Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday, September 28

The whales and weather were spectacular once again today. While we have no control as to what the weather or whales may do at any time, when they both come together in good terms it certainly is quite the day. Today we started with a single Humpback whale. It was Repeat, a new visitor to the area this season. To be even more specific this particular whale has not been seen in the Jeffreys Ledge region for over 6 years!
Repeat's almost all black tail. Great to see you again Repeat!
What a nice surprise to have this whale spending time in our area and a great first sighting of the day. As we spent time with Repeat we suddenly had a Fin whale appear off our port side. With such nice looks at Repeat we decided to check out this Fin whale before heading further offshore.
This Fin whale was previously entangled at one point of its life as the prominent scars on this whale's body is a direct result of such an event
As we pressed on we ended up passing a pair of Fin whales moving in the opposite direction we were trying to go. Soon we ended up coming across another pair of whales. It was a pair of Humpback whales, Jabiru and Shuffleboard, resting at the surface.
Jabiru and Shuffleboard
As these whales woke up and dove down none of us were ready for what happened next. Shuffleboard suddenly did a full body breach just off our port side! Not only once but twice!
The last bit of Shuffleboard's body above the surface after this whale breached clear out of the water!
As soon as this whale jumped out of the water it quickly went back to napping. Talk about being in the right place, at the right time, looking in the right direction. These behaviors definitely don't happen all the time and researchers do not even know why whales jump clear out of the water (though there are a few theories). Since all whales can and do this type of behavior at any moment in time any type of whale has the ability to breach. To witness it is certainly incredible that is for sure. These two whales mellowed down and so we ventured out of the area to do some more exploring. As we traveled along we saw a spout off one side of the boat and even more spouts ahead of us. We ended up spending time with a trio of Humpback whales.
Three Humpback whales resting at the surface
One of the whales never showed its unique tail pattern and while we have an idea who this third animal may be we have a bit more confirming to do. The other two whales in this group were Sword and Springboard.
Springboard and Sword
All three of these whales were also resting at the surface. As we spent time with these whales we saw another pair of Humpback whales out in the distance but unfortunately did not have time to venture in that direction. So instead we eased our way over to yet another pair of Humpback whales we were keeping an eye on just off our starboard side. Once we made our way to this pair we soon realized both of these whales were also new visitors to the region this season. Churn and Eruption were slowly moving around together.
Churn and Eruption
As we were out of time we left this pair and attempted to slowly pass the individual whale we had seen earlier on its own. Luckily this whale surfaced close by and we were able to snap a photo to document this whale's presence in the area. Unfortunately we have yet to be able to match up this whale's unique black and white tail pattern but we will keep you posted if we get a positive match soon.
Currently unknown single Humpback whale
In total we ended up seeing 3 Fin whales, 11 Humpback whale and 3 Minke whales on the outskirts of many of the areas we spent in offshore today. While the weather is looking much less ideal this coming week we will be sure to let you know how our next trip goes once we get back out on the water!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27

What a beautiful day! The weather was warm, the ocean was calm and if you didn't know it was actually Autumn you would for sure think it was a wonderful summer day out on the water today. With such gorgeous conditions watching whales was even that much more of a treat. And there certainly was plenty to look at! We saw lots and lots of Harbor seals out in the water, a few pods of Harbor porpoise and two types of baleen whales today. Our first whale of the day was a Fin whale. This massive creature was doing lots of tail stock rises, showcasing the back portion of its body over and over again for all to see. Turns out this grand whale is #0808, a whale first seen in 2008!
Fin whale #0808
Check out the images below to see a distinguishing characteristic of all Fin whales. The lower jaws on either side of all Fin whales are actually different colors!
The right side of all Fin whales have a white lower jaw

The left side of all Fin whales have a dark lower jaw
With some great looks at this extremely large mammal we pressed on to some of the other spouts we were seeing. Since there were a few other whale watching boats around and with plenty of spouts being seen out in the distance (and wanting to give the whales plenty of space) we by-passed two Humpback whales moving around on their own. Soon we came across a pair of sleeping whales. These two Humpback whales, Sword and Springboard, were just bobbing up and down with the gentle swell as they both remained quite stationary the majority of the time we were with them.
Sword and Springboard
A few times these whales definitely woke up as Sword flipper slapped and Buzzard did some tail slashing just below the waterline. Other than that these two whales were very mellow.
Sword's bright white flipper above the water while Springboard remains close by
Springboard contorting the back part of its body to thrash its tail from side to side while Sword can be seen in the background
We let these whales continue on napping as we maneuvered our way to a few other spouts we were seeing. It was another pair of Humpback whales: Quote and Buzzard.
These two whales also seemed to be quite mellow, napping most of the time. Such behaviors allow for some incredible looks at these medium-sized whales as they hover at the ocean's surface.
Quote resting at the surface while Buzzard's nose is at the surface with a small piece of seaweed on the tip of this whale's nose!

