After yesterday’s rough sea conditions we were excited about getting back on the water today and headed out to the northwest corner in much more favorable conditions. Despite the light rain that greeted us at the northwest corner we were successful in finding a group of five feeding sei whales.
|Sei whale skim feeding|
This is our second day seeing sei whales and I hope that this doesn’t diminish how exciting these sighting are! Sei whales are not a common visitor to Stellwagen Bank though they are found throughout the North Atlantic and other oceans. Sei whales are known for their “invasions” when suddenly a large number of sei whales will be seen in an area, likely drawn by an abundant food source.
|So many sei skim snackers|
This is possibly what is happening here at the moment; sei whales feed on copepod zooplankton, just like right whales, and there are also a large number of right whales being currently sighted in Cape Cod Bay. With any luck we’ll have a few more days of sei whale sightings to come.
Sei whales are rorqual whales, just like humpback and fin whales, which are characterized by the grooves or pleats running down the throat allowing the skin to expand. Today we got to see lots of this as the whales were doing what we call side lunges, when the animal lunges with its mouth wide open sideways through patches of prey.
|Sideways skim feeding|
Many rorqual whales have pinker skin on the inside of these grooves which is only visible when these grooves are expanded. Sei whales are smaller than our fin and humpback whales, only about 40-50 feet in length and are incredibly streamlined. Though our whales were lazily feeding today, they are very fast swimmers and can reach speeds of over 30 miles per hour.
The calm seas also allowed us to spot an interesting bird species, two red-necked phalaropes, a tiny wading bird. It was a very peaceful morning with the calm season, gentle rain, and five skimming sei whales.