9/16/14

2014 Sightings | September 16

This afternoon aboard the Cetacea, there were still a number of humpback whales on the southwest corner of the bank. Just like yesterday, our whale watch started off with a breaching whale! This whale turned out to be the offspring of one of our breaching whales from yesterday. It was Habanero, a female born to Pepper back in 2000.

Habanero breaching

Habanero flippers

Habanero fluke

Habanero inverted tail lob

Habanero tail lobbing

Habanero was super active and breached repeatedly as we approached. The breaching then turned into lots of pectoral slapping followed by inverted tail lobbing and then regular tail lobbing! She put on quite a show for us throughout almost the entire whale watch! It was absolutely spectacular!

Habanero with sunset

Once Habanero simmered down, we moved on to Nile and calf who were logging nearby. We had beautiful looks of the sleeping mom and calf until we turned back for home. On our way, we again passed Habanero this time logging before a beautiful sunset backdrop. Throughout our trip home we saw a minke whale and lots of different birds including some unidentified ducks, gannets, Cory’s and Great shearwaters. We were unbelievably fortunate to have such calm sea conditions today and are crossing our fingers for tomorrow!

— Tasia

9/15/14

2014 Sightings | September 15

On today’s 10am trip aboard the Asteria, we headed to the SW corner in search of whales.

Nile's calf rolling

When we arrived, we first found Nile and calf, and saw some distant blows as well. We stayed at first with Nile and her calf- who were logging at the surface right next to our boat! Nile’s calf was one tired calf today. It spent a lot of time at our trip resting at the surface, while mom would occasionally come up and also log for a bit. Nile actually spent a lot of time hanging underwater just below her calf, which was very interesting to watch.

Nile's calf's fluke

After a while, Nile’s calf suddenly started rolling and flipper slapping (see photo), followed by a quick tail breach! After this Nile’s calf appeared to wake up, and while Nile appeared to be subsurface feeding, Nile’s calf got in a quick nursing bit. The pair then began to log again, and we decided to head to the blows in the distant.

Nile and her calf

We had great luck heading to the blows which turned out to be six more humpbacks! We found four adults and a calf – Eruption, Pele, Perseid, Milkweed, and her calf. Perseid’s calf however had strayed from the group – and instead came to check us out! Perseid’s calf was quite interested in us today – which included the calf blowing bubbles around our boat and even checking us out with a spy hop (see photo)!

Curious calf spyhopping

Milkweed’s calf to seemed to also follow suit with its independence, and for a while we had both calves milling at the surface while the adults fed. Pele and Eruption split from the two moms, and we ended the trip with a nice look of Perseid, Milkweed, & their calves (rejoined with their mothers) alongside the boat.  We also spotted a quick look of a fin whale on our way home.

Perseid and Milkweed and calf

— Laura

***

On our afternoon trip aboard the Cetacea today, we set out for the southwest corner of the bank where the morning trip had had great success. As we slowly cruised up to the area, we spotted at least three different groups of humpback whales! As we began heading for the large group of what we believed to be six whales, two whales from another group began breaching!

Storm breaching

This duo breached about 10 times in the distance but became more subdued upon our arrival. We still had gorgeous looks of what turned out to be Pepper and Pele! This duo surfaced super close to the boat and gave us gorgeous views of their flukes with each dive.

Pepper's blow hole

We also saw Nile and her calf who appeared to be logging a few hundred yards away from us.

Milkweed and Perseids

Milkweed's calf

We then moved on to the larger group of six whales which consisted of Milkweed, Perseid and each of their calves plus Tear and Storm. Tear kept some distance from the others and spent most of his time resting at the surface while exhibiting occasional pectoral slapping.

Storm pectorals

The other five swam around pretty randomly potentially looking for some food. They approached our boat very closely crossing only a couple yards off our bow and stern a number of times. As our whale watch came to an end, Storm began pectoral slapping and putting on quite a show which ended with three huge breaches! It was an incredible trip that started and ended with a bang! It’s amazing how much activity we are still seeing out on the bank!

—Tasia

9/11/14

2014 Sightings | September 11

On today’s 1:30 whale watch aboard the Aurora, we decided to head to a different area since the Asteria didn’t have much luck in the morning. Luckily Captain Tom was able to navigate through the choppy seas and traveled to the SW corner to find a group of three humpbacks – Pepper, Bayou, and Pele, as well as a few blows of some other whales in the distance.

Pele's tail

This group of three seemed to be doing some probable subsurface feeding, and we even got evidence of this by observing a brown cloud at the surface after the trio went down on a dive. It was great to see these three working together to feed, and on occasion Pepper would turn at the surface. It was also great to see Pepper, the second named whale first seen in 1976.

