2014 Sightings | June 12

On board the Asteria's 10am whale watch, we went towards the southern edge of Stellwagen Bank. Once there we saw multiple blows. We stopped with the closest group, which were Milkweed and her 2014 calf. This mom and calf were traveling pretty close by one another. A humpback whale calf stays with its mother for the first year of its life.

As naturalists, we love seeing mother/calf pairs because we get the opportunity to learn more about humpback whale generations. For example, we have data about this calf’s great-grandmother! Milkweed, who has a calf this year, was born in 2000 to a humpback named Zeppelin. Zeppelin was born in 1989 to Milkyway, who was first spotted in 1986. This calf’s family has been migrating to Stellwagen Bank for years!

Canine's dorsal fin

Canine's pectoral flipper

After spending some time with Milkweed and her calf, we moved on to 2 other blows in the area. It was Orbit and Canine. These two humpback whales were taking 8 minute dives together. Canine even treated passengers to some pectoral slapping, when the humpback slaps its long pectoral flipper on the surface of the water. There were a couple other whales in the area as well. It was a great day out on the bank!

— Hannah


The moms surface

Tornado and Milkweed’s calves put on quite a show today! As we cruised up to a group consisting of Jabiru, Cajun, Milkweed, Tornado and their calves, the two little ones were repeatedly breaching up out of the water! The Ladies and Jabiru (sex is unknown) were making about 8 minute dives definitely doing some subsurface feeding while their calves played together at the surface. 

Tornado's calf learning to kick feed

They performed some full breaches, repeated chin breaches, play lobtailing and lots of flipper slapping! At one point they floated side by side, head to toe (AKA head to tail) slapping their flippers with one another.
Pectoral flipper slapping

A calf's pectoral fins

One of the two, though I’m not sure which one, did some spy hopping as well. Every so often, the moms and others surfaced for a quick couple breaths and of course to check on the calves before again making deep, high-fluking dives back down to the sandy bottom of Stellwagen Bank. 
Calf spy hopping

On our last looks, the group surfaced right underneath us giving the guests quite a startle. In the excitement, Tornado’s calf rolled on its back giving us a superb view of her ventral surface. Whales have internal sex organs but there are certain features along their ventral surface that can indicate if a whale is male or female. Although it can be difficult to determine, I am almost certain that Tornado’s calf is female! As soon as 4 years from now, Tornado’s calf will likely bring calves of her own to Stellwagen Bank to feed just like her mother has done with her! 
Tornado's calf's genital slits

We also saw some additional animals out there!  A small gray seal swam through to take a look at us today.  

A gray seal eyes the boat

Interestingly, a 7th humpback swam very close to the main group, diving and surfacing with the rest but keeping a good distance from the group while at the surface of the water. I am not certain who this whale was but it had a T5 fluke which means it was all black with little to no white markings. Humpbacks with this fluke type can be very difficult to ID since there are little to no patterns to distinguish them. Instead, we use the unique ridges on the trailing edges of their flukes to identify them but, without a perfect angle, this can be near to impossible! A ways away from the group, Geometry was also making some dives with a minke whale nearby. 
Overall, we had another fantastic afternoon whale watch! 
— Tasia

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