Thursday, June 21, 2018

June 21st, 2018

From Naturalist Laura

Whale watching out of Gloucester allows the captain and naturalist to be indecisive, then decide, then change their minds, decide, and change their minds over and over again.  Gloucester is positioned between Jeffreys Ledge to the north and Stellwagen Bank to the south, so we can contemplate until we are well out of the harbor what feeding ground to go to.  Today we started toward Stellwagen, then hung a left turn towards Jeffreys (saw a minke), and then took a right to head back towards Stellwagen to find 3 humpbacks (including Dross and calf), a gray seal, and a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins.  The weather was beautiful, so the passengers didn’t seem to mind our zigzagging trackline, plus they were treated to great whales at the end of it!

Wed, June 20, 2018

June 21st, 2018

From Naturalist Beth:

Today we traveled to the NW corner of Stellwagen Bank. There we found Dross and her calf. The calf was very independent throughout the beginning of the trip, spending time about a 1/4 mile away from Dross. The pair eventually surfaced together as mom began to feed. It was amazing to watch the pair interact with each other. We also got a few looks at a minke whale passing through the area. Dross and her calf surfaced right next to the boat at the end of the trip, we were able to get some amazing close looks and truly appreciate the size difference. It was a great day out on the water!

Monday, June 18, 2018

June 20th, 2018

From Naturalist Laura

Things were a little bumpy on Stellwagen Bank today, but that did not prevent us from tremendous sightings.  Shuffleboard seems like she hasn’t stopped feeding since we left her yesterday; time spent building up that blubber layer is time well spent!  We tried to follow Dross and calf for a bit, but the building sea state resulted in diminishing returns with every surfacing.  None the less, it was a good day to be offshore, watching whales, and out of the heat.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

June 20th, 2018

From Naturalist Laura:

Days like today are the reason I love my job.  We spent most of the day with Bilbo (aka Spoon) and her calf.  In my experience, Bilbo is good at two things in life, staying down on long dives and sleeping, and we saw both of those things today.  But, while Bilbo was otherwise occupied her calf was spending plenty of time at the surface: breaching, rolling, and flipper slapping.  We also got to watch Shuffleboard kick feeding – slamming her tail down on the surface before feeding in bubble clouds.  All of this is to say nothing of the half a dozen minkes and the handful of grey seals that we saw, as well.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

June 17th, 2018

From Naturalist Beth:

This morning we traveled to the southern end of Jeffrey’s Ledge and found lots of wildlife! We spotted a total of four minke whales throughout the trip. One minke whale surfacing right next to the boat! We also spent time with two humpback whales, Gondolier and Clamp, feeding separately in the area. We also saw a variety of pelagic bird species, including great shearwaters, sooty shearwaters, and a few wilson’s storm petrels.

Gondolier

Gondolier

Clamp

Clamp

This afternoon we arrived on southern Jeffrey’s Ledge and started our trip with amazing looks at a minke whale! It was so calm you could see the white patches on the whale’s flippers. We affectionately call those patches “minke mittens.” About a mile away we spotted a large fin whale milling around the area. We were lucky to see this whale so close. Clamp, the humpback whale, was traveling through the area, but Gondolier stole the show today with an unexpected full breach right in front of our boat! He then spent time milling around our boat. It was a great afternoon on the water!

Minke whale

Minke whale

Fin whale blowholes!

Fin whale blowholes!

Fin whale

Fin whale

Humpback whale, Gondolier

Gondolier

Friday, June 15, 2018

June 15th, 2018

From Naturalist Laura:

Day by day the whales have been moving around, which keeps life interesting, but also a bit stressful when you’re the naturalist trying to find the whales for the trip!  Today, we ended up a little bit south of Jeffreys Ledge, where we were treated to a three species day.  We started with a fin whale, and a handful of minke whales, but quickly moved on to find the humpback whales known as Clamp and Gondolier.  They were not together, per se, but likely feeding in the same area due to a large abundance of prey.  We could see quite a bit of bait on the surface, and the whales were both blowing bubbles, which are both signs of feeding beneath the surface.  Hopefully, these two stick around for a few days.

Wed, June 13, 2018

June 13th, 2018

From Naturalist Dianna:

After several whale watching trips to Stellwagen Bank in the past couple weeks, we decided to change things up and head north to Jeffreys Ledge.  There we found two humpback whales. One was blowing bubble clouds while the other was moving around erratically. One of humpbacks was Clamp, a female born in 1990!

