Thursday, May 5, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
We left Plymouth Harbor with mostly cloudy skies and light winds. As we approached the SW corner of Stellwagen Bank, we spotted a single North Atlantic Right whale. This animal was just travelling along, possibly feeding right below the surface. We didn’t spend too much time with this animal, as we had reports of several active Humpback whales in an area just east of the Bank known as “the triangle”.
As we crossed the Bank and neared the triangle, we saw several blows and big splashes in the distance. As we got closer, we found ourselves in the middle of a feeding frenzy! We had Humpback whales as well as Atlantic white-sided dolphins and many birds, including Northern gannets, in the area.
Initially, there were two groups of 5-6 whales, one group on either side of our boat. These whales were using several different feeding techniques including kick feeding and bubble cloud feeding. Kick feeding is when a whale smacks its tail on the surface of the water in order to stun its prey. Bubble cloud feeding is when a whale produces bubbles that serve to confuse and corral its prey.
After a bubble cloud is seen, it is likely that the whale will lunge across the surface of the water with its mouth wide open, engulfing as much food and water as possible. This is known as lunge feeding. It was amazing to see these 40 ton animals lunging across the water with their mouths open wide and lower jaws extended!
Time and time again 2-4 animals would surface at one time, mouth agape. It seemed the groups of 5-6 whales were working cooperatively to hunt fish. We would see one animal kick and dive down. A few seconds later we would see 2 or 3 bubble clouds being produced, followed by 2-4 animals lunging at once.
As we continued watching these two main groups, we had several other groups pop up a little further away, also engaging in the same feeding behavior. At one point we had several whales producing bubble clouds and lunge feeding right under our bow! It was incredible watching all of these different groups working together!
Shortly before we headed back to Plymouth, we spotted another Right whale in the area. This whale seemed to be just passing through all of the commotion, and probably skim feeding along the way. We slowly moved away from this animal, catching a few more glimpses of Humpback whales feeding all around us before heading home. Best whale watch so far this season!