2013 Sightings | November 17

On Sunday's 12pm whale watch aboard the Cetacea we headed back south in search of the whales from the day before. After searching a bit in the spot we found them yesterday, we continued further south past the SE corner, and suddenly saw some splashing in the distance of a humpback lobtailing.

The whale watch went far across the bank, you can see Provincetown in the distance

When we caught up to the group, we found Nile, Freckles and calf traveling together. All three were taking moderate and shallow dives (not always fluking) and traveling slowly. Freckles was diving deeper of the three, while Nile and the calf stayed more at the surface.

Nile, Freckles and her calf

After watching the trio subsurface deep feed/travel awhile, Nile unexpectedly surprised us with a big lobtail! Other than that bit of activity she didn’t fluke as much and began logging and stretching.

Nile's fluke is evident during her lobtail

Her big ol' lobtail

Freckle’s calf also appeared to need some rest after all the activity, and began to take a 10-minute nap at the surface. We left the calf resting and watched Freckles and Nile fluke as we made our way back home to Boston.

This is the last weekend for the New England Aquarium Whale Watch. Don't miss out on this action. Find links to buy tickets through our partners at Boston Harbor Cruises we'll see you on board! 


2013 Sightings | Full set of breach pictures

This frisky breaching calf was just one of the highlights from Saturday's whale watch. We thought you might like seeing the full set of pictures showing Freckles' calf leaping out of the water. Enjoy! 

The New England Aquarium Whale Watch will continue to run noon excursions on weekends in November as long as the whales and the weather oblige. And so far, both have been pretty fantastic! If you're interested in joining us, check the website as the weekend approaches. You'll find links to where you can buy your tickets online through our partners at Boston Harbor Cruises. We hope to see you! 


2013 Sightings | November 16

We had quite the trip today on the Cetacea. Probably one of my favorites this season!

Our first marine mammal sighting yesterday was a harbor seal on the way out of the harbor. A short while after we approached the southern edge of Stellwagen, we spotted a large scattered pod of 200-300 common dolphins. With such great sighting conditions and calm seas, we were able to get quite the visual of the size of the pod. Passengers got a treat as a some of these dolphins were bow riding and circling our boat—seen very clearly through the water! We even observed some porpoising in the distance.

After spending some time with the dolphins, we decided to continue searching for whales, and we weren’t let down! We found five scattered humpback whales deep and bubble feeding in the area. We first found Freckles and calf, bubble feeding again, but this time deeper in the water column.

Freckles and calf
A tell-tale sign of bubble feeding

Then suddenly we were surprised by two FULL breaches by Freckles calf, and two more flipper/half breaches shortly after!

The breach was great surprise.

 It was fun to see the calf be a bit playful before the pair started to deep feed again.

We then moved onto another pair that had been in the distance, which turned out to be Columbia and her 2013 calf deep feeding. This is our first sighting of this pair this season, and interesting to note that both Freckles and Columbia were some of regulars last year on Stellwagen. So great to see them with calves this year!

Columbia has an intricate pattern on her fluke – created mostly by the many orca rake marks all over it.

And lastly it wouldn’t be a whale watch on Stellwagen without seeing Nile – our last look of the day was of a plump Nile fluking in the sunlight.

Good ol' Nile

We also passed a minke on the way home totaling our marine mammal species to four for the day. Also, for birds we saw many gannets, scoters, a few great shearwaters, and of special note a Pomerine Jaeger.

We also had a nice look at the rising moon at Long Wharf departing from the boat. 

Overall a fantastic fall day!

The New England Aquarium Whale Watch will continue to run noon excursions on weekends in November as long as the whales and the weather oblige. And so far, both have been pretty fantastic! If you're interested in joining us, check the website as the weekend approaches. We hope to see you! 


2013 Sightings | November 10

Exciting and surprising day today on the Cetacea! We decided to try our luck on Stellwagen today – and we were certainly rewarded! As many as 6 humpbacks, 4 minkes and hundreds of gannets, shearwaters, and gulls – all in a feeding frenzy!

Feeding on Stellwagen Bank, a great look at the whale's baleen!

Gaping mouth, feeding on Stellwagen Bank

Whales and birds feasting for passengers!

When we arrived on the bank today we found Freckles and calf bubble net feeding, Wizard traveling nearby, and a group of 2 to 3 individuals kick feeding further out east. We also had minkes traveling amidst the feed, and the diving gannets put on quite the show today!

Seabirds diving and feeding 

We spent our time today with Freckles and her 2013 calf—our first sighting of the pair on our boats this season. Freckles and calf were working together to bubble feed. Freckles would coordinate the main net and come-up open mouth in the middle, while her calf would lunge a bit alongside the net.

Bubble feeding: note the light green colored bubbles and the gaping mouth in the middle

At times the calf would log for a bit between feedings (almost seeming to rest after trying to keep up with mom). It was exciting and interesting to see this calf learning to bubble feed. Hopefully we’ll see it bubble feeding on its own next season on the bank!

You can see the calf resting on the surface in the picture at right

We left the pair continuing to bubble feed as we headed back to Boston. All of us were thrilled to see so much action today. It was the most bird activity we’ve seen all season, and the most surface bubble feeding we’ve seen since May!

