May 24

May 24th, 2015

From Naturalist Dave:

It was a beautiful day on the water. Hardly a cloud in the sky, although Mother Nature made us work pretty hard for our 11 humpbacks today, battling through a fairly strong wind and building sea. We steamed 30 miles from port to the southern end of Stellwagen, but were rewarded for our efforts with some great close up looks at Jabiru and her calf. A welcome surprise as this is the 1st time Jabiru has ever been sighted with a calf in the 13 years since 1st being identified back in 2002. There were nine other humpbacks in the same general vicinity of Mom and calf this afternoon, but the calf’s curiosity around our boat and frisky behavior kept our attention for most of the trip. All and all, a great day on the water!

May 23

May 24th, 2015

From Naturalist Laura:

It was a breezy morning in Gloucester, but as we moved into the afternoon it turned out to be beautiful weather for the start of Memorial Day weekend.  We had a very pleasant trip on the Miss Cape Ann today.  We had two humpback whales traveling together on the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank.  One of the whales, known as Geometry, was regularly fluking for us, so we got great photo-identification shots of the underside of his tail.  The other animal was not cooperating as nicely, so I’m going to have to work a little harder to figure out exactly who Geometry’s companion was.  All in all, the whales made our job pretty easy today (it’s always enjoyable).  Hopefully, as we officially kick off the summer this weekend, this is a sign of things to come for 2015.

May 21- The Trio

May 21st, 2015

Today we spent time with three humpback whales, all traveling together! It’s always a treat to see one, but having all three side by side was great! This trio was just cruising at the surface and wasn’t moving very fast making it easy for us to get good looks at them without having to “chase” them.  They lifted their flukes a few times and were able to see the various markings on each whale which is what we primarily use to identify the individuals.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

We wonder how long these whales will be hanging out together. Can’t wait to get back out there this weekend to see!

May 17: Quality, not Quantity

May 18th, 2015

Today’s weather tried its best to inhibit our abilities to find whales, but sometimes we come out on top with a little bit of skill and a whole lot of luck.  The fog thickened as we neared Stellwagen Bank, and reduced visibility isn’t always great when we are looking for whales.   However, as we approached the area where whales had been reported earlier in the day, we spotted a humpback whale slapping its flipper on the water. It’s always nice when the wild whales cooperate!

This adult humpback whale had a curious side. Generally, whales are busy doing their job- eating, breathing, diving. But every now and then we come across a whale that is interested in US! Today was one of those days. Even with another whale watching boat close by, this whale repeatedly surfaced close to our boat and at one point was even hanging out right under our boat!  It is a rare occasion to have wild animals express curiosity in human-made things but this one seemed to really want to know what we were all about! Flipper slapping, spy hopping and general close approaches as we were drifting were the repertoire for this whale, later identified as Tunguska.   After a while with this whale, we moved along to see what else might be hanging around the Bank.

Our volunteer Sue quickly spotted a pair of huge fin whales travelling together. These whales were so fast that we only got the one look at them before they sped off into the fog.

Finally we came across another whale watch boat, and hence, another whale! This one was identified as Sundown who seemed busy feeding and not spending too much time at the surface.

Additionally, our crew reported seeing a minke whale in the mix. Minke whales are about 20-30 feet long and can be tricky to keep track of in the best conditions.  All in all, it was a nice day to be on the water searching for whales!

The 2015 Season is Underway!

May 18th, 2015

What a great start to our season! On Thursday, May 7, the Miss Cape Ann brought a group of students from Triton Academy out to Stellwagen Bank to search for whales. As we left the harbor, we got a quick look at a shy harbor seal. Then with land still in close sight, we spotted our first whale. A big fin whale, the second largest animal on the planet, surfaced close by. We managed to get some looks before continuing on to the Bank.

After a bit of traveling, we started to see more spouts in the distance. Humpback and fin whales were feeding like crazy! Humpbacks were blowing bubble nets to corral their prey, and the fin whales were lunging sideways at the surface causing lots of white-water! Soon we noticed something even more special- baby whales were in the mix!! One of the humpback whales named Palette was busy feeding while her new calf was waiting on the sidelines. Now and then, Palette would stop feeding to nurse her calf.
Palette and c

Similarly, we saw a lunge-feeding fin whale and it stopped feeding occasionally so its calf could nurse! Fin whale calves are one of my personal favorite sights as they are pretty rare to see AND extremely cute! They also can be a bit curious of boats as this one showed us when it popped up right next to us while its mom was feeding.
Fin whale lunge feedingFin whale calf
Fin whale mother and calf

Some folks think that only humpback whales can be identified by their markings, but not us! We later identified this fin whale mom as #1031 in Blue Ocean Society’s catalog. This whale was first seen by Blue Ocean Society staff in 2010 and we are excited to now know she’s a female! As we waited for a passing humpback to swim by (Ase), another fin whale popped up. This one was #1023 who was also first seen in 2010.