Buzzard and Quote
Before wrapping up the day we attempted to back track and try to find one of the other whales we had passed earlier in the trip. Instead most of us were witness to Springboard and Sword as both of them all of a sudden jumped clear out of the water! While this amazing sight happened out in the distance it was still incredibly impressive to see these adults breach right out of the water. It happened so suddenly and just this once that no one was ready with their cameras but wow what a memory. We made our way over to this pair once more just in case either whale decided to breach once again, but alas they decided once had been enough.
With some more nice looks at this pair moving around together we headed for home. On our travels home though we did get a chance to check out a good-sized Blue shark on the move. So much to look at and so much to enjoy today we wonder what tomorrow will bring!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday, September 26

As the season progresses into the Fall the whales are certainly continuing to spend time in our area as we saw 5 Minke whales and 7 Humpback whales during our trip today. We first started in an area where there were 3 Minke whales circling around. Soon we saw other whales out in the distance. All day we were seeing more and more spouts while we spent time with all of our whales. Along with the many Minkes seen during our travels we also spent time with our first Humpback whale of the day, Jabiru.
As this whale was travelling along we decided to check out another whale we were seeing out in the distance. It was Shuffleboard who was also traveling along. Before long we witnessed Jabiru move into the area and soon Shuffleboard and Jabiru became associated with each other.
Bonds form and disperse with ease out in the watery whale world and it is always enjoyable to witness the forming of pairs at least for a brief moment in time. One of the other whales we got a chance to spend time with was Sword.
The day was not over for we ended up coming across two pairs of Humpback whales before it was time to head home. First, Humpback whales Quote and Buzzard were seen moving around together. Quote was doing some napping while Buzzard was moving around a bit more and even tail breached once!
Quote and Buzzard
Our last sighting of the day was Spoon and Chromosome as Spoon was also seen napping at the surface while Chromsome spent the majority of its time maneuvering all around, on either side of Spoon.
If you look closely you can see Chromsome at the surface as this whale altered its course and began to swim behind where Spoon was napping at the surface (dorsal fin and back at the surface)

The weather and whales were certainly on the same wavelength today (all fantastic) so hopefully the trend continues on into the weekend!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday, September 24

Great day today with dozens of harbor porpoises, a pair of fin whales and a total of 8 humpback whales, 6 of which we spent time with!  It was the perfect fall day with a bit of breeze from the north but lots of sunshine.  The pair of fin whales were quite busy, staying under for 9-10 minutes and moving quite a bit while down below. We managed a few quick looks and then continued on to some more spouts in the distance.

Here we found 2 humpbacks, known as Sword and Springboard.   As we were with this pair, we saw more spouts just a bit further out.  This was a group of 4 humpbacks! Amazing!  These 4 included Valley, Sickle, Quote and Buzzard. It has been interesting to us to watch these whales move around the area and form pairs, trios and even quads over the past week. We still have so much to learn about these ocean giants.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday, September 21

The overcast skies didn’t scare away the whales or our passengers today. We had a great trip with 7 different humpback whales, several pods of harbor porpoises and even an ocean sunfish! Our first humpback whale was less than cooperative as it stayed under water for over 17 minutes before reappearing about a mile away. We decided to continue on hoping we would find something else that was spending a bit more time at the surface. Luckily our gamble paid off and we were rewarded with 6 more humpbacks; a trio, a pair and a single.

The trio was made up of whales named Quote, Blackhole and Buzzard. Quote was lifting her flukes high into the air and even did a quick tail-breach near the other two.  Blackhole would twist would she dove, creating a corkscrew. And Buzzard was there observing it all.

Next we found the pair of humpbacks, named Valley and Sickle. These two appeared to be in a resting mode, spending lots of time just floating at the surface before lifting their flukes high into the air to go down for deep dives. Sickle was seemingly playing with seaweed, lifting up her nose with seaweed draped over it.

And on our way home, we were surprised by another whale! This humpback was young, and curious.  It frequently approached the boat and we shut down our engines each time.  We spent about 20 minutes with this whale as we were curious about who it was. We only saw bits of the flukes and it rolled at the surface but upon consulting our resources after the trip, I found that this was Epsom, the current calf of Salt! Salt is one of the most famous whales in the world. She was seen for the first time in the mid-1970’s and was the first whale to be given a name (based on her white-scraped dorsal fin).  She has been seen in the Gulf of Maine nearly every year since.  She was also the first whale to be identified in the Caribbean, giving researchers more insight into the migration routes of this population. She has birthed many calves over the years, including her newest, Epsom!  Although many mother/calf pairs are still together at this time of year, it is not unusual for calves to be weaned a bit early. That seems to be the case for Epsom, who was looking quite plump and happy!  What a great finale to our trip!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday, Sept 17

What a perfect day! The seas were calm (finally!), the sun was shining, and the whales were plentiful!

