2014 Sightings | May 21

We had another absolutely amazing day on Stellwagen bank today. While we were heading to the southwest corner, we spotted two minke whales before reaching the bank, but neither stuck around for long so we kept moving. Right before reaching the bank, we also spotted a solitary humpback whale who was traveling through the area. It was moving quite quickly and spending very little time on the surface before taking sounding dives so we decided to head towards a group of blows in the distance.

Basking shark

Basking shark with its mouth open filtering food

Basking shark

On the way over to the blows though, we spotted the dorsal fin of a basking shark. Due to the calmness of the water, we had absolutely amazing looks of this shark feeding right beneath the surface. [Learn how to tell basking shark from white shark dorsal fins.] While watching the shark, we also had two fin whales who were both feeding in isolation as well as another brief minke sighting.

Echo and calf

After a short while with both the fin whales and the shark, we saw a calf breach up ahead and decided to move towards those humpback whales. When we reached the mom and calf pair, the two were floating near the surface without moving around too much. They took a few sounding dives while we were with them, but neither mom nor calf fluked at all. We were able to identify them however by their dorsal fins as Echo and calf. While we were with this pair, we also spotted a gray seal and an unidentified dolphin as well as a number of other humpbacks in the area.

Rocker's fluke

While watching Echo and her calf, a solitary whale breached right off our bow so we moved in for closer looks of this individual which turned out to be Rocker. Rocker is a male whale who was first seen in 1990 and has earned the nickname “Breaching Champion” for his ability to breach repeatedly without showing much effort. He certainly lived up to his nickname today. Breaching 6 times during the trip. He also spent some time bubble cloud feeding at the surface.

So altogether, on this morning’s trip, we had three minke whales, two fin whales, one basking shark, one gray seal, one dolphin, and seven to eight humpback whales—including Echo and calf, and Rocker. What an amazing trip!

At noon we headed out to the southwest corner on today’s noon whale watch for a species packed whale watch. The calm seas and bright sun really made viewing animals really great today. All together we saw a fin whale, a minke whale, four humpbacks, a grey seal, three harbor seals and two basking sharks.

Basking shark

Seeing basking sharks is really exciting and definitely not a common occurrence on our whale watches but we’ve been having great sightings over the past few days. We had a great harbor seal that was very curious about the boat and the clear water meant we could see it twisting and swimming under the water.

Harbor seal

The humpbacks took the show though. We started with a quick sighting of Rapier but got side-tracked by the sharks. We then watched Yoo-hoo and Measles who were traveling just below the surface for a while.

The animals seems a little subdued on the bank at the moment, maybe a little bit of a food comma after the past week. We left our pair to get a look at an animal that was doing some bubble feeding. This animal turned out to be Osprey, a humpback that we’ve seen a few times over the past week. While we were watching Osprey we noticed that Yoo-hoo and Measles were doing some exciting stuff behind them.

Yoo Hoo and Measles lunge feeding

Rather than bubble feeding this pair was lunging out of the water to catch fish. Rather than having the nice bubble ring to guess where the whales are going to come up the water would change texture as the fish hit the surface and a few seconds later the animals would lunge straight out of the water with their mouths open. It was truly spectacular and very hard to get a good photo of.

Sand lance like these are on the menu for humpback whales

— Danielle and Tegan, naturalists

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