2014 Sightings | October 8

Today’s whale watch was an exciting one! Luckily the seas today calmed down a bit and we were able to head out towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. When we arrived, we found the scattered blows of 10-12 humpbacks kick and bubble feeding, a fin whale, and also several minke whales. With all the activity, we had so much to choose from! It was also great to see so many seabirds out there around the whales, including juvenile gulls, northern gannets, cory’s, and great shearwaters. We also spotted some white-winged scoters on the way out.

Salt open-mouth feeding — You can really appreciate her age and size in this photo!

Sundown kick feeding

We first decided to spend time with humpback whale Sundown, who was exhibiting an excellent display of kick feeding (see photo). Each time Sundown would come up, this whale would surprise us with its sideways tail kick, as if it was doing a “cartwheel”. Sundown would then create a large spiral bubble net and come up with a big open mouth in the middle, while many gulls and shearwaters swarmed around trying to get some leftover sand lance. Also, while we were watching Sundown, a large fin whale traveled by! We also spotted 3 minke whales scattered in the area, making it a three species day.

Pinch breach kick-feeding

Sundown was being a bit sporadic in its surfacings, so we decided to head to another whale in the area, Pinch, who was doing some exciting breach feeding! Pinch would come up and do a chin slap on the surface, creating enough momentum to then have its tail kick afterwards (see photo of Pinch kicking). Afterwards, this whale would surface in a bubble net filtering low in the water (see photo).

Pinch filtering

As if that wasn’t enough action, suddenly SALT came and joined up with Pinch in some bubble feeding (see photo of Salt’s famous dorsal, and why she is named Salt). It’s always exciting to see Salt, but I must say I had my coolest interaction with Salt today as she came up with a HUGE open mouth alongside Pinch (see photo above).

Salt's dorsal fin

Salt quickly left Pinch and continued to travel out of the area, as if she just came by to “mooch” off Pinch. I’ve observed Salt do this before, and as an estimated 60 year-old whale with 13 calves in her lifetime, she certainly has probably learned to mooch easily to her advantage!

We wrapped up the trip watching both Pinch and Sundown continue to kick and breach feed in a similar area. On our last looks, Sundown joined briefly with Pinch – perhaps Pinch was being “mooched” again. There are many hypotheses of certain feeding situations as to whether humpbacks are feeding cooperatively or perhaps “stealing” from one another, so today was a good example of that debate!

A spectacular day and one of my favorite trips this fall!

— Laura

Facebook Comments


Post a Comment