Thursday, July 15, 2010
9 am Whale Watch Trip - Krill
We had a foggy start to our day offshore. As we headed across Massachusetts Bay to the east side of Stellwagen Bank, the visibility greatly improved. In this area we came upon a small concentration of minke whales. These whales were probably feeding deep as they surfaced in all directions around the boat.
As we stopped to watch the minke whales, we saw a number of large whales still further to the east. As we slowly moved to the NE, we picked up a pair of humpback whales that turned out to be Apostrophe and her calf of this year. Looking to the SE, we saw another group of humpback whales that included 4 individuals.
This larger grouping of humpback whales turned out to be Cajun and her calf of this year, Pele and Milkweed. Fun to see these individuals continue to associate with one another over the course of the past few weeks.
The adults appeared to be feeding deep as they charged around the area breathing hard. All the great lunging action was happening beneath the water's surface, but we had breathtaking looks of these animals very close to the boat as we drifted close by.
In the distance we could see a large container ship to the north of us. This ship was moving in the shipping lanes that cut right across the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This is a type of large commercial traffic that our whales and other coastal marine wildlife have to deal with on a daily basis.
Soon we saw another small group of humpback whales. This included a second mother and calf pair who were traveling with an adult. We never got a close look at this trio so were never able to identify any individuals.
Great morning and wonderful sightings of humpback whales, including two mother and calf pairs.
11 am Whale Watch - Krill
The morning started off with rain and fog, but we left the dock with high hopes of seeing whales offshore. As we continued to move out of Plymouth Harbor, the fog was as thick as pea soup! But as we continued to move offshore, visibility greatly improved to the point where we had at least 5 miles of good visibility.
We moved across Stellwagen Bank and came upon an area where there were 3 or 4 minke whales. Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales, but a common whale to our area this time of the year. We kept moving in the hopes of finding some humpback whales that were reported a bit more to the east of our current position.
When we finally arrived in this area, we found a group of 5 humpbacks that were feeding deep. This group included Cajun and her calf of this year, Venom, Milkweed and Pele. We have great views of this group feeding just off the sides of the boat as they were circling the bait and really charging around the area.
Cajun's calf was spending more time on the surface as this young animal was waiting for mom to finish feeding so it could begin to nurse. With extra time on its hands (or flippers) the calf came right over to the bow of the boat and gave our passengers a fabulous look at a very special animal.
As we watched this group, a finback whale surfaced to the SE of us. Finbacks are the largest of all the baleen whales that is common to our area. However, this season, we have not seen very many finback whales. Not sure why this is, but our sighting yesterday was wonderful nonetheless.
All in all a great trip. The rains held off until later that afternoon so we ended up with a great day offshore with fabulous sightings of very endangered, but loved, whales.
Monday, July 12, 2010
11 am Whale Watch - Lauren
Today we had a nice sunny day offshore with slight haze which reduced our visibility to approximately 4 miles. Winds were coming from the south west at about 10-15 kts. Sea height was roughly 2 - 4 ft with a 1-2 ft swell out of the SE.
We started our sighting with maybe 20 or so Atlantic white-sided dolphins that were charging through the area. Feeding in this same area was a school of giant bluefin tuna. The tuna were creating a huge commotion as they drove the bait fish to the surface and then attacked from below.
Later in the trip we came upon a mother calf humpback pair, which I believe to be Rune and calf. Surfacing in the same area as the mother and calf pair humpback was a single humpback whale that we were not able to identify. As this whale disappeared, the calf became very active.
The calf then put on quite an acrobatic show as it repeatedly breached! This type of breach is called a spinning head breach as the calf jumped out of the water head first and then spun in the air before falling back into the water. After watching this mother and calf pair, we then moved further east and picked up a trio of humpack whales. These whales were charging through the area and appeared to have a destination in mind.
Great sighting conditions offshore and wonderful looks at some very large and endangered marine mammals.
9 am Whale Watch - Joanne
We left Plymouth Harbor with heavy fog. We had a rolling swell from the SE and a chop from the NE. We traveled to the SE edge of Stellwagen Bank and were able to find half a dozen humpback whales even with the thick fog.
Our first sighting was of a mother/calf pair--Firefly and calf. We quickly lost them in the fog, but immediately picked up Venom. As we followed Venom, two more humpbacks appeared. Venom and Tear joined and heady steadily NW at 5 knots for 20 minutes. The pair had the same pattern and dives, but abruptly it changed and Tear did three tail breaches, lifting and kicking his tail out of the water.
When the pair surfaced next, they had a third whale with them--Ivee. It is not unusual for whales to display dramatically as associations are joining and/or separating. Once this group became a trio, the behavior changed in all three whales. We had much more surface activity and slow, rolling flukes.
In addition, we saw one minke whale, Wilson's storm petrels, and greater shearwaters.
2 PM Whale Watch Trip - Joanne
By afternoon, the fog had lifted, we had partly cloudy skies and an increasing sea/swell. We once again traveled to the SE edge of Stellwagen Bank. We had over a dozen humpback whales, with 4-5 different whales showing aerial displays. The most active though, was Cajun's calf, which was recorded breaching and tail breaching for over an hour.
Cajun, Perseid, Pele, Percussion, Milkweed and Alphorn were all associated, while both Cajun's calf and Perseid's calf stayed at the surface.
We also had Circuit and calf nearby, along with Hancock and another whale yet to be ID'd.
Cajun's calf was full breaching, tail breaching, chin breaching, rolling and flipper slapping. Three to 4 other whales also displayed breaches, but Cajun's calf was non-stop and very active. The adults appeared to be deep feeding, while the calves stayed near the surface. Each time the adults surfaced, the calves would head over to where they came up, a few times Cajun's calf nearly breached on top of her.
It was another incredible day offshore in the company of whales!