Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Whale Watching Trip June 29, 2010

11 am Whale Watch - Krill

We had calmer seas then yesterday and bright skies as we left Plymouth Harbor on our whale watch offshore. As we were leaving the harbor, we passed a lobster boat pulling up their traps. The colorful buoys in the harbor are marking strings of traps (pots) tied together. Each fisherman is assigned or chooses the specific color of their buoy. This color coding system helps lobster fishermen identify their gear from the gear of other fishermen working in the same area.

We crossed over Stellwagen Bank close to the SW corner. In this area, we had distant sightings of a number of humpback whales that were alone at the surface. We didn't stop to watch these animals for we heard about a larger group of humpbacks just east of this position. But we did get great looks at some of the unique pelagic birds offshore including Wilson's storm petrels and Greater Shearwaters (see image above).

As we approached this area, we saw quite a few blows separated throughout the area. Our first sighting was of Reaper and her calf of this year. Mom and calf appeared to be resting as they slowly swam side-by-side. Often the calf would stay on the surface longer than mom and would log (a form of resting) very close to our vessel. These mothers and calves are quite trusting of vessels in their area and will often approach whale watching boats if time allows in their busy schedules.

As we watched this pair and marveled on the size difference between mother and calf, a third humpback whale moved through the area. This whale was Cygnus and can easily identified by the animal's dorsal fin. The dorsal fin appears to be cut at the base and this results in the fin flopping over on the right side of the whale's body.

Cygnus moved right past this pair and continued to head south. Mother and calf didn't seem to disturbed by this passer-by and the calf started to nurse close to the end of our observation. As we moved on, we found a second mother and calf pair that turned out to be Midnight and her calf. This is the first sighting for me of this mother and calf pair.

Midnight was named for the very black ventral tail pattern. She is a beautiful humpback who now has a rambunctious little one to look after. Mother and calf were slowly moving to the south and west. Unfortunately, our time had ended so we slowly moved away from Midnight and her calf and headed home. A beautiful day offshore with great looks at some very special and very endangered whales.