Also in the mix was Thumper who was exhibiting some impressive “kick feeding” skills. The mix of humpbacks and fins was truly fun to see. We can’t wait to get back out there to see what nature will show us next!
Thumper  feeding

Hollywood in Cape Ann!

March 31st, 2015

If you are visiting Gloucester, Beverly or Salem in the next few weeks and you think you spotted Matt Damon or Casey Affleck, you most likely did! Them and a few other hollywood celebrities will be in Cape Ann filming their new movie “Manchester-by-the-sea”.  The movie is being produced by Matt Damon and features Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Kyle Chandler.  I saw it first hand while I was stuck behind the film crew last week while drivingon Route 128 South.  I also got to drive by Casey Affleck! How awesome!?  (see picture below) Hopefully we spot them again around town.  For more info on the movie click this link.

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9/29/14: Best whale watch of the season!

October 14th, 2014

Although its pretty late in the season, according to one of our Blue Ocean Naturalists, Hannah, September 29 could have been one of the best! Read her Blog from that day here:

Another amazing day on the ocean! We had light winds and fairly calm seas as we headed straight east towards and area between Jeffrey’s Ledge and Stellwagon Bank known as Tillies Bank. The bank provides the perfect underwater topography for upwelling, which carries nutrients to the surface. It is most common to see whales and other marine life in these upwelling zones due to the large amount of fish that frequent the area.

As we headed east towards an area where whales were spotted over the weekend, we came across an ocean sunfish. Ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, are the largest and heaviest bony fish in the ocean. The average weight of these fish is around 2,200 lbs but the one we spotted today was not a full grown individual. Ocean sunfish eat jellyfish and so are often sighted after a jelly fish bloom occurs. There were reports of large numbers of jellyfish this summer so we have had a great season for spotting these large, uniquely shaped fish.

We then continued east and came upon our first pair of humpback whales. Humpbacks are a medium sized whale ranging from 40-45 feet and weighing in at 45 tons as an adult. The pair was swimming slowly and were diving for an average of 4-5 minutes. We got a special treat as one of the humpbacks was doing a behavior known as flipper slapping. The animal will raise one or both of the pectoral fins (flippers), each about 15 feet long and 1 ton in weight, out of the water and then slap it on the surface. It is not known what causes this behavior or why it is performed but in the case of these two whales, it was possibly communication. As we were watching the first pair of humpbacks, we noted that there was massive amounts of white water a few miles in the distance and decided to check it out.

As we were traveling toward the splashing, we saw that it was another pair of humpbacks (different from the first) and that one of the whales was breaching (jumping out of the water!) When we arrived near the whales, we were able to ID them as Tornado and her calf. The mother and calf will stay together for no more than a year so we know that this particular calf was born early this year and it probably around 9-10 months old. Again, we were lucky enough to observe the calf breaching out of the water multiple times and in a fairly predictable fashion. Similar to flipper slapping, the true meaning behind breaching is not well understood. Tornado was cruising at the surface and then taking short dives while her calf was rolling, flipper slapping and breaching near the boat. It was quite the treat!! We were able to see around 10 breaches. It was an extraordinary encounter with such amazing animals! Now that fall has arrived, some of the humpback whales will begin their migration to the warm waters of the Caribbean where they will spend the winter. We send them luck as they prepare for their trek south and are looking forward to what the remainder of the season has to offer!

