Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday, July 31

Today was another day of escaping the heat on land to go search for whales on the cooler ocean. Our trips today found minke whales, fin whales a humpback whale and an ocean sunfish! The birding was good as well with red necked phalaropes, Wilson’s storm petrels, northern gannets and a handful of shearwaters.

This morning we started with a mother and calf pair of fin whales. This was #9709 and her calf! The pair has been seen occasionally this season, with the calf seeming to wander off from mom quite a bit. We were treated to some amazing looks at these two once the calf came back to mom.  

9709's calf
Several minke whales were spotted throughout the trip including Scar, who popped up while we were waiting for a humpback whale, named Quill, to resurface! It’s always great to know the whales we are looking at.  These aren’t just whales. They are old friends to many of us. 

Scar the minke was first seen in 1995. Fin whale #9709 was first seen in 1997. And Quill the humpback was born in 1984! We have quite the history watching these whales from year to year.   

Quill the humpback
Scar the Minke whale

As we continued on, we found 2 more pairs of fin whales!! We are still trying to identify 2 of these. The first pair included #0802, a known female who had a calf in 2009, and the second pair included Crow (one of the few fin whales with a name) who has been seen since the 80’s.

This afternoon, we found 2-3 minke whales close to shore.  Upon analyzing my photos, it appears that one of the minkes was also seen in 2011!! We are working on cataloging minkes in addition to the well-cataloged humpback and fin whales. This minke is quite unique with a slight deformity of the upper jaw.
Minke with deformed rostrum

As we continued on, we came upon an ocean sunfish! This was one big fish and it stayed close to the surface as we circled around it.

Next we got a report of a humpback whale and it turned out that this was Quill once again!  As we were waiting for him to come back up, a pair of fin whales cruised by. This was a mother and calf pair but they were a bit wiggly so we can’t be sure that this was the same pair from the morning trip. Another minke whale was circling the area as well.

Great day on the ocean! It is wonderful to see all the life that the Jeffreys Ledge area is hosting at the moment!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thursday, July 30

This morning we maneuvered around the Jeffreys Ledge area and found 5 Minke whales, a Humpback whale and even a Blue shark over the course of our travels. Our first whale of the day spent so much time at the surface that we continued to move alongside this whale, getting some phenomenal looks, as we moved through the water together.
Minke whale with a very distinctive dorsal fin shape. Fairly certain we have seen this whale in past seasons because of the unique shape of this fin

Another morning Minke whale
After a few other stops on more Minke whales we saw a spout out in the distance. It was Quill still in the area!
Humpback whale tail
This whale was seen yesterday and we enjoyed learning this whale decided to continue to stay around our small section of the massive Gulf of Maine for another day.
On our way home we also got a quick look at a Blue shark as it swam down the starboard side of the boat.

This afternoon we started with a few Minke whales, seeing 4 in total during the trip, before checking out a whale much larger than that of a Minke whale. It was a Fin whale but, not just a single Fin whale, it was a mother and her calf! The calf however, was meandering around further away as mom circled closer by. We only saw the calf a few times and decided to stick closer to mom as she was being much cooperative at the surface. It was #9709, a whale first seen by our research affiliates, the Blue Ocean Society, in 1997! We got some spectacular looks at mom before heading further offshore.
Fin whale #9709 was circling around all afternoon long

Fin whale spout
Before heading for home we got a few quick looks at a Humpback whale that definitely did not have much of a desire to be watched. This whale surfaced a couple of times, luckily for us close by, before disappearing for the afternoon. It was indeed Quill but looks like this afternoon this wild animal had a different plan than being watched by us humans. Such is the case with wildlife since they decide when and how long they want to be visible.
Humpback whale before disappearing from our view above the waterline today

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday, July 29

It was another great day to be out on the ocean. For one we were surrounded by some of the most beautiful ocean conditions and two because you could get away from the humidity on land! Both of our trips today were full of Minke whales as we saw 7 this morning and 5 this afternoon.
Our first whale of the day was a Minke whale just beyond the Isles of Shoals

Morning Minke
One of the many Minke whales this morning was Scar!
We were also lucky enough to find Quill the Humpback whale during our travels this morning and ended up having this whale still in the area this afternoon!
Flat-calm conditions while watching whales this morning
Along with all the great looks at many of our whales today we even got a quick look at a Basking shark this morning.
Basking shark's dorsal fin creating its own wake
Afternoon Minke whale
Quill on the move this afternoon
Humpback whale tail