Clamp

We then found a small group of Atlantic white sided dolphins (about 25) who were tracking with a huge fin whale!

dolphins

To my surprise, the fin whale was an old friend, Ladder!  I had first seen Ladder back in 1996, but his first documentation was in 1981!!  Ladder is named for the distinctive propeller scar on his right side that resembles the rungs of a ladder.

Ladder

Sometimes, getting great looks at a fin whale can be tricky as they can move quickly and turn on a dime. Today, however, we really lucked out since the dolphins were always right above the whale (maybe scavenging on some of his escaped lunch). All we had to do was keep track of the dolphins, and Ladder would show up right in the middle of the pod! Fantastic day!   You can actually adopt Ladder,  or one of his friends, through the Blue Ocean Society, with all proceeds helping the non-profit organization to continue their studies of these amazing creatures!

Ladder

Wed, May 30, 2018

May 30th, 2018

From Naturalist Rebeca:

Today was my first trip of the season and a great one at that! We had to travel a bit to get to the whales, but once we got there it was worth the trip. We started with a group of 3 or 4 whales. We IDed one of them was Dracula. We spent some time with them but they left the area and started to head south. Luckily, there were a few others in the area. Another group of 4 humpbacks continued to surface around us. This group was special since a calf was in the mix! Venom’s calf was hanging out with its mom, Pele, and Milkweed. We got some amazing looks at the humpback whales as they were taking quick dives and surfacing every 6 minutes or so. We could see a few more blows in the distance as well. In the area, we also had almost a dozen gray seals! They seemed very curious with the boat, staying at the surface for a few minutes checking us out.

Grey seal

Venom and calf

Humpback tail

Saturday May 26, 2018

May 27th, 2018

This morning we headed out about 17 miles to mid bank on Stellwagen and had 2 blows in the distance.   One of the blows was a long diving humpback that stayed down for 12 + minute dives.  We eventually met up with a humpback identified as NAHWC 0875.  This whale was bubble feeding at depth.  We watched as his bubbles rose to the surface followed by the whale lunging sideways with his left pectoral flipper in the air.  The whale did this repeatedly and eventually used the boat as cover to help corral fish.  This gave everyone on the boat fantastic views.

NAHWC 0875

Humpback flipper

This afternoon, we headed out to the SW corner of Stellwagen Bank towards reports of a “pile’ of whales.  The pictures don’t do this trip justice. As we approached we had a small group of Atlantic white sided dolphins who were not super cooperative.  Moving farther south we met up with a slightly larger group of dolphins and then saw blows everywhere in front of us.  We spent most of the time with a group of 5 or 6 humpback whales who were feeding cooperatively at depth and diving and surfacing in synchrony.  We had a mother, Venom, and her calf in this group and got just awesome looks at the whales.  The calf would randomly pop up even once surfacing right in front of the adults causing them to put the emergency brake on to avoid a collision.  As we stayed with this group we had whales everywhere around us.  We got a glimpse at one or two minke whales, a few grey seals, and literally hundreds of Atlantic white sided dolphins.  This trip was just extraordinary with amazing looks at 4 different species of marine mammals.

Three humpback whales

Falcon

Venom

Saturday, Oct 21

October 22nd, 2017

From Naturalist Lauren

What a beautiful and mild autumn day out on the water today! We didn’t have to venture far off shore to see our first pair of humpback whales. These two whales (one of which we believe to be a whale named Bayou) were leisurely hanging out at the surface near our boat while going down on short dives periodically. We even had Bayou show her unique tail while going down on a dive right next to the bow of our boat. What an amazing site to see!

We eventually ventured on when we saw some tail lobbing and flipper slapping in the distance. Unfortunately, these very active whales calmed down by the time we reached them but we were able to find two other whales close by. We were able to get some great looks of this second pair of humpback whales as they surfaced together.

We continued to see more spouts or blows in the distance and so we decided to investigate! We then came across 4 different humpback whales that were paired off (unfortunately my camera died at this point of the trip (oops!) and I was unable to get any photographs of these four). We bounced from one pair of whales to the other as these whales were travelling through our area and going down for 10+ minute dives! After getting some great last looks at one of these pairs, we eventually began travelling back to Gloucester Harbor.

In all, we saw at least 10 humpback whales today out on the water! We wonder what we’ll see next before the whale watching season comes to a close!