Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday, May 28

The unofficial start of summer is here and the temperatures on land certainly followed suit! However, 20+ miles from shore means we enjoyed slightly cooler temperatures (being that we are surrounded by mid-50 degree water) and minimal breezes moving across the ocean. Our day was full of life as it consisted of 5 Minke whales, 3 Humpback whales and at least 7 Fin whales! Our first Humpback whale of the day was surfacing for a couple breaths and darting all over the place. Soon we discovered who this whale was, a familiar tail to the area, Mogul!
This whale was definitely doing some sub-surface feeding as multiple times we saw large patches of bubbles appear at the surface; a known sign of corralling food for a Humpback whale.
Bubbles visible at the surface having been created by Mogul somewhere in the water column
Whale tail
We spent a bit more time with Mogul before we moved on to another whale nearby. It was another Humpback whale but the closer we got we could see there were two of them. It was a mother and her calf!
Mother and calf Humpback whale pair (above and below)
A quick look at mom's tail when she dove confirmed this well-known whale as well. It was Quote with her calf she gave birth to this winter in the warm waters of the Caribbean. What a wonderful surprise!
Quote's unique black and white pigmentation pattern on the underside of her tail
The calf was a bit squirmy at times tail-breaching while mom created some bubble clouds around the area. Soon it was time to turn for home but apparently we were not quite done whale watching. On our travels home we moved through an area where there were at least 7 Fin whales scattered around!
Fin whale's back and dorsal fin
Fin whale surfacing
We watched a pair circle around while other single whales could be seen in directions all around the boat. We got some nice looks at a few of these whales as the whales were consistently changing directions while we slowly maneuvered through it all. What a way to wrap up an already successful day in the Gulf of Maine.
Fin whale spout

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday, May 26

Today we brought out a boat-load of students to experience nature's classroom. Mother Nature certainly did a phenomenal job as the ocean was so calm and there were whales to be seen. We headed offshore passing by a few harbor seals before making our way to a few whales. A Minke whale surfaced but soon disappeared so we headed over to a Fin whale not far away. One of the second largest animals on the planet and everyone was able to get some great looks at this whale. This specific whale ended up being a very familiar whale; one that was first sighted by our research affiliates Blue Ocean Society of Marine Conservation in 1997!
Fin whale known as #9709
What a great way starting our trip on a familiar whale knowing it has returned for another year. With such beautiful conditions and some great looks we ventured on to do some more exploring before it was time to head home. We ended up coming across 3 more Fin whales.
Minimal disturbance as this Fin whale surfaces for a breath of air
The flat calm ocean made for watching whales absolutely ideal
Another Fin whale of the day
Wonderful weather and great young minds certainly enjoyed some fortunate wildlife encounters today.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday, May 21

Another nice weather window for us occurred today so off we went searching for whales. In total, there were 4 Minke whales scattered around but unless you were looking in the right direction at the right moment it was a bit tricky watching them. They would dive and not return to the surface for a while making actual whale watching less than ideal. So instead we ventured over to a spout in the distance and checked out a Fin whale moving around the area.
First Fin whale of the day
At one point this whale moved right towards us and surfaced close by getting a great appreciation of just how large Fin whales truly are.
Fin whale surfacing close to the boat
Thanks to a well-trained whale-spotter passenger (thanks Nicole!) another spout was seen out towards the horizon. Soon we were headed that way and ending up coming across another Fin whale.
Fin whale spout
This whale was spending only a few minutes below the waterline allowing for some great looks at this additional whale as well.
Fin whale #2
Tomorrow's forecast will be keeping us on land so stay tuned for next week when we will be back out on the water!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Welcome to the 2016 Season!

The day arrived! Our 2016 whale watching season began today and we could not have been more pleased with the day. The sun was shining (but still cool out there as the ocean's surface is only in the low 50s!), the wind was minimal and we were off with a great crowd to see what might be in the Jeffreys Ledge area. We passed a couple of seals and some harbor porpoise before a whale spout was seen out in the distance. Our first large whale of the year... What kind of whale was in front of us? Would we recognize this particular animal? Turns out it was a Fin whale but not just any old Fin whale. This particular whale is a well-known visitor to the waters off of Bar Harbor, Maine but here it was in our section of the ocean! This whale is known as Lunch and was taking a lot of breaths at the surface allowing for some phenomenal looks at the second largest animal on earth!
Lunch the Fin whale
Soon we pressed on and came across activity from a different species of baleen whale. This time we saw at least 4 Sei whales all lunge feeding around the boat!
Top portion of a Sei whale's head as this whale feeds at the surface
Sei whale dorsal fin

Baleen hanging down from the upper jaw of this feeding Sei whale
These sleek maneuvering creatures (they are THE fastest baleen whale in the ocean!) were easing through the water constantly changing direction and lunging at the surface; all munching down on plenty of food! Side-ways looks, open mouths, extending lower jaws and flippers high in the area were the views we were constantly seeing and fortunate enough to experience.

Sideways Sei whale lunging through the water
Open-mouth Sei whale heading in towards the boat!
What a way to ring in a new season! We are currently whale watching weekends at 11am so stay tuned for more trip recaps.