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Tornado showing off with a tail breach

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Tornado & her calf (breaching in the background)

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Tornado’s breaching calf

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Flipper slapping

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Mola mola at the surface (ocean sunfish)


August 25th Whale Watch

September 2nd, 2014

Blog Post from Naturalist Diana

“What a gorgeous day on the ocean! Today’s trip was another long one to the southern end of Stellwagen Bank, but the seas were perfect for the voyage.   As we came into the area where the whales were today, we saw a trio of humpbacks near some other boats. We kept our distance and waited our turn, as  not to crowd the endangered whales. But then we spotted 2 more spouts close by.  We left the group and headed towards the pair. This was a humpback whale named Nile and her calf!  As we approached, the pair dove and we got to see Nile’s unique flukes showing the marking of the Nile River for which she was named.  When the pair resurfaced, they decided it was nap time, and they just floated at the surface ignoring us and the other whale watching boat completely. These whales certainly knew that we were there but it seemed they were not at all concerned.  We watched these 2 doze for about a half hour and even watched a curious Corys shearwater (cool offshore bird) buzz the pair a couple of times! But soon the trio of humpbacks was getting closer so slowly moved away from the sleepy pair (don’t wake the baby!) to see who these whales were.

The other humpback whales were Pele, Eruption and Storm. This group consistently would come up to the surface with Pele spouting first, followed by Eruption and then Storm. They would also dive in this order. There is still so much we don’t understand about whale behavior! Eruption was the largest whale in this group, and she was the only definite female (females are larger than males when full-grown).  This trio was also seen together yesterday. How much longer will they hang out? We don’t know! But we are looking forward to heading back out to see who we might find tomorrow!”

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Humpbacks Storm & Eruption

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Cory’s Shearwater

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Great Shearwater

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One of our infamous Humpbacks, Nile.

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Humpback Pele taking a dive


July 22nd Whale Watch report

July 24th, 2014

Blog post from Naturalist Dianna Schulte:

Sunny skies, calm seas and lots of whales! What else could you ask for??

Today’s trips brought us back to Stellwagen Bank where the humpback whale activity has been very good the past few days.  On the morning trip, we started with a group of 3 adult whales and a calf: Bayou, Pepper, Nile and her calf!  Nile’s calf was doing a bit of resting at the surface while mom and her friends foraged for fish. Even a busy baby humpback whale needs to nap now and then!

In the area were many more humpback whales including a group of at least 9! This group even included 3 mom/calf pairs!! At one point, the moms all dove, and all three calves were at the surface together! It was like a humpback calf nursery!   Two of the moms were identified as Milkweed and Perseid, while Soot, Cajun and Aerospace were with them.

We spotted several more humpback whales on the periphery, including Pele, but soon it was time to head home.

The afternoon trip was equally impressive. The groups from this morning seemed to have broken up a bit. We saw Pepper briefly traveling to the SE with another whale that we haven’t ID’ed yet.   Aerospace was now spending time with Northstar, who has a relatively new injury on its back and was flipper slapping and even tail breaching! Milkweed and Perseid, and their respective calves, were now with Pele and another whale.  Lots of active calf-play today too with the calves rolling upside down and one even opened its mouth at the surface!

Excellent day by far!!

Photos from our 9AM trip:

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Humpback named Aerospace taking a dive

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Humpback named Bayou diving as well

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A fluke from Cajun, one of our known humpbacks

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Milkweed and calf (flipper slapping)

Photos from 2PM trip:

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Mom and calf, traveling close together on the feeding grounds

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Humpback Northstar putting on a little show with a tail breach..

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AND flipper slapping

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Pele’s fluke

JULY 10th Whale Watch

July 23rd, 2014

Guest Blog post from our Naturalist Tina Ciarametaro

Stellwagen Bank was overflowing at the brim today with whales.  What another spectacular day to be at sea.  Beautiful weather, calm seas and incredibles whales.  Both trips were treated to at least 15-20 whales, some different on each trip.  Our afternoon trip also encountered at least a dozen Minke whales and 4 Finback whales within 2 miles the the breakwater in Gloucester.

The Sand Lances were in such abundance that the surface of the water looked to be percolating!  Hundreds of gulls and shearwaters skimmed the surface for a mid day snack (not to mention those birds brave enough to dive into the open jaw of the humpback whale!) Feeding behaviors that we witnessed were lob-tail feeding, blowing bubble clouds/nets and surfacing with their mouths wide open, chin-breaching, tail-breaching, Pec-slapping and mother nursing her calf.  A naturalist’s dream look around the boat and see whales on all sides!

Some pictures from the trips are below!

Tina

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Open mouth feeding with a great shot of  baleen

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Flippers and tales glowing green under the sea water

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Beautiful fluke shot

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Mama and calf humpback swimming along