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday, August 28

No wind on the open ocean made for incredible conditions for spotting and watching whales today. Our first stop ended up being on a pair of Fin whales just beyond the Isles of Shoals.
Two large Fin whale so close to each other!
We got some incredible looks as these whales maneuvered around. It was Dingle and one of the other whales we have seen in the area over the past month. A few times these whales were charging around and a few times these whales appeared to be very mellow while spending time at the surface.
Fin whale with Appledore Island in the background
Another day, another sighting of Dingle the Fin whale!
With got some great looks as we watched these massive mammals move around together. With such beautiful conditions and some very nice looks at these animals we continued on to see what else we could come across. Soon we found ourselves alongside a very friendly Minke whale. Perhaps this whale was equally as curious about us as we were with it as almost every single time this whale surfaced it would surface so close to the boat, alternating from one side to another. What awesome looks!
Beautiful conditions to watch this Minke whale as it swam so close to the boat!
As we remained in the area we even saw a second Minke whale surface close by. Eventually we continued to do some searching and watched a few more of the 7 Minke whales seen in total throughout our travels today. Check out the photos below to see just how different each dorsal fin of a Minke whale can be and what we use to tell these whales apart from one another!
One of our many Minke whales
Another Minke whale dorsal fin

Yet another differently shaped dorsal fin from one of the Minke whales seen today
We also saw lots and lots and lots of seals in the water (well over 20 seals out in the open ocean!) as we spent time offshore.
Hello Grey seal!
Once it was time to turn for home in just a matter of minutes we saw another spout ahead of us. It was a Fin whale and not either of the ones we had seen earlier in the trip. A third Fin whale had moved on into our area. What a very nice way to end our day full of so much life out on the open ocean!
Fin whale seen on our travels home with the Maine coastline visible in the background

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday, August 27

Every now and then there are days that even surprise us. Today was one of those days. The weather had been forecasted to be quite windy and with conditions being just that yesterday we were interested to see just how rolly the ocean would be. Turns out the weather had other plans. There was barely any wind on the water and while we could feel the effects of some windy conditions much further offshore (a pretty good swell was rolling under us) it was much nicer than anyone of us expected. On top of these unexpected conditions the whales were equally as amazing. Our first whale of the day was a familiar animal. Dingle was once again in our area and was spending a good amount of time on the surface.
The head and dorsal fin of Dingle the Fin whale; these whales are soooooo large!
While this whale was taking between 8-10 minutes dives it was not traveling far and would take a good amount of breaths once at the surface. We were getting some really nice looks.
Dingle swimming alongside the boat
As we spent time with this whale we suddenly began to see something interesting occur. This whale was arching so strongly as it was going on a dive we were suddenly well aware of what might actually happen next. All of a sudden the tail of Dingle was visible at the surface!?!? This whale was going on such a deep dive as it was arching its back it literally was bringing its tail above the waterline. While to some this may not sound, or even look all that impressive, for a species that rarely ever shows its fluke this was absolutely incredible. On top of this generally rare behavior, the fact that it was happening from such a familiar whale was that much more special. We have seen this particular whale so many times over the course of this season, and over the years, but we have never seen this whale's tail ever before! Amazing! Check out below the sequence of images as Dingle's tail broke the surface of the water.

With some amazing looks at so much of this whale's body we pressed on to see if we could find some other activity around the area. Soon we found another spout. But it wasn't just one there was a pair of whales nearby! Two large Fin whales were on the move together.
Two Fin whales spending time with each other this afternoon
These whales were also not moving far in any particular direction. On top of that they were both being so mellow, so relaxed, so slow in their surfacings and swimming patterns that we were able to get some absolutely fin-tastic looks at both of these animals!
Fin whale spout a few miles beyond the Isles of Shoals
A few times these whales surfaced so close to the boat it was absolutely incredible to see such large mammals so close to us!
Our pair of whales (above and below)
The dorsal fin from one of our whales while the second whale gets a good breath of air
As we spent time in the area a couple of Minke whales surfaced out in the distance but with the Fin whales remaining so close to us the entire time we decided to stay put and check out the Minke whales from afar. Today was full of surprises. Nice weather after initially preparing ourselves for quite the active ocean and some absolutely amazing looks at all the whales we spent time with today.
Fin whale spout from such a sleek massive mammal

