On our way to the southwest corner of Stellwagen, we passed a large Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) drifting at the surface. We also passed a quick traveling pod of possible harbor porpoise.
When we arrived at the bank, we found scattered blows of 5-7 humpbacks, and 1-2 minkes in the area. While we searched around to approach the first humpback, our first looks started out with a bang as female humpback Palette surprised us with a full spinning head breach! After this she began to travel in a linear direction, towards a pair of humpbacks that turned out to be Baja and her 2014 calf.
|Baja feeding, see the gull with the sand lance in the background|
Baja gave us quite the treat yesterday as she blew big spiral bubble net blasts alongside our boat, while her calf swam around the outside of the nets. After she would surface in the middle of the bubble cloud with a big open mouth, she would filter at the surface awhile (a behavior we call “dragging”) for several moments, giving us great looks at her baleen, as well as the gulls stealing some sand lance leftovers. It was exciting to see her baleen plates up close!
|Palette head breach|
|Palette kick feeding|
In the midst of this feeding, Palette surfaced next to us again as if to steal the thunder back – and began to breach/kick feed! Palette would at first slam her head at the surface with a big splash (see photo), followed by a tail kick. A few moments, later, she would then surface sideways amidst a big spiral bubble net. She did this repeatedly the rest of the trip, and it was fun to see her interesting feeding technique. She also appears to be well fed and she seems very plump in her photos!
Palette pretty much held boat “hostage” as she kept feeding next to our boat for the rest of the trip. Whenever the whales come this close to the boat to feed is always a treat, as we don’t try to approach the whales that closely ourselves in accordance to whale watching guidelines.
As if all of this weren’t enough, a third whale species of the day, a large fin whale, passed by at the end of the trip. We also had a fourth humpback who was kick feeding travel by– if I identify by its dorsal fin I will update the sightings for today’s trip.