July 29

July 29th, 2015

From Naturalist Dianna

Another hazy, hot and humid day on shore today. Thankfully being out on the ocean was much more comfortable! Our morning whale watch found 3 humpback whales relatively close to Gloucester- only about 24 miles!! This year the whales have been pretty far away so 24 miles seemed like a real treat.  We found a humpback whale named Pele first and then moved on to a pair. One of these was ID’ed as Ridgeline and the other is still a mystery.

This afternoon, we headed to where we left the whales in the morning but no whales were to be found. This happens, as whales have tails and certainly use them!  So we kept searching. Finally, after more than 2 hours of traveling, we spotted a blow off our starboard side. This one blow turned into several, which turned into many!! We had 8-10 humpback whales all in the area! Some of these whales were traveling in groups of 2-5, and others were alone. One of the whales jumped out of the water while possibly the same whale began to flipper-slap! This was really an incredible trip with so many whales all together!  We are still working on identifying them all but some of our whales were Pele (who had moved over 10 miles since the morning trip), Raccoon,  Citation, Greenbean and Milkweed. The birding was also pretty good with shearwaters, Wilson’s storm petrels and gannets in the neighborhood.

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July 28

July 28th, 2015

From Naturalist Dianna

After a rocky weekend, it was nice to come out on the ocean and be greeted by calm seas!  Both of our trips took us to the southern end of Stellwagen Bank where we found 2 young humpback whales spending time together.  Although both of these whales are quite distinctive, we still aren’t sure who they are! This morning one of the whales “spy-hopped”, lifting its head vertically out of the water! This afternoon, this same whale rolled on its side and slapped its flipper on the surface several times!  At various points both whales were hanging out at, or just below, the surface, but keeping their bright flippers visible to us underwater. As we headed home this afternoon, we were treated to a quick look at a close minke whale! This minke was really big- at least 30 feet long! Such a great way to spend a hot and humid day!

July 27

July 28th, 2015

From Naturalist Hannah

We had a great day on the ocean today! It was a much calmer ride compared to yesterday as we headed down to a similar area. The southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank is still very productive and we have had great luck there in the past. As we made our way down we had a large variety of bird life including a few different species of shearwaters, Wilson’s storm petrels and northern gannets! It is interesting how the bird life changes throughout the season and we welcomed all of our winged friends back to the area. We started the trip with some great looks at 2 humpback whales. These are a medium sized baleen whale and are most commonly spotted on Stellwagen Bank. Both whales have been spending some time in that area and one was ID as Pele. Pele was born in 1997 and is named after the famous Brazilian soccer player. These whales weren’t swimming particularly fast but were circling the area. We got some great looks and then decided to check out a blow (or spout) from another whale a little ways away. We were pleasantly surprised to come across a single fin whale! These are truly enormous animals and can reach lengths in excess of 70 feet. This was a large fin whale and was taking a few breaths then cruising just below the surface. We also spotted a few minke whales close by but did not get any great looks at them. We ended the trip with another humpback whale that was heading south towards the group that we has seen earlier. This particular whale was spending a large majority of the time underwater and had covered a large area between surfacings. The dorsal fin of this animal was very pointed which is a great example of how we are able to ID the whales based on the fluke pattern and the dorsal fin shape. Overall, today was a great trip to Stellwagen Bank and we were able to see all of the common species of baleen whales that call the Gulf of Maine their summer home!

July 26

July 27th, 2015

From Naturalist Hannah

We had a great day on the ocean despite rough seas. We headed back to the South West corner of Stellwagen bank again and the seas were churning and gave us quite the interesting ride down. Once the Provincetown Tower was in view we spotted a few spouts ahead of us. We were able to watch a group of 6 humpback whales swimming and plowing through the surface. It was interesting to have this many whales together that were showing no obvious signs of feeding. The weather could have impacted this association but again, we can only do our best to interpret the behaviors. Of the group of 6, we were able to ID two individuals. One was Venom, a female that was born in 1996. She is missing part of the right side of her fluke and is easily identified due to the disfigurement. The second animal that we were able to ID was Pele. There was some pectoral slapping also where the whale will roll and lift the 15 foot long pectoral fins above the water and slam them on the surface! This happened twice and right after the behavior ended, all members of the group went on a dive.   Although the weather was rough, we had great sightings of whales and a much calmer ride home.

July 25

July 26th, 2015

This morning’s trip was such a special treat! We spent the whole time with a female whale named Bayou (born in 2006) who spent the entire time we were with her jumping out of the water! Bayou treated us to spinning head breaches, tail breaches, chin breaches, and back breaches! She even breached directly off our stern at one point, surprising the passengers there. She also was doing some flipper slapping, belly up flipper slapping, lob tailing, and belly up lob tails. She was doing this acrobatic behavior the entire time that we spent with her. Her behavior was almost predictable at points, as she would take a couple of breaths, fluke, and then pop out of the water with a full breach. After that she’d follow it with a couple of head breaches and then continue swimming/spouting normally, then fluke again and begin the whole process again with a full breach. It really was quite a special trip, as breaching definitely doesn’t happen every day, especially not breaching the entire trip!

