|Birds, boats and Thread the humpback whale — feeding bonanza|
All the whales we spotted this morning were new sightings for us this season. Among the ones we were able to identify were Thread, Peninsula, I-vee, Monster, Leukos, and Gar. There were many other whales which never got close enough for a photograph.
|Quite a kick|
We got to see some great kick feeding, when the whale slaps its tail on the surface to potentially stun its prey, and open mouth feeding. It was interesting that we were near the shipping lanes into Boston. Our first sighting of Thread was with a huge cargo ship in the background. Vessel strikes are one of the leading threats to whales in our waters and while there is a lot of work being done to solve the problem, large vessels still share waters with our whales.
|Monster and I-Vee|
This afternoon on board the Cetacea we headed out to the same area we had had luck in this morning. The whales were everywhere and there were also every type of shearwater imaginable, especially many great shearwaters which I was able to photograph.
The whales were doing a lot of bubble clouds and kick feeding but failed to fluke very often. This made identifying them much harder.
None the less we still managed to id I-vee, Monster, Serve, and Infinity. When Charlotte, the intern on board, and I were looking at the photos we joked that one whale had an infinity symbol on it’s tail. Lo and behold it was Infinity! The GOM naming system really does work!
Today on board the Asteria for the 10am trip, we had a SPECTACULAR trip! Luckily we were the 2nd boat off the dock, so the Cetacea had already located some whales. We traveled out to their coordinates, which were just north of the shipping lane, and shared some amazing looks at four scattered humpbacks.
|A feeding humpback whale|
Once Kira, Kirsten, and I witnessed all four whales take their dives, we realized that we didn’t recognize any of the individuals. We had four new humpback sightings! Later, with some collaboration with Tegan and Charlotte on the Cetacea, together we ID-ed these four as Leukos (type 1), Gar (type 2), Ivee (type 4), and Monster (type 5).
|Leukos' white type-1 fluke|
|Gar's type 2 fluke|
|I-Vee's type 4 fluke|
|Monster's all black fluke|
All four whales were bubble net feeding within half a mile from one another. Ivee and Monster were working together, while Leukos and Gar were both feeding separately. The unassociated humpbacks did start to separate a little during the trip. We spent the majority of our trip with Leukos and Gar, as the other 2 swam off the other way. Everyone on the boat, naturalist and crew included, were all excited to have some feeding humpbacks again.
|Whales with mouth open, filtering out the water from its catch.|
After reviewing the photos we observed that the whales were feeding on sand lance. Maybe this is a sign that the sand lance are back on the bank! We also observed many types of feeding behaviors during our trips, including bubble net and cloud feeding, chin-slapping, and kick feeding.
|Powerful kick feeding|
Check out that splash! Overall it was an amazing trip on Stellwagen with four new humpback sightings for the season.
We had some really amazing activity on our 12pm whale watch today! Sand lance have drawn humpbacks to the west of the bank and closer to Boston in pretty large numbers. The first whale we saw today was kick feeding and put on quite a show for guests! This 30 year old male named Thread, born to Fringe in 1984, took his time filtering the sand lance out of the ocean water while herring gulls fought over the last pickings next to him.
|Thread and the gulls|
We then moved on to female humpback duo Monster and I-Vee. I-Vee was first seen in 1984 and Monster 10 years later. Like Thread, this duo was doing some amazing kick feeding. One of them also gave us a full breach and another tail breach!
|Thread starts a dive|
At this point, things started getting a little crazy! There were about 6-8 humpbacks around us. Between the winds and seas rocking the boat and the number of whales swimming quickly in and out of the area, it was a little difficult to keep track of who was who and doing what. We were, however, able to ID Infinity and Serve who each popped up separately around the boat at various times. Serve is a humpback who was spotted for the first time just 5 years ago whose sex is unknown while Infinity, a male, was first seen in 1997.
|I-Vee fluke slapping|
Today was the first time Infinity, Serve and I-Vee were spotted in the Gulf of Maine this season! This was also the first time I have seen any of these whales which made the trip especially exciting for me!
Many of these whales today spent a lot of time diving which made sense seeing as they were off the bank in about 380 feet of water. While this new feeding locale made us question what exactly brought the whales to this location, photos taken throughout the various trips today show that once again sand lance is the fish of choice for these whales!
|A tern makes off with a writhing sand lance in its mouth|
As always, the birds follow these whales to join in on the feast. We have been seeing all different species of gulls and shearwaters. Even a little tern got lucky today! Hopefully there’s plenty enough to keep these humps in our backyard!