Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011 (9 am and 2 pm whale watches )

9 am and 2 pm whale watches - Krill

This morning we had a fabulous whale watch as we were treated to a large concentration of whales on the southern part of Stellwagen Bank. Most of the whales were humpback whales, but a few were minke whales. Both humpback and minke whale are baleen whales that feed mainly on fish in our waters.

Winds were out of the southwest and they were picking up quickly. This made for a bit of a bumpy ride as we maneuvered around humpbacks that were traveling alone or in small groups. Many of the humpbacks were feeding deep or were searching for bait. Our favorite sighting was a trio of humpbacks that turned out to be Venom and her calf of this year who were with another adult whale.

Venom and the other adult appeared to be feeding deep, while the calf was traveling by Venom's side. At one point, the calf started nursing from mom and we saw the calf surface on alternate sides of Venom. This trio then surfaced right off the bow of the boat, giving us the best looks at them the entire trip!

All in all a fabulous morning of whale watching with at least 20 humpback whales in the area as well as 5 minke whales.

2 pm whale watching trip:

Winds were now gusting out of the southwest. We headed a bit closer to Cape Cod and Race Point to get some protection from the increasing winds. As we passed Race Point, we saw a blow a few miles to the east. This turned out to be quite a find for the animal started breaching (jumping) out of the water. As this large animal cleared the water's surface, we saw long white flippers on either side of the body. That clued us in to the fact that this was a humpback whale.

As we slowly approached this humpback, the whale breached out of the water head first in a behavior called a chin breach. It was fascinating to see this whale torpedo itself out of the water creating a huge splash upon reentry. As we held position for the animal, it breached just off our bow head first once again, but this time the whale spun in the air before hitting the water on its side. This behavior is called a spinning head breach and it is said to be the most magnificent behavior ever witnessed in the animal kingdom. I think everyone onboard the boat today would agree!

As this humpback fluked out, we caught a glance of the underside (ventral) of the tail. We identified this whale as Coral, a male humpback whale that has been seen many times this season. Coral continued to repeat amazing spinning head breaches just off our vessel. Then Coral rolled on his side and lifted his flipper out of the water. Slap! Coral brought the flipper down with great effort creating a big splash and a loud sound.

As we watched fascinated by Coral's quite active behaviors, he rolled upside-down once again and this time lifted both flippers out of the water before slapping them down on the water's surface. This gave us a great chance to see the series of ventral pleats that run down the belly of the whale. These pleats expand when the whale is feeding therefore allowing the animal to take more food and water into its mouth before straining.

Our captain counted over 15 spinning head breaches by Coral before we had to start heading back to Plymouth. Although our ride home was bumpy and wet, our passengers were delighted with the trip. Coral was definitely the star of the show today!