An interesting day on the water. Calm seas with fog and haze in the AM gave way to clearer air but choppier seas in the PM. We spent both trips watching whales on the southern end of Stellwagen Bank.
On the 9:00 trip we started with a pair of humpbacks who seemed to be searching for food, and followed that with an individual humpback seemingly doing the same. We had to battle the fog a bit to find our next whales, a mother/calf pair of humpbacks, and we watched the calf for a while as it watched us in return, as we apparently were performing "baby-sitting" duties with the calf while the mother seemed to be deep feeding nearby.
We then came upon an area with both humpbacks (about a dozen or so, including Anvil, Lavalier, Firefly, Freefall, Alphorn, Salt, Valley's 2007 calf, and Reflection)) and finbacks (a half dozen, all in pairs) surface feeding, accompanied by gulls and shearwaters overhead, just like "ants at a picnic".
Surface feeding birds (and most birds we see feeding with whales - except for gannets, who are good divers) do not catch fish very far down in the water, so having whales driving small fish to the surface makes it easier for such birds. Therefore, it is a common sight to see many birds buzzing about over feeding whales. Although shearwaters don't seem to mind sitting in the water, gulls and terns sometimes seem as if they don't like "getting their feet wet", and it is not unusual (even if it is always quite comical) to often see gulls resting for a few seconds on the upper jaw of a humpback whale as it is forcing water through its baleen plates to concentrate the fish already in its mouth (see the photo above).
On the 2:00 trip we started by watching Isthmus and her calf demonstrating several of the very active behaviors humpbacks are capable of (breaching, tail breaching, lob tailing, and flippering). We then resighted Alphorn and Freefall (seen on the 9:00 trip) apparently looking for food. Shortly after we found humpback Cajun heading east, frequently slapping one or the other of its flippers on the surface as it rolled over while swimming along. Not too far away a mother and calf pair of humpbacks did some tail breaching and lob tailing for us (or for themselves, but we did enjoy seeing it all, even if it may not actually have been intended for our benefit). Finally, we spent a short while watching humpbacks Nile and her calf heading west, occasionally lob tailing and tail breaching along the way.
It is often quite evident that every whale watch trip seems to be different from every other whale watch trip, and today's 9:00 and 2:00 trips illustrate this point quite well. On the 9:00 trip we saw both humpbacks and finbacks, along with some excellent surface feeding. However, on the 2:00 trip we found humpbacks only, with no surface feeding observed, but with many dramatic surface behaviors witnessed instead.
For birds today we saw quite a few shearwaters (mostly greater, but a pretty good number of Cory's and a few sooty, too), along with quite a few herring gulls and laughing gulls, and a few Wilson's storm-petrels as well.