Friday, September 9, 2011
12 pm whale watch trip - Krill
We were excited to get offshore since Katia had kept us land-bound for the past 4 days. As we headed out of Plymouth Harbor, the winds were out of the northwest and the swell from Katia was out of the east. It made for a bit of a bumpy ride, but our sites were on the waters of Stellwagen Bank and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
As we crossed onto the bank, we started seeing a large number of seabirds including greater shearwaters. We also had some quick looks at juvenile Northern gannets and sooty shearwaters. And then to our surprise, an immature Cedar Waxwing circled the boat. This songbird looked tired and very out of place.
It must have wandered too far from shore or was blown offshore due to the strong winds over the past few days. It rested on our boat for quite some time and we will be keeping our fingers crossed that this little animal made it back to shore safe and sound.
As we crossed over the bank, we picked up two blows to the east which turned out to be Ganesh and calf. Mother and calf were heading to the southeast with the swells and waves pushing them onward. It was wonderful to see Ganesh and her calf of this season traveling slowly side-by-side as they continued on their way. We were able to get some close looks at Ganesh's calf who recently was hit by a boat. The propellor scars are most prominent on the calve's left side but you can see a huge divot on the calves right flank.
It appears that the calf is healing nicely and will survive this encounter. But how sad that this little calf has to deal with this difficult situation when it is less than 1 years old.
After we left this mother and calf pair, we picked up a another pair of humpback whales who turned out to be Bounce and an unknown animal. Like Ganesh and calf, this pair was swimming slowly with the waves heading towards the shores of Cape Cod.
At one point, Bounce and friend surfaced just off our starboard side and gave our passengers a great look at how beautiful and magnificent these animals are. And then they slipped beneath the boat, surfacing off our port side.
Both whales fluked-out as they continued on their way. And that was our cue to head back to Ganesh and calf before heading home ourselves.
When we picked up Ganesh and calf for the second time, we noticed that the calf was diving towards mom's side. This is a good indication that the calf was nursing from mom. Humpback calves will nurse for almost a year, the time that they are with their mom's. But this is also the time when we start to see the calves try their hand at feeding on small schooling fish and large zooplankton. What a sweet moment to see mother and calf nursing just off our boat. How privileged are we to be a witness to such beauty.
Soon it was time for us to head home. So we said our goodbyes to Ganesh and her wonderful calf. Another amazing day offshore. We are so glad to finally get back out on the water and reconnected with our whales and seabirds.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Ocean sunfish necropsy in Rye, NH - The first of the 2011 season.
Read about an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) that stranded dead off the coast of New Hampshire. This sunfish had been hit by a boat and the propellor cut into the animal's body cavity. Captain John naturalists, Krill and Leah, headed up to Rye in order to conduct a necropsy (animal autopsy) on this unfortunate fish. Krill and Leah lead a team that was comprised of staff from the Seacoast Science Center.
Rare find on Rye shore a scientific opportunity | SeacoastOnline.com
9 and and 2 pm whale watch trips - Krill
Today was an amazing day where we had humpback whales feeding on large concentrations of copepods. This type of surfacing feeding is quite breath-taking and it provides for a great deal of viewing time since the whales never take long dives. We watched a combination of humpbacks over the course of the day, many changing associations by the hour.
At times, we had whales feeding all around the boat. As the surfaced with mouth's wide open, we could see the baleen hanging down from the upper jaw. But their surfacings were very unpredictable and quick. Often the whales would surface with no warning as to their arrival.
Some of the whales were using bubbles to help them concentrate the zooplankton. Often those bubbles were in strings or arcs instead of the typical bubble net that is often used when feeding on fish. We assume the whales were feeding on some type of Euphausiid, presumably krill. But we never saw any of the prey in the water, an indication that the plankton was a bit too deep.
Our captain did a fabulous job of maneuvering around the animals as they lunged at the surface. Every once in a while, the whales would surface right off the sides or the bow of the boat, giving our passengers a real treat. To be that close to a 40 foot, 25 ton animal is a once-ina-alife experience for all of us onboard.
Often the lunging was slow and methodical. At other times, the lunging was fast and swift. Each whale had a unique style to his or her feeding patterns. But it was amazing to see many of these animals working in groups of two or three. In these groups, the whales coordinated their movements and behaviors. It was almost like watching some type of choreographed event.
By the end of the day, we had identified most of the humpbacks feeding on the southern part of Stellwagen Bank. We had Banyon, Apostrophe's 2008 calf, Jabiru, Komodo, Geometry and Condensation. What an amazing day!
Just as we thought things couldn't get much better, one of the whales breached right out of the water. This type of breach is called a spinning head breach for the whale propels itself out of the water head first and then spins in the air. It is said to be the most magnificent behavior witnessed in the animal kingdom and I would have to agree.
Monday, September 5, 2011
12 noon whale watch - Krill
We had a great day offshore with finback whales, minke whales and humpback whales. Our first sightings were finbacks whales that were feeding deep on the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. These are one of the fastest whales offshore giving them the nickname "the greyhounds of the ocean."
We then moved north onto the middle part of the bank and picked up a few humpback whales that appeared to be feeding on some type of zooplankton patch. We assume they were feeding on some type of Euphausiid, like krill, but we never saw the bait in the water.
Our first pair of humpbacks included Banyon who was feeding alongside Jabiru. Then we moved off to watch Condensation feeding offshore just a mile to the northwest.
But sometimes it is best to let the pictures speak for themselves.