Chin breach
Chin breach

Tail breach
Tail breach

Bayou breaching
Bayou breaching

This afternoon’s trip brought us pretty close to Provincetown, where we encountered a group of four humpback whales. In this group, whales ID’d were Pele (first seen in 1997), Perseid (female, born in 1998), and Sundown. I didn’t have an ID for Sundown this afternoon, but was able to find a match in the catalog after the trip. The fourth whale I was unable to match to the catalog. We got some fantastic looks at these whales who kept surfacing all around us very close to our boat. They seemed to surface off our bow most often but at one point surfaced incredibly close to our starboard side! Everyone on that side got great looks at those whale’s bumpy faces. These whales also appeared to be doing a bit of feeding behavior, as they were thrusting their heads out of the water upon surfacing, indicating that they were filtering some food. What an amazing day!

Pele
Pele

Perseid going on a deeper dive
Perseid going on a deeper dive
Close-up whale face!

Close-up whale face!

July 24

July 25th, 2015

MCA 7/24 Blog Post

Today was a beautiful day on the ocean! We decided to start the day by heading south west to the bottom corner of Stellwagen Bank. This bank is a National Marine Sanctuary and is also a location of upwelling where large amounts of nutrient rich waters are pushed upwards and interact with the sun. This interaction causes phytoplankton blooms and attracts all kinds of marine life including whales.

Just north of Provincetown, we spotted a group of 4 humpback whales and a separate group of 2 humpback whales to the west. We cruised over to the smaller group and were able to ID one of them as Pregunta. Pregunta means question in Spanish and this whale has a small “question” mark on the top right side of her tail, which is how she got her name! She also has extensive scarring on tail stock which is another way to ID her. Pregunta is a female humpback whale and was born in 1990. She has also had 3 calves in her lifetime. We were also able to see the whale that she was with do a spinning head breach in which they throw their whole bodies out of the water! Pregunta then performed two head breaches. After watching this pair we decided to check out some of the other whales in the area.

The group of 4 whales that we had spotted on the way down had split into two groups of two and we had the chance to see one of these smaller groups. This group contained a whale named Bayou and she is another female who was born in 2006. Bayou is missing a large portion of the right side of her tail and was probably lost during an encounter with a boat. Bayou and friend were giving us great looks as they stayed at the surface for quite a while. After some more time with these humpbacks, we made our turn back towards Gloucester. In all, we spotted 6 different humpbacks and has some excellent looks at 4 of them.

The afternoon trip brought us to a similar area but the whales had moved north- which means more time on the whales for us and less time traveling! The trip started off by seeing a very small blue shark that was swimming just below the surface.

We then spotted Bayou again and were able to ID the whale she was with as Sundown. Sundown is also a female and was born in 2007. Based on dorsal shape, this was probably the same whale she was with this morning but they were acting very different! They were pectoral slapping, tail lobbing and tail breaching in the beginning of the trip. The pectoral fins are 15 feet long and weight up to 1 ton each. During the pectoral slapping behavior they will roll, lift the pectoral fin out of the water and then slam it on the surface. The same behavior is performed during a tail lob but the tail fin is used instead of the pectoral fins. They continued this behavior for a while then started traveling. We slowly followed behind and were very surprised to have two spinning head breaches very close to our boat! They then resumed pectoral slapping and tail lobbing. We ended the trip with some great looks as them swam near us and as they lifted their tail out of the water to continued on a deep dive we headed back to Gloucester. This trip was a great example of how quickly behaviors can change and how spectacular these animals are!

July 23

July 25th, 2015

This morning’s trip started out with a single humpback whale who we got some great looks at. I was able to get a really nice fluke shot of this whale, but was unable to locate this whale in the catalog we have on board, so I didn’t have an ID this morning. However, I looked at a more extensive online catalog and was able to ID this single whale as a whale named Pinch!

PInch's tail fluke

Pinch's tail fluke

We then moved on to a very quick look at a humpback pair, one of which was a whale named Echo, who is a female whale first seen in 1988 and has had 6 calves that we know about. Echo has a very easily recognizable tail fluke pattern, with little lines on her left tail fluke that gradually get bigger. The whale she was with did not fluke so I didn’t get an ID, and then we moved on to another pair of humpback whales that was close by. This pair was Pregunta and an unknown whale. Pregunta was first seen in 1990 and has had 3 calves that we know about. A little bit in the distance, we got some views of the research vessel the “R V Shearwater” working on their tagging project. They were working closely with a group of five or so humpbacks, but we didn’t want to disturb their work so we didn’t go see that group. Two of the whales in the group did fluke, however, and I was able to identify them as Bayou and Perseid!

The afternoon brought us a little bit closer to Provincetown than the morning trip, and we started off with a trio of humpback whales. These whales were ID’d as Perseid (female, born in 1998, has had 2 calves), Bayou (female, born in 2006), and Venom (female, born in 1996, has had one calf). Bayou and Venom both have very distinctive tails. Bayou is missing a very large portion of her right tail fluke, which appears to have been taken off by a boat propeller. Venom is also missing a part of her tail fluke, although much less severely than Bayou. Venom is missing the right tip of her tail fluke. We spent a good amount of time with this trio, who surfaced right under our bow at one point, surprising us all! We then moved on and spent time with a pair of humpbacks, ID’d as Zeppelin (female, born in 1989, has had 5 calves) and Fracture (male, first seen in 1990). We got some very nice looks at this pair as they swam at the surface and did a little bit of logging. Overall it was a great day on Stellwagen Bank!

