Aug 2

From Naturalist Hannah

Mid-season is upon us and the whales are continuing to give us great trips and different experiences each time we go. Today was certainly no exception. We started the day by heading to an area east of Stellwagen Bank known as Tillies Bank. Similar to Stellwagen, upwelling currents cause than area to be very productive and supports a large variety of fish life throughout the summer. After a short drive, we came across a fin whale. These are the largest species of baleen whale that we encounter on a regular basis and the second largest species in the world. They can reach lengths of up to 80 feet and are also one of the only asymmetrically colored animals in the world. After a quick look we headed off and found two whales from a different species. Known for the large pectoral fins and a behavior known as fluking, humpback whales are a seasonal visitor to the Gulf of Maine. The two humpbacks were in as associated pair, meaning they synchronize their diving and surfacing intervals. This particular group was traveling quite slowly so we were able to drive parallel to them and get some great looks!  We had a little bit of time left and decided to check out one more area before we headed back to Gloucester. The southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank is one of the more popular spots for humpback whales. The abundant amount of fish in the area help them regain the weight that they had lost the previous winter as they migrate to and from the Caribbean. We lucked out and found a large group of associate whales including a few mother-calf pairs! These whales were ID as Milkweed, Cajun/calf, Crisscross, Hancock/calf and Perseid. There were numerous recreational boats in the area and the whales were navigating between the vessels. After some good looks we made our way back to Gloucester but not before a group of four popped up right next to the boat and headed to the bow! We also were treated with a spinning head breach from a calf as we slowly headed back north. Overall, it was a great trip with excellent looks at a fin whale and about 11 humpbacks whales in total.

The afternoon trip brought some interesting behaviors as well from a few of the whales that were spotted in the morning trip as well as some new ones! We headed straight down towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank and started off the trip with a small blue shark. We only see the sharks when they come to the surface because they are able to extract their oxygen from the water unlike our whales that breathe air. While we were watching the shark, we had numerous blows in the distance as the whales were exhaling at the surface. We started by watching a group of four whales but there were several groups in the area. We slowly made our way from group to group and were able to ID a few on the different animals. Some of the whales included Cajun and calf, Pele, Canopy, Milkweed and Etch-a-sketch. The whales were doing some mid-column feeding and we had a couple really great looks at Cajun, calf and Pele. Pele was an escort to the mother-calf pair and was charging through the surface after feeding father in the water. Cajun decided to head next to our boat while the calf was nursing so we were able to see Cajun’s entire body with a small calf drinking milk at a lob near the back portion of the mother’s body- an amazing experience! We ended the trip with Etch-a-Sketch who was also feeding and was leaving remnants of bubble clouds throughout the area. In all, we had close looks at about 11 whales and around 15 in the area. The seas were calm and the winds at our back as we made our way back to Gloucester.

One Response to “Aug 2”

  1. Jim Moorman Says:

    Thanks, Hannah! It was a great trip. If you have an email, I was able to snap some really great pics I can send you. Also, you mentioned Salt on the tour and how she hadn’t been seen in a long time and that she was the original Humpback that you had researched? I can’t remember. Thanks!!