7/18/14

2014 Sightings | July 18

This morning for the 10am we headed out to the southwest corner in beautiful flat conditions, the special days we get to mark catspaw on our data sheets! We found several whales, Rapier was doing some kick feeding and Reaper and calf where traveling for a while.

Reaper and her calf

We spent most of the trip with Reaper and her calf. Both whales were taking longer dives, around 5 minutes, but we did get some fun rolling from the calf which showed off those huge pectoral fins.

Reaper's fluke

When this calf reaches full size he or she will be in possession of the largest appendages in the animal kingdom. After a few near fluking dives, I finally managed to get a photograph of the underside of this calf’s tail, unlike its mother’s more mottled tail, this little whale will probably have a much lighter tail.

It was a great day on the water with these whales!

— Tegan

***

On the Aurora we were lucky to find Milkweed and her calf on the southwest side of Stellwagen Bank, close to Provincetown.

Milkweed's calf's fluke

Milkweed's fluke

Milkweed and her calf were  being very cooperative and the calf started rolling right next to our boat and swishing its tail along the surface. Then the calf blew two small bubble clusters that I explained could be an imitation of Milkweed feeding.

Milkweed and calf

It is so important for calves to mimic behaviors of its mother so when the calf is alone next year, it will be able to eat on its own. There were a number of different bird species seen today and since we were right near Provincetown we were able to find a harbor seal! Passengers were able to get a great look at it as it came pretty close to our boat.  It was a beautiful day out on the water today and we were able to get wonderful views of Milkweed and her calf!

— Laura

7/17/14

2014 Sightings | July 17

Today on our first trip of the day, the Cetacea traveled to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in pursuit of whale sightings. Before reaching the edge of the bank, we found 5 scattered humpbacks.

Reflection

First we spent some time with our trustworthy friend, Orbit. Next we spent some time with Measles. Both were taking short dives and traveling. Next we spotted Dyad, another humpback whale.

Dyad

Dyad was exhibiting an odd dive pattern, it would surface, take a breath, fluke up dive, and then quickly resurface and repeat. We attributed this behavior to all the bait we saw close to the surface on the bait finder. Off in the distance we saw a fluking humpback, and were lucky enough to snap a picture of the individuals fluke. It was Isoceles, a type 5! We next went to ID our 5th humpback. As soon as the individual fluked, I knew immediately who it was.

Coral

It was Coral, a type 1! Even though today was the first day that we spotted Coral, I was very familiar with its unique fluke pattern because it is on the first page of the catalog. I was overjoyed with the sightings.

Mirror image: Reflection and her calf

On the 1:30 whale watch on board the Asteria, we traveled back towards the southwest corner of the bank. Upon arrival, we found 2 logging humpbacks. It was Reflection and her 2014 calf.

Reflection's newest calf

The pair spent almost the entire trip at the surface, which was great for passengers. We had lots of great looks, especially because of the beautiful weather and calm seas. The pair began to travel and did take one short dive, but were pretty calm otherwise.

Best,
Hannah

***

Today on board the Asteria we headed out to the Southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. We spotted a minke whale along the way, but decided to continue ahead to an area further east. We happened upon the Cetacea, the 9:00 whale watch, who was watching a male humpback named Coral!

Coral
Coral was taking long dives though, so we decided to travel to a different area to see what else we could find. After quite the search, we were able to double back and find a bunch of associated humpbacks! There was a group of 4 humpbacks that included Eruption, Storm, Octave and one unknown (no fluke). The passengers were excited to see this group traveling pretty close by. In the area there was a group of three, and a few other whales scattered around the area.

Storm

Eruption

It was a beautiful day out on the water! We are finally out of the fog!

Annie

***

7/16/14

2014 Sightings | July 16

Despite the heavy fog on the 9am whale watch on board the Cetacea we headed out towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank.

Foggy Boston Harbor

Very quickly into our search a whale appeared quite close to the boat. It was staying near the surface and we got good enough looks to think “that’s a small whale”.

Echo's calf was feeling frisky and did lots of playing near the boat

No sooner did we say that before mom arrived on the scene putting the 6 month old calf’s size into perspective! We spent the entire trip with Echo and her calf being entertained by the calf’s antics. This little whale hung around the boat while mom took longer dives, perhaps in search of food.

Echo and her calf

We got some flipper slapping, tail slashes, rear behavior where the calf surface backwards, tail first rather than head first! All in all a great trip despite the less than perfect weather.