July 22

July 23rd, 2015

This morning’s trip started out with a pair of humpback whales taking 4 minute dives and mimicking each other’s behavior.

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After we spent some time with the pair we headed back toward shore and came across a mom calf pair. The mom was Habanero. Her calf was very curious and gave passengers some up close looks as it circled the boat!

Habanero, a female humpback

Habanero, a female humpback

Close to boat behavior from Habanero's 2015 calf.

Close to boat behavior from Habanero's 2015 calf.

More close to boat behavior from Habanero's 2015 calf.

More close to boat behavior from Habanero's 2015 calf.

Habanero's 2015 calf's tail.

Habanero's 2015 calf's tail.

Habanero's tail.

Habanero's tail.


The afternoon started much the same as the morning. We headed out toward Stellwagen Bank and first came across Habanero and her calf again. We had even closer looks at the calf this afternoon!

Extremely close look at Habanero's 2015 calf's rostrum.

Extremely close look at Habanero's 2015 calf's rostrum.

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Habanero and her 2015 calf.

Habanero and her 2015 calf.

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We then decided to head a little further offshore and came across 2 pairs of humpback whales. The first pair went down for a dive on our port side about 100 feet away when the second pair came up for a breath just 10 feet from our starboard side.

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DSC_0405We watched this pair for a little while and a mink whale that came through before a final humpback drifted in to our area. This whale was sleeping, but not for long because it quickly woke up with some flipper slapping and extremely close looks!!

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Who's watching who?

Who's watching who?

July 21

July 22nd, 2015

From Naturalist Dianna

Today was the first day of the summer where it was actually hot on the ocean when the boat stopped to see the whales! Summer is definitely here! We traveled to Stellwagen Bank again and found 6 humpback whales a couple of minke whales. The whales were mellow this afternoon- slow surface traveling and not diving much. This is actually great for our viewing since the whales were staying at the surface for most of the time and not diving for 10+ minutes! Our first pair of humpbacks were identified as Perseid and Storm- both females. Next we found Tear, an adult male. A trio of humpbacks rounded out the day and this included Northstar and we thought maybe Hippocampus and a yet-to-be identified whale. But upon further review, I don’t believe we had Hippo.  We’ll need to do a bit more work to figure out who the mystery whales were with Northstar! Thanks for joining us!

July 19

July 20th, 2015

From Naturalist Hannah

What a day! As usual, we started the day off by taking a guess and heading to the Northwest Corner of Stellwagen Bank. There were whales spotted there the previous day so we decided to take a chance a hope that they stuck close to the area over night. As we passed the first location and nothing was spotted, we continued south toward the southwest corner of the bank. We had luck and located a single spout. Immediately, we knew that the whale was Cygnus, due to his mangled dorsal fin. Positive identification can be made many different ways and it just so happens that this whale was better know by its dorsal fin rather than the pattern on the underside of the fluke (and how most other whales are identified.) To our joy and surprise, another whale popped up near Cygnus after it returned to the surface. This was Exclaim and it is a whale that was born in 1997. Exclaim not only has a recognizable pattern on the fluke (or tail) but also has a large portion missing from the left side of the tail. Fortunately, Exclaim is still able to swim correctly and seems to be doing well this year. We watched the pair synchronize their dive and surface intervals for a while longer and then decided to continue on with the trip because another spout had been located.

Once we were on the new whale, we were able to identify it as Reaper, who was born in 1987 and has given birth to four calves. Reaper  was exhibiting some great behavior including bubble cloud feeding and a vertical lunge feed. Both techniques are unique to humpback whales and work quite well considering that the whales need to eat about 1 million calories every single day during the summer. After few good looks, we decided to make our turn back to Gloucester. This morning trip was memorable and a humbling example of how quickly things chance in the wild.

The afternoon trip was one for the books. We started out by heading to the Southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank just north of Provincetown, MA. We first came across 2 uncooperative humpbacks that did not show us their tails at all! Before we left, this duo formed a trio and they continued on their day. We came across another pair that were ID’ed as Coral and Centipede. Both whales were traveling next to each other so again, we got some great looks. Finally, we came across an insane group of humpbacks. The groups were small duos and trios but after about 15 minutes, these groups congregated into a large mass. A calf also added to the excitement because it was tail breaching a few times near the boat. It was a treat to experience such an amazing creature flinging its body around with little rhyme or reason. As we watched the group increase in size, we realized that we were literally surrounded by whales! It was an breathtaking experience. Calderas is a whale that was a part of the group and did a great job of hanging near the boat so we could get some great looks. We ended the trip with a single whale heading toward the now ever growing group. We truly are guests into their world and today, they welcomed us with open flippers!

Hope to see you soon!