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday, August 26

We had a few challenging whales and some absolutely fantastic whales today. Through the bit of wind and waves we started the day watching a Fin whale on the move.
A bit of wave activity was no match for this Fin whale moving straight through the waves
Dingle the Fin whale was traveling through the region. This whale was spending a bit of time below the surface. Unfortunately the longer we spent watching this whale the longer this whale started to hold its breath. So much so that after waiting more than 15 minutes for the second time, still without relocating this whale, we decided to see if we could find a whale that was spending a bit more time at the surface. As we traveled along we saw out in the distance a bit of extra splashing (even through the waves already visible at the surface). As we moved closer the splashing continued and was spreading out. There was a very large group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins heading our way! As we spent time with this group we realized there must be at least 200 animals in this pod!
These dolphins were creating their own whitewater as they darted around the area!
Older and younger dolphins could be seen in this very large pod!
This was by far the largest grouping of these whales we have seen all season! These whales were great as they were darting everywhere around the boat!
Dolphins cruising past us
An Atlantic white-sided dolphin!
After some incredible looks and with a few other boats moving on in to check out this group of whales we continued on. We searched and searched and searched some more. Just before it was time to head for home we saw a spout. A Fin whale suddenly appeared!
Large spout from a Fin whale
This was a different whale than we had started out trip with. What a nice way to end our day with another one of the second largest animals in the world!
Fin whale to end our trip with today swimming just off our port side!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday, August 24

The wind was almost nonexistent today so with just of a bit of swell rolling over the ocean it was a great day to search for whales. This morning we definitely saw whales. 7 Minke whales and 3 Fin whales were out and about during our trip. We started the day with a very cooperative Fin whale.
Spout from a Fin whale
This whale was just spending a few minutes under the water giving us some great looks to start our trip with.
First whale of the day
As we pressed on we checked out lots of different Minke whales popping up here and there. At one point we ended up in an area where there were 4 different Minke whales around!
One of the many Minke whales seen this morning
Another Minke whale
Not only can you see differences between Minke whales based on any scars or marks found along these whales bodies but their dorsal fins can be extremely unique. Check out just a couple of the many fins from our Minke whales seen this morning.
Close up of a very distinctly-shaped Minke whale dorsal fin
Another uniquely-shaped Minke whale dorsal fin
Before it was time to head for home we spotted a larger exhalation. One spout turned into two. There were a pair of Fin whales nearby. We got a great look as these two whales slowly swam by us. It was Dingle along with the same whale that had been seen spending time with Dingle during yesterday's trip!
Dingle's very long body (just a portion!) seen at the surface
Second part of our Fin whale pair
We thought for sure we would get some more great looks at these two whales as they had so slowly been moving at the surface. Turns out these whales had other plans. 20+ minutes later we still had yet to relocate these animals. Two of the second largest mammals on earth with absolutely perfect conditions for whale spotting and yet we still could not find them. These greyhounds of the sea can certainly make themselves known and disappear just as quickly no matter what the weather conditions are. Sometimes the whales have their own plans that seem to definitely not include us!

This afternoon was more of the same. Lots of whales and more nice weather! We started the trip with a quick stop on an Ocean sunfish. This large, bizarre-looking, creature was just meandering at the surface giving us all some great looks at the world's largest bony fish!
Ocean sunfish
We continued on our way and thanks to our other whale watching friends first stopped on a large Fin whale. It was the same animal who was seen swimming alongside Dingle on our morning trip. However, Dingle was nowhere to be seen. Instead this stealth-moving whale was being a bit tricky at first. After a few surfacings we were able to get a really nice look at this animal.
First Fin whale seen this afternoon
With other boats nearby we decided to give these whales some space and check out a few other critters out on their own. We ended up getting some great looks at a handful of the 7 Minke whales seen throughout our travels. Once again it took a little bit of patience as these whales were moving all around but eventually watched as they began to swim circles around us!
One of the many Minke whales darting around us this afternoon
Our day ended with a look at a Fin whale. But it wasn't the one we had spent time with earlier, it was the exact same whale we started our trip with at the start of the day!
First and final whale of the day, the same Fin whale!
We once again got some great looks at this whale as it spent most of its time circling around the area. A very nice way to end our day with lots of whales in between starting and ending our day with the exact same animal!
Calm seas, sailing day and a whale spout all wrapped into another nice day of whale watching!