Saturday, May 22, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
We headed out of Plymouth Bay out into Cape Cod Bay amidst a series of thunderstorms, and the "fireworks" kept up all the way to the whales, just north of the southeast corner of Stellwagen Bank.
"Waiting for us to arrive" were 20 to 25 humpback whales, almost all of whom were feeding on schools of sand lance (individual fish sometimes seen at the surface while we were watching the whales). Besides the excellent news that we had found such an exciting group of humpback whales to watch, we also had the good news that the thunder and lightning seemed to have finally subsided. (The bad news was that the rain showers, sometimes heavy, continued to come and go and come again while we were watching the whales, and sometimes a bit of fog made it a bit difficult to find and/or re-find the whales.)
Most of the whales seemed to be feeding in small groups of three to four whales at a time, although there were at least two or three that seemed to be generally feeding alone. Some of the whales were kick-feeding (slapping their tail flukes on the water surface just before diving for food), while many of those whales and others were utilizing either bubble clouds or bubble nets to corral their prey. At times we were treated to gorgeous views of one to as many as four (at one point) humpbacks surfacing with their mouths wide open, straining water from their mouths, lower jaws full of fish. (It is interesting, I think, that many baleen whales, such as these humpbacks, do not really strain food from the water, as it is commonly described in books, but actually strain out water from the food after the food is already in their mouths.)
Amongst the assembled multitude of a couple dozen or so humpbacks were a few familiar whales. For me, the high point was, for the first time this year, spotting the familiar dorsal fin of Nile, a very cooperative adult female, seemingly an old "friend" from many previous years' trips. She is somewhat unusual (although not unique in this regard) in that the very hooked shape of her dorsal fin, along with a patch of white markings at the base of the right side of the dorsal fin (which, to me, looks like a large white "thumb print" at a distance), make it easy to identify her, even before seeing her also distinctive tail fluke markings.
The predominant birds seen were gulls (herring, greater black-backed, and laughing). Very few pelagic birds were seen (just a couple of northern gannets).