We are so excited to start a new season and see what the Gulf of Maine brings to us this year! Yesterday was a rough start to the season with lots of fog which didn’t help us to spot whales. But, today was a different story. We headed up to Jeffreys Ledge to find several feeding sei whales! Yes, I said SEI whales!! These rare, endangered whale typically spend their time much further off shore, beyond the Gulf of Maine. We were treated to 3-5 sei whales surface feeding- mouths wide open, baleen showing, and lunging on their sides. It was amazing! The Sei whale population in this area (which includes the Scotian shelf) is only 1400-2200 individuals. This was such a treat for both the experienced and novice whale watchers.
Our last day of the 2015 season was beautiful! It was a cool, fall day, but the seas were calm which is not the norm on Jeffreys Ledge at the end of October. In contrast to most of the season, the whales were very close to shore, which meant we had a quick transit and then were treated to a little extra time with whales. The whales on Jeffreys are abundant (which always makes calling the season a wrap a little more difficult). Our ID’s for the day included Sabot, Putter, Storm, Bayou, Pleats, Lutris, Sabot, Timberline, and Owl and calf. Owl’s calf, never a disappointment, did multiple headstands right off the bow. It is now time to settle in for another long New England winter, counting the days until next spring. Thanks to everyone who joined us this season!
As October comes to an end, the Gulf of Maine humpback whales will shortly start their migration south to the Caribbean; Fortunately for the passengers on board today, we still had humpback whales out on Jeffrey’s Ledge! It was quite a bumpy ride out there, but we braved the spray and swells. Not too far out we picked up a few blows. There were at least 3 humpbacks whales. They surfaced a few times very close to the boat, then just staying below the water surface for a while. Eventually one rolled over, did a flipper slap, some tail breaches and even a full breach! While we were looking at these humpbacks we had a friendly harbor seal swim up next to the boat, too. As the seas picked up, we decided to head back in to Gloucester. Thanks to all the passengers for braving the seas today!
Today was quite an eventful day out on the water! It had been a few days since our last whale watch so we were all eager for what we might find. We traveled to an area where we came across a sleepy humpback whale who never fluked but had a floppy dorsal. We left this humpback to rest and explored the area near by. Shortly, we came across 1 blow, then 2, then 4, and before we knew it we had blows all around the boat! We started with two pairs that were close together. The four individuals were Highlighter, Tumbleweed, Tear and Pixar. With so much activity around us, once we got some close looks at these whales we moved on to the other nearby blows. We were with a trio of humpbacks for a while made up of Tornado, Calanus and Pinball. Pinball was a special treat for our crew since she’s one of our favorites (being one of our adoptable whales) plus, we hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. We bounced around to other whales, seeing Pixar for a second time and another unknown whale that we never got a good ID photo of. Then we started to head in the direction for home. Luckily for us, there were two whales on the way who didn’t want us to leave Jeffrey’s just yet. They both breached right in front of the boat! One was substantially smaller, so we assumed it was a mother-calf pair. However, looking at my photos I noticed it was actually Geometry who breached, and the smaller whale remains an unidentified (most likely) juvenile.
There were also tons of Northern Gannets out on the water today. And we also quickly passed by a small pod of harbor porpoises. Although the winds picked up towards the end of our trip, our time out there today was definitely worth it!
Calm seas, not too chilly, and tons of whales – what more could you ask for! On our way out to Jeffrey’s Ledge this morning we stopped briefly on two small pods of harbor porpoises, but they tend to be a little bit elusive! We moved on a little further and came across a second species of toothed whale – the Atlantic white-sided dolphin. There was quite a large pod of them, at least 100 to 200 individuals I would estimate. As we were watching them, we could see small groups of them all around us, and some of them even approached us quite closely. After the dolphins we continued on and found humpback whales Spoon and her new calf. The pair was pretty mellow, spending some time sleeping just on the surface. We spotted some more blows and moved on to what appeared to be a pair of humpbacks, but after one surfacing we quickly realized there were more – at least five in the group. This feeding group was busy charging and lunging through the water, trapping fish in the bristles of their baleen plates. Whales ID’d in this group were Nike, Grommet, Putter, and Cloud. Finally, to round out the trip, we visited one more pair of humpbacks, Buzzard and Partition. This pair showed us some interesting behaviors, including “snaking” where the whale bends in an “S” shape, and kelping, where the whale interacts with seaweed!
Despite the bumpy seas today, we still had a great trip! We started out with a small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphin, a species of toothed whale we tend to see more often a little later in the season. We continued on and came across a mom/calf pair of humpback whales that turned out to be Cajun and her calf. Cajun never ended up showing her tail, but I was able to identify her by her dorsal fin and her calf’s very distinctive tail fluke pattern. The calf was doing a bunch of “headstands” where it came up tail first and held its tail up, holding the position. The calf also did a couple of tail breaches, which is always exciting!