Hordes of whales

On the 1:30 trip on board the Cetacea we headed out again into thick fog towards the southwest corner. There is something magical that happens when you reach the southwest corner, the fog, which during the whole trip has been close around us, just opened up and gave us at least a half mile to a mile of visibility!

Passengers got great looks at Tornado

Here we found whales upon whales moving in every direction. We identified Pele, Perseid, Apex, Storm, Pepper, Ravine, Pumba and three mother and calf pairs, Nile and calf, Tornado and calf, and Milkweed and calf. We also spotted a new whale for the season Canopy, who also looked to be accompanied by a calf. We got some great close approaches and breaches from some of the calves with amazing looks everywhere. The birds were also in high numbers with every type of shearwater, Wilson’s storm-petrels, and gulls absolutely everywhere.

Cheers,
Tegan

***

Today on board the Asteria, we traveled to the Southwest corner of the bank in the pouring rain. Even though we had less that 1 mile of visibility, we still found whales.

Four humpback whales: They don't mind the rain!

We had started by traveling towards the location of the 9am whale watch, but found lots of humpbacks before reaching that location. We had a 3 groups of scattered humpbacks; 5 whales (2 mom and calf pairs with one adult), 2 humpbacks, and 2 other humpbacks.

Octave's dorsal fin

We spent most of our trip with the group of 5; Tornado and Calf, Octave, and 2 unknowns. They were taking short dives, about 4-5 minutes, and were traveling. See attached photo of Octave’s left dorsal and of the group traveling. We then spent some time with one of our pairs, Pele and Pumba. This group was also taking short dives and traveling. Both Pumba and Octave are new sightings for us this season!

Boston Light amid the fog as we were leaving the harbor

— Hannah

***

Today on the Aurora we headed out in the fog once again to the Southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. Our trip began with a very elusive humpback. We haven’t been able to get an ID just yet because I was only able to get a photo of half of its left fluke.

Canopy

Perseid

Pivot


We continued a bit further and found even more humpback whales randomly traveling in groups. There were many splits and joins today with groups ranging from 2 to 5 whales! Throughout the day there were between 8-10 whales in the area. We were able to ID Octave, Canopy, Bayou, Pivot, Milkweed and calf and Tornado and calf. It was a very exciting day jam-packed with humpback whales as well as many sooty and greater shearwaters!

Another foggy, yet successful day out on the water!

7/15/14

2014 Sightings | July 15

This morning the Cetacea travelled to the Southwest corner of Stellwagen in a thick fog. It took a while for us to find anything because we had such poor visibility! We had a brief sighting of a finback whale, but we lost it almost immediately in the fog. Luckily, shortly after spotting the finback, we happened on some humpbacks.

Quite the buffet!

Lots of open mouth feeding

As a few other whale watch boats appeared in the fog, more and more humpbacks appeared as well! Throughout the trip there were at least 14 humpbacks in the area. At one point there was a huge group of at least 8 associated humpbacks that collectively made 3 huge overlapping bubble rings right next to our boat! It was awesome to see them all come up to the surface with their mouths open! Our patience and perseverance searching through the fog definitely paid off!

The Charles W. Morgan honors our heritage as well as our changing relationship with whales

On our way out of the harbor on our 1:30 trip we had a great sighting of the Charles W. Morgan on its historic 38th voyage. It used to be a whaling vessel, but presently it is taking a tour through Stellwagen Bank and paying tribute to our changing relationship with the seas in regard to whale conservation. On our trip we travelled to the same area in the fog. There were lots of humpbacks once again doing lots of associated open-mouth feeding.

The baleen is clearly visible during open mouth feeding—despite all the fog!

Passengers were excited to see whale activity in all directions! After the trip we were able to ID a few whales including: Octave, Draco, Wyoming and Bayou! Bayou has an unmistakable fluke with a very mangled right fluke.

Today was great despite the fog!

— Annie and Kirsten

***

Great day on the water! On today’s 12pm whale watch aboard the Aurora, en route to some reported whale sightings on the SW corner, we passed by the last original U.S. whaling ship, Charles W. Morgan, coming into Boston as part of her 38th historic voyage.

US whaling ship Charles W. Morgan 

Built in 1841, this historic landmark has been restored to honor its heritage and celebrate our changing relationship with whales. Quite fitting today as we traveled out today to enjoy the whales in the Sanctuary! Learn more about the 38th voyage of the Morgan.