Pepper's fluke

At one point Pele surprised us with a quick tail flick at the surface! We also observed Bayou’s injured fluke, most likely from a propeller wound which was first observed a few seasons ago.

Bayou with tail wound

Luckily it has healed and she still seems to be able to feed and forage ok. We wrapped up the trip watching these three dive behind us, as well as observing another humpback in the distance.

Special visitor

PS: We also had a special visitor in up on the third deck join us!

— Laura & Jessica

9/8/14

2014 Sightings | September 8

On today’s 1:30 whale watch aboard the Cetacea, we headed to the NW corner of Stellwagen where our 10am trip had been. The seas were a bit choppy and windy, but our captain Bill was able to spot some blows that turned out to be Nile and her 2014 calf!

Nile's blow holes

At first Nile was not fluking, but I easily recognized her by her sharp hooked dorsal (see photo) that we know so well from last season. Nile’s calf was bobbing quite a bit from alternating sides of its mom, indicating that it was nursing.

Nile's distinctive dorsal fin

After a bit of random travel and a few flukes from mom, we got some nice looks alongside the boat of the pair (see photos).

Nile and calf

Nile’s calf seems to be growing quite nicely! To wrap up the trip Captain Bill squeezed in a few extra minutes at the end, which paid off as we were surprised by a big splash that we believe was from the calf!

— Laura

9/7/14

2014 Sightings | September 7

We had an outstanding day out on the water! In the morning, we headed out to the NW corner. It was a bit windy and choppy, but we were able to find whales without a problem because they were so surface active!

Buzzard's chin slap

We started off our trip with Buzzard who was breaching up a storm! Watching Buzzard breach over and over again was an amazing start to the trip. The whale even did a few chin slaps right off our starboard side. There were many scattered blows, so we decided to investigate a few.

A humpback super group!

We spent some time with Shuffleboard as well as one other unidentified humpback who had a bit of a lazy fluke! Trips with breaching are few and far between, so we were very lucky to have had such exciting sightings!

A great look at the whales' fringe of baleen

Just when we thought we had seen it all, we travelled out to the NW corner in the afternoon to find 10-15 kick-feeding humpbacks! These whales were joining and splitting all over the place, making it a bit difficult to keep track of the different associations, although, a messy data sheet is a sign of an exciting trip! All of these whales were actively feeding at the surface within less than a square mile of each other.

Open mouth feeding—let the filtering begin!

It’s not every day we get to see such a high concentration of whales, so we really lucked out! It was awesome watching each whale exhibit its own kick-feeding strategy, however, sometimes watching kick-feeding is the most difficult when it comes to IDing the whales because their tails are often flopped over, making it tricky to see the underside.

A righty humpback: Note the scarring on this whale's top jaw, may be an indication of how it feeds along the sandy bottom

Over the course of the trip we definitely saw Buzzard, Shuffleboard, Sirius, Jabiru and Springboard! Towards the end of the trip, a group of 5 humpbacks joined up to feed! Check out the picture of the five open-mouth-feeding humpbacks! It was an amazing trip! Definitely one I will remember for a long time!

—Annie G.

9/4/14

2014 Sightings | September 4

This morning we headed out to an area just south of the NW Corner of Stellwagen. The seas were calm and it was a clear and gorgeous day. As we searched, all the passengers on the bow pointed in excitement in front of us as more and more blows became visible in the distance. There were lots of humpbacks and minke whales in all directions!

Open mouth feeding

Most of the humpbacks were traveling in pairs or alone. We spent most of our trip with two pairs of humpbacks. One pair included Shuffleboard and an unknown T5 and the other pair was Draco and an unknown T1. These whales were doing some awesome bubble cloud and bubble net feeding. It was fun to point out the bubble clouds/nets and then wait in anticipation for the whales to surface nearby!

Draco flukes while its neighbor filters a mouthful

We got some great looks at these humpbacks lunging up to the surface with massive mouthfuls of fish! Towards the end of our trip these two pairs joined up into a big group of 4 associated humpbacks. There was lots of other activity spread out around us as well. Minkes were popping up left and right. We think there were between 8-10 humpbacks in our general area today! As we were making our way off the bank, we saw a huge breach from a distant humpback. It was a great finale for anyone who saw it! What an awesome day it was.

— Annie G.

9/2/14

2014 Sightings | September 2

This afternoon we scoured Stellwagen for sightings. After lots of searching around the NW corner, we turned south towards the middle of the bank. We had great visibility, which was a plus, but it seems as though the activity from yesterday has travelled elsewhere. Luckily, we found a few humpback whales around mid-bank.

