Oct 30, 2016

October 30th, 2016

Today was our last trip of the 2016 season. It is always a sad day to say goodbye to our whale friends, but we look forward to seeing them again in the spring!  We ventured to the southern end of Stellwagen Bank today and found 3 humpback whales.  I’m always surprised when our crew tells me that the whales weren’t doing much…..they were just there. Well, in my mind I find that fabulous as some times we don’t find anything at all! Whale behavior is just as complex as is our own. Sometimes we are scoffing down dinner, and sometimes we are lounging in front of the TV.  We sat goodbye to our whale friends and wish them well on their winter expeditions. We look forward to seeing them, and you, next season on some more adventures to the whale feeding grounds.

October 20

October 20th, 2016

Wow!  Today was one of my favorite days of the season.  We had gorgeous weather (70+ degrees in late October?!) and calm seas, and nearly too many whales to count!

We headed out about 14 miles from the harbor to Stellwagen Bank, where we found a plethora of feeding whales! Sometimes we’ll see 1 or 2 whales bubble-feeding and it happens once or twice. Not so today – we had at least 12-15 humpbacks feeding in large groups constantly while we watched them!  There were 4-6 humpbacks feeding together at once, and they were moving around a lot, so it made it difficult to count the number of whales and keep track of who was who.  We had at least two calves also, and they were rolling around a lot at the surface.

Several times, we were surrounded by whales. We’d look off one side of the boat and start to see a ring of bubbles rising to the surface. Humpbacks use the bubbles to trap schools of fish. As we watched the bubbles, the whales would surface inside them, mouths open, sometimes several whales at once!  The same thing would be happening on the other side of the boat.

We haven’t identified all the whales yet, but so far have identified Tornado and calf, Wizard and calf, Hippocampus, Basin, Hancock and Springboard. Springboard was with a group of whales and for some reason, would roll on her side every time the group surfaced.

In addition to the whales, there were a number of seabirds feeding – we even saw a gull ride on a humpback’s head for a short time!

We’re scheduled to go out through the end of this month – come join us! Thanks to everyone who joined us today.

October 18

October 18th, 2016

On this gloomy, foggy Tuesday, we were quite pleased with our whale sightings on the northern part of Stellwagen Bank today! We passed by a small pod of harbor porpoises on our way, and then we came upon 21 humpback whales and at least 3 minke whales. The humpbacks were gathered in 2 large groups of 7-9 each, with a couple of pairs on the outskirts and one single whale breaching in the foggy distance.  Our groups of whales were bubble net feeding while one of the calves was playing around on the periphery of the group.  Sand eels (aka sand lance) were plentiful as were the pelagic bird sightings including great and Corys shearwaters, gannets, kittiwakes and even a couple of loons in the harbor! Such an incredible day of whale watching!

October 15

October 15th, 2016

Today we had to make a long trek down to the southern end of Stellwagen Bank. Although it was a long ride, the whales were definitely worth it! We found a pod of harbor porpoises as we neared the larger whales.  These “toothed whales” were pretty cooperative. Usually, as soon as I point them out, they will go down on us, so I was psyched to watch them stay up for so long!  Then we spotted some blows of larger baleen whales. In addition to the 9 humpback whales we found, we also had 2 minke whales in the same area!  Humpback and minke whales feed on the same types of small fish (sand eels, herring, mackerel, etc.) as do many sea birds such as the dozens of gulls and shearwaters also in the area.Image00007

At first we saw 2 pairs of humpbacks. The closest was Tornado and her newest calf. The other pair was a bit further off.  We continued on to find a trio of humpbacks- another mom (Abrasion) and her calf along with Whirlygig (whose mom is Pinball, one of my favorite whales and who is adoptable through the Blue Ocean Society!). These whales were feeding- blowing rings of bubbles around some fish and then surfacing right in the middle of the bubbles with their mouths wide open. In the meantime, we could see some of the sand eels attempting to escape the gaping jaws of the humpbacks, only to be picked up by the gulls and shearwaters! Not a good day to be a sand eel!

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All of a sudden, Tornado’s active calf came into the area with the trio. Tornado eventually showed up to join the feeding frenzy.Image00143

Another pair of humpbacks was seen nearby and soon joined the group of 5. These 2 newcomers were Fray and Hippocampus!  We really had some amazing views of 5 adult humpback whales charging through a cloud of bubbles while Tornado’s calf seemingly occupied herself by tail lobbing, tail breaching, flipper slapping and even doing a couple of complete breaches while her mom and the other adults fed.Image00269

This afternoon was a day of excitement and also learning as all of the whale activity we were seeing was being documented in an attempt to learn more about the cultural and social lives of whales. We saw some interesting things this afternoon, and hope to investigate further on these this winter.Image00282

In addition to the fantastic whale watch, we also were treated to a beautiful sunset over Boston and Cape Ann, and for those of you who stuck around a bit longer, the full moon rose to the east in an absolutely beautiful, clear sky.  We just never know how each day will turn out and today was impressive on all ends!