After passing the Morgan, luckily the fog burned off a little for us to be able to spot some splashing of kick feeding in the distance, right west of the SW corner. We first spotted Reaper and 2014 calf. We observed Reaper doing some excellent kick and bubble feeding.

Reaper's calf lolling about

Reaper gets her name from the grim-reaper stick marking on her tail. This pair gave us great looks, her calf even bobbed up a bit next to our boat!

Reaper's name comes from the scythe mark on her tail. Can you see it?

It seemed to be a kick-feeding kick-off today as we then spotted Habenero kicking with Buckshot feeding alongside her. A third unknown humpback traveled by this pair, perhaps acting as a “mooch” by trying to get some of the leftovers, but not actually joining the group.

Habanero kick feeding

After this the whales began to get into a scattered kick & bubble feeding frenzy of about 10 humpbacks with multiple splits and joins. These ID’s included Tear, Fern, Buckshot, Habenero, Nile and calf, and Reaper and calf. At one point we had Nile, Reaper and calves kicking/rolling on our one side of our boat (see photo above), and a group of 3-4 bubble feeding on the other side—a fantastic sight!

Ready, set, go...group feed!

On our last looks, we observed some bottom feeding scarring (read about this kind of scarring in this previous post) on the mouth of one of our individuals. On the tip of the mouth you can see the recent red scarring, and the yellow coloration is from diatom plankton.

Mouth scarring

— Laura

7/14/14

2014 Sightings | July 14

On today’s 10am whale watch aboard the Asteria, we decided to try our luck south as there wasn’t much luck up north.

An unknown whale makes an appearance

On our way to the SW corner, we first found a traveling fin whale making short quick dives. After getting a few looks, we continued SE to find a single humpback traveling through the area, not fluking. This whale had a floppy dorsal that tilted to the side – if I’m able to ID later I will certainly update this post! We left this whale thinking that it was not going to fluke, but then it surprised us all by fluking on its last look (though not quite enough to ID). But the enthusiasm of the passengers to see this whale fluke made it quite an enjoyable experience!

Echo's fluke

We decided to keep heading east to the SW corner, and were rewarded to find a feeding frenzy of 15-19 humpbacks! As we approached, we watched many joins and splits, including a group of 6 that joined to most likely feed.

Echo and calf rolling

A breaching calf in the distance caught our attention, so we headed over there to find Echo and calf, and Peninsula. The adults began to log as we got closer, but our calf seemed to be a bit more frisky as it was rolling around, and did one high fluke/head stand. As we left, the calf appeared to be nursing.

Echo's calf high flukes

We also spotted Great and Cory’s shearwaters today.

— Laura

***

Today we couldn’t have asked for a better whale watch. On our way down south we spotted a couple of spouts in the distance that were clearly fin whales.  Since we had reports of whales a little bit further out we decided to keep on going and were well rewarded for that decision!

Salt

We soon came across a mother and calf pair.  The mom fluked within the first few minutes and it turned out to be Salt and Epsom!

Salt and Epsom

Salt and her calf were taking plenty of time at the surface with 5 minute dives and the calf was definitely in an active mood. In addition to a few barrel rolls, Epsom was also moving from side to side under Salt and seemed to be nursing. After not fluking for the first few dives, Epsom started to stick its tail far out of the water and wave it around, giving us some great fluke shots.

Epsom fluke

There was a private yacht in the area doing a great job of keeping their distance, turning off their engines, and exemplifying private whale watching! Salt and her calf kept surfacing close to the Aurora as well as the yacht giving everyone incredible views.

Epsom breach

Epsom absolutely made the trip when he/she breached fully twice and did a head breach once! After that beautiful display mom and calf both took a break but continued to surface at 5 minute intervals. Epsom continued to stick its tail far out of the water and wave it around.

Passengers were extremely excited to learn about Salt, her many calves, and have the unique chance to see one of them breach!  It was an absolutely fantastic day!

—Annie and Kirsten

7/13/14

2014 Sightings | July 13

On board the Asteria's 12pm whale watch, we traveled again to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. The weather had changed a lot from the last couple of days. The wind and seas picked up, so it made spotting for whales a little tougher. After some solid searching, we spotted a blow and traveled towards it. We wait for the whale to surface again, but we lost track of it due to the sea state. We kept searching and finally found another whale.

Angus

It was a humpback that turned out to be Angus. Angus was taking 4-6 minutes dives and fluking consistently. There was another blow about a half mile away but we didn’t get an ID of it.

