Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Whale Watching Trip on October 26, 2009

12 noon Whale Watch - Krill

We had a beautiful day offshore with winds out of the southwest and seas around 2 feet. As we traveled out of Plymouth's inner harbor, we had some gorgeous looks at Plymouth Beach, also called Long Beach by residents in the area. This beach is long and thin, hence its nickname, and there are homes at the beginning of this thin stretch of barrier beach.

Next we had beautiful views of the Duxbury Pier Lighthouse (also called Bug Light) with the Myles Standish Monument behind it. It was a picture perfect day in the harbor and we were full of anticipation as to what whales we would see once offshore. 

As we continued to move through Plymouth's outer harbor, we saw quite a few large flocks of sea ducks including Common Eiders. Many of the eiders were sitting on the water's surface close to the channel and this gave us wonderful looks at these ducks. We also had great looks at a number of flocks of Double Crested Cormorants many of them airborne. This is a wonderful time of year for bird watching as many birds are preparing for long southerly migrations. 

Once passing Gurnet Point, the most easterly part of Saquish that marks the mouth of Plymouth Harbor, we saw adult Northern Gannets feeding a mile or so from the harbor entrance. In this area, we also had a number of lobster boats checking their lobster trawls.

As we continued on our way, we starting picking up single blows east of Stellwagen Bank, but still within the boundaries of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This area has been "hot" for whale sightings over the past month or so. As we continued into this area, our captain slowed down the boat to comply with the NOAA Whale Watch Guidelines.

In this area, we saw whale spouts or blows dispersed through this area. Finding whales by searching for their spouts is one of the best ways to find larger whale species some distant from the boat. Overall, we had at least 8 to 10 humpback whale scattered throughout the area. We were able to observe 3 different animals or groups of animals that were spaced apart by at least 1/2 mile. 

Our first sighting was a humpback whale who was headed southwest towards the tip of Race Point. Since that was the opposite direction that we wanted to go, we left this animal and continued to the east. 

We stopped again on a single humpback whale, that was spending more time at the water's surface. This humpback whale lifted its tail out of the water, when it was right alongside the vessel. This looked to be a juvenile humpback whale due to its small size. 

Our third and final sighting was a wonderful pair of humpback whales that turned out to be Circuit and her calf of this year. Circuit's calf was traveling alongside its mom and switching sides on occasion. As Circuit arched her back and lifted her beautiful tail (fluke) out of the water, the calf followed suite and dove with tail high.

A great way to say goodbye to a very special pair of endangered marine mammals. Soon mother and calf will make the return migration back to the Caribbean. Either on that return migration or when they are back in the Caribbean, mother and calf will separate. So time is coming to a close for this mother and calf pair bond and we wish them both well on the voyage ahead. 

As we slowly moved away from Circuit and calf, we noticed that one of the fishing boats had hooked a fish. Not sure what kind of fish this boat snagged, but as the pole bent over under the strain of the fish, we had an idea that a giant bluefin tuna was hooked on the line at the other end.