Draco's fluke

We spent most of our time with Draco and Lilium, a pair of bubble-cloud feeding humpbacks. They were taking about 4 minute dives and spending a good amount of time at the surface. At one point, Lilium made a bubble cloud right next to our boat! We stared at the cloud with anticipation, expecting the whale to surface just next to us. Lilium ended up surfacing about 30 meters away from the bubble cloud! What a trickster! Lilium was sighted over this past holiday weekend, but Draco hasn’t been since earlier in the summer! It was nice to see this whale back in the area! There were a few minke whales in the area today along with another humpback who was not fluking and wasn’t close enough to ID. Overall it was a beautiful morning out on the water!

Annie

***

This afternoon we went to an area between the northwest corner and the middle of the bank where we found four humpback whales bubble net feeding! As soon as we pulled up Chairlift, Lilium, Draco and Pitcher all surfaced together inside the bubble cloud!

Chairlift's fluke

This quad then went onto subsurface feeding making increasingly longer dives. Eventually, Pitcher separated off and we spent the remainder of the whale watch with the other three humpbacks getting beautiful looks of their flukes with each dive.

A close-up look at a minke whale's coloration

Minke whale's glowing green "mittens" underwater

We also got to see a minke whale super close up and could see its glowing green mittens and head through the water! We saw more gannets out than usual today along with some great and Cory’s shearwaters! As we pulled into Boston, we watched an incredible storm move over the city and as we disembarked there was a beautiful rainbow to end our fantastic trip out to Stellwagen.

— Tasia

9/1/14

2014 Sightings | September 1

Yesterday on board the Salacia for the 10am whale watch, we started our day by traveling to the Northwest Corner of Stellwagen Bank. Just west of the corner, we found 4 scattered humpback whales. This group was constantly switching associations, sometimes traveling in pairs or at other times in a large group. It was Geometry, Jabiru, Pitcher, and Follicle.

Molson and Cat Eyes

These whales were taking 5-6 minute dives and changing direction a lot. With just a little bit of time left in the trip, we decided to leave these 4 and seek out some other sightings. We traveled further south, to where the Cetacea had been, and found 2 humpbacks. It was Cat Eyes and Molson/Rune. The pair was taking 4-5 minute dives and we observed evidence of some subsurface bubble cloud feeding. As we were starting to run short on time, Captain Ronnie let us stay for one more extra last look, and it was well worth it! The pair began tail slapping and pectoral slapping!! This surprise of activity overjoyed passengers. See attached photos of this acrobatic activity! 

Molson tail slapping

Check out how long that pectoral flipper is! Humpbacks' flippers are proportionally the longest of any whales

On the 3pm trip we traveled back out to the northern portion of the bank. As we were traveling to our first observations of whales, we had a quick sighting of a Mola mola! When we finally got to the area of our sighting we stopped to wait for the large blow that we saw, but quickly realized there was more activity than we originally thought. There were at least 8-10 minke whales feeding close to the surface in the area. Passengers even had a chance to see some 'minke mittens' (the minke's small white pectoral flippers)! As were watching the chaos of minkes, 2 humpbacks surfaced. It was Follicle and Pitcher. This pair was taking 3-4 dives, changing direction often, and subsurface feeding. It was great! To add some more sightings to the trip, we traveled a little further and found 4 scattered humpbacks. Due to the short duration with the group we were only able to ID Geometry and Jabiru. Overall, it was a fantastic day on the bank.

Molson fluke

— Hannah Pittore

8/29/14

2014 Sightings | August 29

This morning on the 9am whale watch we headed out into some choppy seas towards the southern part of Stellwagen Bank. Despite the rough seas we had very good visibility and just off the western edge of the bank we spotted some blows. We approached the area and found three humpback whales.

Nile and her calf

They all seemed to be logging, just resting at the surface and occasionally making low non-fluking dives. It was pretty easy to identify Nile and her calf and while I had an inkling that the third whale was Storm, it wasn’t until the very end of the trip that this was confirmed when all three whales went down on a fluking dive.

Nile, action shot!

Nile's playful calf

Nile and calf have been consistently seen with other whales in the area over the past few days, whether just singles like Storm or larger groups (but these associations have been very loose). The pair have also been seen breaking off of the other groups to spend time resting and maybe some nursing, though I haven’t observed that behavior yet this summer. It was a great days to have a some very dramatic looks at these animals.