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October 12

October 12th, 2016

We had a bit of a cruise today, but it was totally worth it!  We got a quick look at a minke whale, and then saw a dogfish (small shark) right off the bow!  We then moved into an area with many humpback whales, 10 in all.  They were so busy taking shallow dives that we didn’t get a great look at all of their flukes. But at one point 5 of the whales were all together, and even did some bubble-feeding! Identified whales in this group included Salt (the first whale cataloged in the Gulf of Maine, in 1976!) and her 14th calf, Sriracha, along with a male named Tear.  In addition to the bubble-feeding, we got to see several tail breaches!  It was a beautiful calm day and a great example of why we love autumn whale watching!

Oct 8

October 9th, 2016

Although it was an overcast day, the seas were very calm and the whales were great! We got to hang out with a few single humpback whales including one named Manhattan. There were a couple others in the area but we didn’t get to ID all of them. The highlight of the trip was getting to hang out with three different mother and calf pairs. The moms were Zeppelin, Palette and Wizard. Palette’s calf was probably the most active, breaching in the distance a few times and then once when we got close. Her calf also popped up next to the bow a few times seeming a little bit curious about who we were. There were also some great birds out there today including a few Cory’s shearwaters and juvenile Northern Gannets. It’s fun to see the changes in behaviors and wildlife as we move closer to the end of the season. Join us this month before we are done for the winter!

October 7

October 7th, 2016

Incredible day of whale watching! Today was one of the best of my career. So many whales, so close to the boat as we just sat idle and let the whales come to us. Unbelievable! Over 20 humpbacks were in a small area, and some were seen in groups of 8-10 whales! We identified 4 mother whales, yet only saw 2 calves, so we aren’t sure if the other 2 calves have already weaned and are no longer with their moms or if they were hanging out on the outskirts while the adults were busy chowing on sand eels. Calves generally spend less than a year with mom, so it’s possible some of the youngsters are already independent!

Sept 26

September 26th, 2016

Today’s whale watch started off with a big splash…literally! We could see a whale breaching from the distance for about five minutes before we finally got close enough for it to breach right next to the boat, not once but twice! This whale I believe is a whale recently named Lollipop. After spending some time with Lollipop, watching her do a couple breaches and some flipper slapping we noticed a couple other blows in the area and decided to check some of them out.

We saw about five more whales in the area including Nile and her calf. This pair was taking a little nap or doing a behavior known as logging. We got some really amazing close-up looks at both Nile and her calf as they floated at the surface in nearly glass conditions. At one point a third humpback whale joined Nile and her calf before separating and going on it’s own. It was very peaceful out there today so these sleepy whales were very easy to watch.

We left the pair alone and headed off to another blow in the distance. This belong to another humpback whale who surfaced very close to the boat a few times and even popped up with a friend for a surface or two.

There was also a few minke whales around, swimming in the same general area as the humpback whales. And when it was time to turn around and head towards home we saw an ocean sunfish, also called a Mola mola. Personally this was the first one I had seen all summer! We got back to Gloucester Harbor just in time to enjoy the rest of today’s beautiful afternoon!

Wed., September 21

September 21st, 2016

It was a gorgeous day, with sunny skies and calm seas!  After getting some quick looks at a pod of about 20 harbor porpoise on the way out, we spent a lot  of time with Komodo (born in 2007) and Vault (born in 2008). These two were together at first, and then separated, but surfaced together again.  They were taking fairly long dives, but we got some great looks at them right next to the boat several times.

We then moved on to get a look at a juvenile named Lollipop, who was in the area over the weekend. All in all, it was a great day!

Sept 18

September 19th, 2016

The forecast was predicting choppy seas, rain, and thunderstorms, so the crew of the Miss Cape Ann anxiously waited all day for the weather to get worse, luckily for us the lousy forecast never came to fruition.  We were delighted to find a handful of humpback whales on the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank.  The fish finder indicated the food was sporadic, but there were localized areas of dense prey patches.  We did not observe any surface feeding, but the whales were staying down on long dives, presumably feeding at depth.  We recognized Komodo, Lutris, and UFO; but, there were a few other whales in the area, as well.