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday, July 28

You could not have asked for better conditions to be surrounded by today. There was barely a breath of wind to speak of allowing for the ocean to have a glass-like effect giving us ample opportunities to see whales above the waterline and more marine life below! This morning we saw 4 Minke whales, a Blue shark, an Ocean sunfish and two Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Our first sighting of the day was a great whale, Scar Minke!
This whale has been seen so frequently this season and yet recently has been showing up in different locations around Jeffreys Ledge. What a nice way to start the day and enjoy the start to some great marine life sightings.
Scar's body (prior to its large scar visible at the surface)
We pressed on seeing other Minke whales and a few fish as we searched for other types of whales.
Minke whale that may match up to a whale we saw last year thanks to this whale's unique dorsal fin shape!
Nose/snout of a Minke whale coming straight towards us!
We were unable to find any other blubber until we were almost at the shoals and a tiny dorsal fin broke the surface. We all caught it out of the corner of our eyes so even we were interested to see what surfaced next. It was a dolphin, actually 2! It is rare to see only a couple of dolphins moving around together and even more so to keep track of them. But thankfully, due to the unbelievably perfect ocean conditions, we could relocate them each time they resurfaced.
Our pair of dolphins
This afternoon we checked out some different areas than where we were this morning. We were once again sighting plenty of Minke whales, 6 in total!
Continual amazing conditions with our whale sightings this afternoon
We also saw an Ocean sunfish as we headed further offshore.
 Ocean sunfish
Our trip wrapped up this time with a different baleen whale, a Fin whale. This whale was traveling along but we certainly got some great looks as it moved through the area.
Fin whale spout
Fin whale

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday, July 27

This morning we were "lucky" enough to not shake the fog. We were in it, then out, then socked back in more often than we were hoping to be. Each time we managed to get into an area where whales had been reported, and have been spending time, the lack of visibility made finding any sort of wildlife tricky. Many times when visibility is reduced we attempt to listen for whales. They exhale at a rate of 300 mph so that is A LOT of air suddenly being pushed out of a whale's lungs. So much so that you can actually hear a whale exhale. So we sat and listened for any signs of whales. Unfortunately, even these efforts did not produce what we were hoping for. This afternoon we were excited to actually see some ocean around us as we headed offshore. Soon we spotted a Minke whale ahead of us. This whale spent the whole time circling around the area allowing for some great looks at this baleen whale.
Minke whale surfacing in such calm ocean conditions (once the fog finally cleared!)

Minke whale
As we searched offshore for more activity we got a report of a whale only a few miles from us. We headed in that direction and found a different type of whale and a very familiar whale at that. It was Pinball the Humpback whale! We last saw this whale on July 12th, miles from our current location.
Such a surprise and such a great way to wrap up the day as she spent most of her time doing consistent circles at the surface.
Humpback whale tail

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday, July 25

Our morning trip today was a bit challenging. We saw 2 Minke whales and a Fin whale but these whales did not appear as though they wanted to be watched. On top of us managing to find some extremely uncooperative whales we also had to deal with some very unexpected ocean conditions. We rocked and rolled as we attempted to get looks at our whale findings but had a rough go. This morning Mother Nature definitely won out. This afternoon the wind slacked off slightly and we were were back out to see what the offshore ocean would bring. We did come across, and this time actually watched, the whales in the area! We saw 3 Humpback whales: Hornbill, Owl and her calf. Hornbill spent most of his time circling around the area giving us some great looks at this whale.
Hornbill (above and below)

We were excited to see this whale again considering our last sighting of Hornbill was on July 12! We rounded out our trip to Jeffreys Ledge with Owl and her calf as they were moving around this afternoon.
Owl and her calf
Owl's calf's tail

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday, July 23

The ocean was pristine as we went in search of whale activity today. This morning we came across whales before we even got past the Isles of Shoals.
Minke whale inshore of the islands
There were multiple Minke whales scooting around the extreme inshore waters! What a nice surprise to start of day with.
Minke whale with New Hampshire in the background
As we made our way offshore we did a bit of searching but came up empty-handed. We always say, if we don't try we won't ever know. While we definitely put in the effort this time the ocean, and whales, won. On on travels home however, we got the chance to spend some time with quite the "regular." Scar was once again spotted today.
This afternoon we headed offshore in a slightly different direction then where we had gone this morning thanks to another boat out on Jeffreys Ledge. We are always thankful for all the eyes out on the Ledge letting us know of any whale sightings folks may see in their travels! Well this time our efforts definitely paid off. We ended up seeing an Ocean sunfish, 3 Minke whales and 5 Humpback whales.
Ocean sunfish just below the waterline
Offshore Minke whale
Humpback whale tail
A few of our afternoon whales were individuals we have seen earlier this season while a few others are new visitors to Jeffreys for the year. Our whales included Clamp, Owl and her calf, Piña and Perimeter. We were so excited to see multiple whales in such beautiful ocean conditions.
Owl's calf rolling on its side making its white flipper visible above the ocean's surface while Owl surfaces just beyond her calf
Piña and Perimeter logging at the surface surrounded by such calm sea conditions