Pectoral flipper

On the 1:30 whale watch we headed out to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank and luckily the seas had settled a tiny bit though we still had some big swells. Just north of the corner we found Nile and her calf for the second time today. This time however they were making much more active dives.

Mystery whale

They were then joined by a third whale which despite the fluke photograph I captured we haven’t managed to be able to identify. With this calf we saw a little bit more active behavior, some pectoral fin slapping and tail lobs. The group took a few more active dives before splitting up and Nile and calf spent some time resting at the surface. Once again it was fantastic to see these animals.

Cheers,
Tegan


***

Today on board the Salacia for the 10am whale watch, we traveled out to the southern portion of Stellwagen Bank to look for whales. When we arrived at the bank we quickly found 3 humpback whales. It was Storm, Nile, and her calf.

Storm, Nile, and her calf

As we approached this group, we noticed that the calf was ducking under the surface frequently while alternating sides of Nile. Most likely the calf was nursing! All three of the whales were taking short dives, just 1-3 minutes, both fluking and non-fluking. We spent the majority of the trip with this trio. At one point, Storm turned on its side and treated all the passengers to an amazing quick look at its long pectoral flipper.

With the remainder of our trip, we traveled over to another humpback in the area, but as soon as we got close the individual took a dive. Luckily we were able to get some photos of its dorsal fin to ID it. It was Jabiru. As we were waiting for Jabiru to resurface, we spotted 2 other blows less than a half-mile away so we went to investigate. It was Pele and Eruption! We had just enough time for one look at this duo before turning back to Boston.

I hope everyone has an excellent Labor Day Weekend!

— Hannah Pittore

***

On our 12pm whale watch aboard the Aurora, we spent time with humpback whales Jabiru and Storm just north of the southwest corner of the bank where they were slowly traveling south back towards the corner.

Humpback whale

The southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank is rich with food and a popular spot for whales to hang out throughout the feeding season. We had beautiful looks of both whales as they swam through the water making sounding dives each time they submerged themselves.



After some time with this duo, we moved on to Nile and calf who were logging nearby. As we slowly approached the mom and her calf, they appeared to wake up and dove right beneath the boat! There were more birds in the area than we’ve generally been seeing including sooty, great, and Cory’s shearwaters in addition to a couple juvenile northern gannets!

Lazing at the surface


— Tasia

8/27/14

2014 Sightings | August 27

This morning on the Asteria we travelled out to the SW corner of Stellwagen. It was a bit breezy today, with gusts between 11-16 knots, so it was a little difficult to spot for blows at first because of all the extra white caps. Luckily, we were able to spot Nile and her calf!

Nile's calf raises a flipper high

We spent some exciting time with these two whales—it is lovely to see how much weight these two have put on this season because they both are looking rather plump. We were treated to a cool behavior just after approaching the whales, the calf was nursing! Later in the trip, the calf decided to be a bit playful at the surface and began rolling and slapping its pectoral flippers. Nile joined in a little too, mirroring her calf’s behavior! Passengers thought it was adorable!

Nile's flippers are very visible below the surface

After spending some time with this pair, we decided to travel further on to the bank where other blows were sighted. There were five humpback whales in this new area: two pairs and one lone humpback. We finished our trip watching Jabiru and Mogul, a different pair of adult humpbacks who were likely feeding together. It was a splash-tastic day out on the water!

— Annie G. and Grace

8/26/14

2014 Sightings | August 26

This morning on the Asteria we headed out to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales. We had great conditions out on the water and we saw a couple different blows around us as we approached the bank. We started our trip with a quick close look at a Minke whale just off our bow, but we decided to investigate a whale in the distance that was making quite a bit of splashing.

Blackhole

Once we got closer we ID’d this whale as Blackhole. Blackhole was taking 3 minute dives and was bubble cloud feeding as well. Blackhole is a familiar whale out on Stellwagen, we sighted her earlier in the season but is a new sighting in the area in the past week. We then noticed some blows in the distance and decided to get closer looks at this group.

Pele and Eruption

Just as we were approaching the area where these whale had gone down on a dive, 3 whales popped up right off our bow and were swimming towards us! Passengers got amazing close looks as these whales swam beneath our boat. We were able to ID these 3 as humpbacks named Pele, Eruption, and Storm.

Pele and Storm

This group was probably feeding well below the surface, and were consistently surfacing as a trio. We’ve been sighting this group pretty consistently over the past few days usually with Nile and her calf nearby which may have been a pair of whales about a half a mile away! These whales haven’t been moving all that much over the past few days which will hopefully continue to the future.

Fluke

—Tegan, Kira and Lindsey