We passed by some harbor porpoises on our way out towards Jeffreys Ledge. Before we knew it, we were seeing spouts of large whales in the distance.   The first pair of humpbacks whales we spotted were Pinball and Blackhole! Pinball is a regular favorite, and Blackhole has only been seen a couple of times this year.  Blackhole greeted us by slowly slapping her huge dark flipper on the surface. We aren’t sure what this behavior means but the pair didn’t seem concerned by our presence at all. It is also interesting to note that Blackhole’s flippers are almost all black on the top side. Most humpback whales in the Atlantic Ocean have all-white flippers. The Pacific humpbacks are knows to have flippers resembling Blackhole’s though. 

Blackhole's dark flipper

Pinball showing her muddy nose- evidence of feeding on the bottom!


 Next we found another pair of humpback whales identified as Quote and Buzzard. Quote is seen in the area sporadically but Buzzard is a pretty new visitor, only being seen here once before in 2012!  We also spotted a minke whale near this pair. 
Buzzard and Quote

 As we kept looking around, we kept seeing more spouts! Today’s calm conditions and clear skies certainly helped us to find whales!  Soon we found another pair of humpback whales, Owl and Jabiru! Owl is another old favorite, being seen here nearly every year, and Jabiru is quickly becoming a regular!   

A fin whale passed by in the distance and suddenly we saw that Quote and Buzzard had joined the pair, at least for a moment. Mystery still surrounds the social behaviors of whales so we aren’t quite sure what happened beneath the waves but soon Owl, Quote and Buzzard took off in one direction, while Jabiru headed off on her own.

We were running a bit short on time but found yet another pair of humpbacks close by. These two were sleeping when we arrived so we cut our engines and just drifted with these two for nearly 20 minutes. It was so calm and peaceful, watching over 2 sleepy humpback whales! Finally these whales woke up and showed us there identities (flukes) and I was over-the-moon excited to see that one was my all-time favorite whale named Spoon! Spoon was the first whale I adopted as a kid and has a reputation of being really big and slow, and we love her for that!  She was first seen in 1977 but we don’t know how old she is since she wasn’t a calf back then. She is likely one of the oldest whales in the Gulf of Maine!
Sleepy Spoon near the boat

Spoon is huge!

Spoon- I love that fluke!
 The whale with Spoon was a male named Chromosome- any ideas how he got his name??
 As we searched around, we saw a hazard to marine life- a balloon! We see lots of trash on the ocean and whenever we can, we pick it up to make the oceans just a little bit cleaner and safer our whales. The balloon picked up by our crew could have been injested by one of our whales, or a turtle, seal, shark, codfish, etc. Marine debris is a huge issue world-wide and we are always happy to do our part and recover some of these items whenever we can.

Another minke whale was spotted in the area and as we headed home we passed more harbor porpoises, a blue shark, a second fin whale and even stopped to get a quick look at a finless minke whale- one that we have been seeing here for the past 4 years!  Such an incredible day! We are always surprised and inspired by each trip’s sightings as we truly never know what we will find each and every day.  And on a personal note, today was my birthday and I can think of no better way to ring in a new decade by spending it on the ocean surrounded by whales, many of which I have been watching for 20 years!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday, September 14

Yay! The day has finally come where we were able to get back out offshore. The weather this past week has been pretty crummy with lots and lots of wind making the ocean quite rough. Finally today the weather was on our side, enough so to get back in search of whales! Whales were out and about and while a few whales seemed to want nothing to do with us (we had 2 Fin whales throughout our travels today that were seen once and then pretty much completely disappeared!) many of the other whales were much more conducive to watch. We started the day with a quick look at a Minke whale before we saw a spout in the distance. While the spout turned out to be an elusive Fin whale while we were awaiting for this baleen whale to resurface we instead found a small group of toothed-whales! A small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins were moving into the area (thanks for the find Scott!).
A few of the small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins in the area today
Dolphins cruising near the boat
We spent time with these whales getting some nice looks before we saw more spouts out in the distance. Once we eventually made our way towards these whales we recognized one of the pair of Humpback whales instantaneously due to her unique dorsal fin. It was Quote, a whale we last saw on August 5th of this year!
We saw Quote almost 20 miles from where we last had this whale over a month ago!
But Quote wasn't alone. Along side this adult female was another adult female, a whale we have yet to see in our area this year, Liner! Great to watch these two large females on the move together.
Liner's back and dorsal fin
Next we came into an area where we thought we had a few whales which certainly turned out to be the case. Nike the Humpback whale was circling around the area creating a bubble cloud at one point.
Bubble cloud finally reaching the surface of the ocean
While this was happening off the other side of the boat we suddenly had a group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins associated with a Fin whale. Out in the distance was another Humpback whale; you just didn't know where to look. On top of that we ended up checking out more whales including Chromosome logging with another whale and ended the day with Valley and Sickle.

Valley's back and wannabe dorsal fin
Whales continue to not only be around but equally as surprising as familiar whale tails continue to be seen along with a few newcomers for the year! Hopefully the weather cooperates for a bit of time so we can get back out on the water again sooner than later.