Scylla's calf breaching

On the 5:30 whale watch we traveled to the location of where the Aurora was on their earlier trip. After a little bit of searching in the high wind, we spotted Scylla and her 2014 calf breaching in the distance.

More acrobatic behavior from Scylla's newest calf

As we moved closer the two humpbacks continued their acrobatic behavior. Scylla was tail slapping, tail lobbing, and even breached for us while the calf pectoral flipper slapped and breached over and over again.

Scylla and her calf, on the move

Then after 10 minutes of mayhem this mom and calf pair calmed down and began traveling. At one point this pair took a synchronized dive and awed passengers. Also passengers were treated to one large bubble cloud by Scylla. It was an amazing evening trip.

— Hannah P. and Kirsten K.

7/12/14

2014 Sightings | July 12

Cetacea's 9am whale watch traveled to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank once again, where we found lots of activity!

A breach!

We started with a quick swim by from a T5 humpback, Pox. We kept traveling another half mile until we reached 2 slow moving humpbacks, who luckily did a fluke up dive. It was Blackhole and Eruption. Also in the area we saw 2 other groups of humpbacks, totaling to 7 humpbacks that were close by.

Buzzard's fluke

Passengers were treated to many different behaviors from these individuals, like high fluking dives, pectoral slapping, and even some breaching! Some of the IDs from the trip included; Pox, Blackhole, Eruption, Pele, Pepper, Xylem, Strike, and Buzzard.

On the 1:30pm whale watch we returned to the active northwest corner. Before reaching the bank, we caught a quick glimpse of a minke whale, but it quickly disappeared. Then as we reached the bank, our second sighting was of a quick swimming finback whale. We then slowly moved up to some other whale watching boats and quickly got involved in humpback whale watching. Between the Cetacea and another whale watching boat that was about 300-400 yards away, we had 8 humpback whales.

Jabiru and Eruption dive

Jabiru and Eruption

Our first group that we saw was Jabiru, Pele, and Eruption. This group was moving fast, probably to catch up to some prey. See attached photos of Jabiru and Eruption diving in unison. We also observed Pepper, Echo and her 2014 calf.

Echo's newest calf

The calf was being very adventurous while Mom was under the surface. At one point it even joined up with Jabiru, Pele, and Eruption before returning to Mom. It looks like the pattern is setting in well. We also saw 2 lone humpbacks that turned out to be Mayo and Xylem. All in all, it was another jam-packed trip out on Stellwagen.

— Hannah

***

What an exceptional day out on the water! Aboard the Aurora, we travelled to the Northwest Corner of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. There were lots of recreational boats in the area, and also lots of whales!

Recreational boaters are treated to a special view of Pleats' fluke

Throughout the trip, we were able to ID Eruption, Pepper, Mayo, Xylem, Pleats, Pele and Echo with her 2014 Calf! There were a few scattered groups in the area and we made our way around to most of them. We were treated to many scattered breaches throughout the trip which is always a nice surprise!

Perfect place to smell Pleats' whale breath!

The most exciting part of the trip was when Pleats, Echo and calf were logging alongside our boat. They continued to surface very close to us. I had to laugh during my narration when I was talking about whale breath and with perfect timing and precision, these three humpbacks surfaced and exhaled some wonderful “snarge” to the folks standing in the port pulpit!

A whale rolls close to the boat

Echo’s 2014 calf was very active at the surface today! It did lots of flipper slapping and half breaches! It was an awesome trip with lots of great surface-active humpbacks (definitely not something you see every day!).

There were too many breaches to count this trip!

Just when I thought today couldn’t be any more exciting, the 5:30 trip rolled around. As soon as we spotted blows in the distance, the breaching started…and it didn’t stop!

Close-up view of a breach

Over and over and in almost every direction, humpbacks were jumping out of the water like nothing I have ever seen before! What an amazing start to a whale watch. Breaching was the major behavior for most every individual we saw this evening.

The breaching just didn't stop!

Whenever whales weren’t breaching, they were a little shy about showing their tails which made it a bit difficult to ID some individuals. We spent most of our time with Pepper, Echo and her 2014 calf. The calf was a joy to watch throughout the trip. It even opened its mouth a few times at the surface as though it was practicing feeding.

Super-moon breaching

The mom and calf pair even did some tail breaching together. It was unbelievable how many breaches we saw!  Some passengers suggested that it might be caused by the super moon that’s happening tonight. No matter the cause, the sight was nothing short of spectacular!

Everyone on board, myself included, will remember this day for years to come.

Annie