A pair of whales feeding


2013 Sightings | November 9

Today onboard the Cetacea we headed North to Jeffrey’s in chilly wind to the area we spent most of October. Jeffrey’s was quiet again, so we decided to try the NW corner of Stellwagen, and we were able to spot the blow of a fin whale traveling through the area.

This individual was moving around sporadically between terminal dives. But it was nice to find a little bit of life (if even tricky to follow in the chop) on Stellwagen today!


2013 Sightings | October 26

Today on the Aurora we headed back up north towards Thacher Island. We had another great day of whales! It was a bit windy and choppy but we were able to find humpbacks Echo and Nile and spend lots of time with them. The pair was surfacing and fluking side-by-side, deep feeding and traveling a bit.

While observing these two, we had two minkes pop up nearby. During the latter portion of the trip, we saw a spout in the distance, so we tried to make out way over and get a closer look, but the whale never showed itself.

At this point, it was time to turn back to Boston, and as we were leaving another pair of humpbacks fluked in the distance! It was a quick look and too far away to identify, but it was great to know there were so many whales scattered about the area. Total whales today included two minkes, two pairs of humpbacks, and an unidentified larger whale.


2013 Sightings | October 23

Today on the Cetacea we headed north toward Thacher Island in search of whales. We started off with a quick sighting of a small pod of harbor porpoise off Gloucester. There were also lots of Northern gannets in the area—another good sign! Next we saw a spout up ahead, just north of Thacher Island.
The humpback whale fluked in the distance and we were able to quickly identify it as a familiar whale named Echo. We spend a good amount of time with Echo as see was fluking and deep feeding consistently.

Spar (right) and her calf with unusual scars
While observing her, we noticed a pair of humpbacks about a half mile from us, so we moved over to them after great looks with Echo. The pair turned out to be Spar and her calf! Spar’s calf has a distinct injury to her dorsal side, with a bit clipped off her fin, as well as a chunk missing just behind that. These two were deep feeding as well, with varied dive times. Also in the mix was a minke whale about 1/8 of a mile away and approximately three scattered harbor seals!

Owl's calf's fluke

We heard rumors over the radio of a SECOND mother calf pair in the area so we moved a couple miles away to find humpback whale Owl and calf!  Owl’s calf was busy rolling and flipper slapping for a small whale watch vessel nearby.  It was great for passengers to see different behaviors from a calf in one trip.  We got some nice looks at Owl’s fluke and her calf also did a nice tail flick for us.

Owl's scar is visible

Owl has some deep scarring on her dorsal side.  It is unfortunate to see significant scarring on two whales in the same trip, but it is a reminder we share space with them and brings up great discussion on conservation measures. This fall has been excellent and we hope it keeps up for as long as possible!


2013 Sightings | October 11

This afternoon on the Aurora we headed back to where all the whale action yesterday was. When we arrived near Thacher’s, we found Valley and calf traveling slowly together, taking moderate dives.

Valley and her calf (in foreground)

Valley's fluke

Valley’s calf was resting a bit today, bobbing at the surface while Valley would dive deeper. We then observed some nursing behavior, as the calf alternated sides alongside Valley, and a few times it turned on its side. After a brief bit of nursing, the calf rolled a bit and rested more at the surface. Great to see this growing calf (it has definitely been getting big!), lounging peacefully today.

Valley's calf nursing

Valley's calf rolling onto its side

We also spotted a harbor seal pup (now on its own after weaning from its mother in early summer) during our trip as well, and another larger adult resting as we left Valley and calf.

Seal pup


2013 Sightings | October 10

This afternoon on the Asteria we headed north towards Thacher Island off Cape Ann in search of whales and had some great luck!

The rake marks on the lower left portion of Echo's fluke resemble the sound waves of an echo.

Just northeast of Thacher, we found two groups of humpback whales!  We started off observing a trio that included Pinball, Echo and Putter.  The three humpbacks were deep feeding and coming up side-by-side, all fluking nicely for us!

Valley and her calf

We got some very nice looks at this group before moving on to a pair of humpbacks in the distance (about a half mile from the other group). It ended up being Valley and her calf! They were deep feeding as well and taking 3-7 minute dives.

It was a great fall trip – you can’t complain when your biggest problem is deciding which whales to observe first!


2013 Sightings | October 4

Today aboard the Asteria, we had some luck up North near Thacher Island today. When we arrived, we found Nile and Patchwork (unknown gender, first seen in 1997) traveling slowly together and resting at the surface. 

Flipper slapping in unison

A short time later, Patchwork and Nile started becoming quite active, flipper slapping on their sides. They even began some synchronized flipper slapping, with Nile mostly belly up double-flipper slapping the majority of the time! 

Nile in foreground, flipper slapping in synchrony with Patchwork

The pair than each tail breached next to the boat, then went back to slapping near the end of the trip, before they began to log as we started to leave. 

Flukes in tandem

Exciting day on the water despite the rain, and very interesting behaviors observed today – Nile was a bit tactile with her flipper slapping against Patchwork, and Patchwork was also covered a bit in seaweed (perhaps playing in it) and spy-hopping. We also had a brief look at a minke making it a two-species day.

Here are some photos of all the action today!

Patchwork's fluke

Nile's "armpit"

Nile's splash