With winds threatening to cancel our trip, we bundled up, hoped for calm seas and set out to Jeffrey’s Ledge. Luckily for us, the swell was not nearly as bad as we thought and there were tons of whales in the area! We started out with a pair, one identified as Partition. These two had evidently been feeding since they left a big brown cloud of whale poop quite a few times! This pattern continued throughout the day, spotting two more pairs of humpback whales. A passenger actually asked if it was common to see this many pairs. A great question considering humpback whales are solitary animals. It seems like these whales have all formed short term associations to possibly eat cooperatively and can disassociate after a few hours or sometimes days. The second pair was Sword and Victim, with who in addition to showing us evidence of eating krill, got a little playful with a tail breach and flipper slapping. Our third pair was a bit sleepy, probably since they had been feeding all morning (yup, more poop!), but they eventually woke up and we got some tail flicks. This last pair were humpbacks familiar to this area known as Tear and Clamp. While on these pairs we did see a few more blows around us, so clearly there was a lot of food in the area today. On our way back to Gloucester we spotted Sword and Victim again, who were taking a quick nap. We got some quick looks and continued on enjoying the beautiful afternoon out on the water. Thank you to all the passengers who joined us today, especially those celebrating their birthdays with us!
Although Monday usually means a bit of grogginess for us on land, out on Jeffrey’s Ledge marine life was excited and active! Our trip got off to a quick start when we spotted an Ocean Sunfish right outside of Gloucester Harbor. After our ocean sunfish we carried on, passing by Thatcher Island and continuing north to Jeffrey’s Ledge.
Our first whale sighting was of two humpback whales! They were taking rather short dives, spending lots of time just hanging out below the water surface and we even got an unexpected tail breach! Always very exciting to see any breaching behavior. After some time with this pair, we moved to where the tuna fleet was in hopes of finding a few more whales. We spotted a spout and came to a stop to try and pick it up again…but before long we were over come by a huge pod of Atlantic White Sided Dolphins. They swam around the boat for quite a while and made for a very enjoyable time. They finally continued south and we headed in the opposite direction towards the original spouts we had seen. There was a few humpbacks in the area and we got looks at a few including Spoon and her calf. There was also a trio which at the moment we thought included our original pair, but using our photo IDs we noted there was actually 5 different whales around us as well as 2 single humpbacks about a mile north of us. It’s always exciting seeing so much active marine life out there! When we started heading back south towards Gloucester Harbor we ran into the large pod of dolphins again and this time we traveled south with them for a while, getting some really close up looks at these beautiful creatures. Everyone on board was as happy with the dolphins as they seemed to be with us! All around a great trip today!
Our trip to Jeffrey’s Ledge this morning brought us a quick look at a whale breaching and flipper slapping in the distance. As luck would have it, as soon as we approached, the whale quieted down, taking only a few breaths before diving down. It turned out to be Hornbill, a male who frequently is found on Jeffrey’s. We left Hornbill and spent most of the trip with Owl, her new calf, and Geometry. Owl’s calf was being quite active and curious, rolling around, flipper slapping, tail breaching, and practicing blowing bubble clouds. Owl’s calf even surfaced through a big patch of seaweed and was playing with it on its face and flipper – a rare behavior called kelping! On our way back to the harbor we came across Hornbill again for a quick look, as well as passed by 4 different ocean sunfish, stopping to take a look at one of them.
Our afternoon trip was a very fun charter trip where we once again headed towards Jeffrey’s. There were 10-12 humpbacks all around us, including a pair ID’d as Cornucopia and Solo.
Tons of activity and tons of whales out on Jeffrey’s Ledge today! In the morning we saw a humpback mom and calf pair, Shuffleboard and her new 2015 calf. Her calf was being very playful, spending most of the sighting belly-up, rolling around, and slapping its pectoral fins on the water. It even swam, belly-up, right across our bow! The calf also did a spyhop where it brought it’s face up out of the water to take a look around, before returning again to its belly-up position. We saw a lot of activity in the distance, so we went to go check it out and we found Sigma and Tornado who put on quite the show. This pair was very active the entire time we were with them, flipper slapping and rolling around, and even giving us a few tail breaches. They were flipper slapping at the same time together and then alternating slaps, which was very cool to see!
On our afternoon trip, there were so many whales around we weren’t sure where to head first! As we were getting our bearings, there were a couple of single whales swimming all around, who were ID’d as Hornbill, Patches, Spar, and Geometry. After deciding on a course, we spent time with a trio of humpbacks, Owl and her new calf, and Mogul. Owls calf spent a lot of time rolling around and raising its flippers in the air, and it was certainly curious of us. At one point, the calf rolled onto its side right next to our starboard bow and you could see its eye right under the water checking us out. After hanging out with Owl and calf and Mogul, we checked out some other whales in the area – it was Sigma and Tornado who we saw in the morning still hanging out together! Terrific day of whale watching!