We had another INCREDIBLE day out on the water. The northwest corner was teeming with life as usual. We were able to see all four species of whales that frequent Stellwagen Bank and plenty of each! In total, we saw approximately 3-4 fin whales, 7-10 minke whales, 4-5 humpbacks and hundreds of Atlantic white-sided dolphins!
These acrobatic dolphins were scattered across the entire northwest corner and found swimming alongside almost all the baleen whales we viewed today. As Heidi explained in yesterday’s post, dolphins can sometimes be seen “bow-riding” on large fin whales. The associations we viewed today, however, were linked to feeding behavior. On a number of occasions we saw a fin whale circling (or corralling) its prey which was followed by a visible side lunge at the surface. This is typical feeding behavior for fin whales; however, as the fin whale lunged sideways, a group of dolphins quickly swam in from the opposite direction feasting on the schooling baitfish (see photos above). Without being able to see below the water’s surface, it was unclear whether this feeding interaction was mutually beneficial or just a free meal for the dolphins! We even saw something I have never seen before (which somehow always surprises me)! In one of these feeding frenzies, a fin and juvenile humpback whale surfaced side by side in unison with a large group of dolphins! It was absolutely incredible to see all of these animals feeding together!
After doing some ID work, my intern Sydonie (who had quite the first day experience) and I IDed this young humpback as Mostaza’s 2014 calf (see fluke photo). Interestingly enough, Mostaza herself was logging with another humpback named Swimmer just a couple hundred yards away. Typically calves spend the first year of their life with their mothers and are weaned the following winter which means that most all second year juveniles have been weaned by this point. While some mothers, such as Pepper, are known to have stayed with calves throughout the second year of their life, it is still surprising to see this young juvenile hanging around mom. It looks like someone is having a hard time letting go!
Overall, we had an amazing day on the water with some great bird sightings as well. We saw more razorbills today on top of common loons, common cormorants, northern gannets, white-winged scoters, surf scoters and various gull species.
Lastly, I wanted to give a shout out to Nicole from our Friday whale watch who shared with me some great photos she took on board. Without those photos, I would never have been able to ID Perseid, another returning 2014 mother. Thanks again Nicole!
Until next time,
Naturalist and Photographer