Log for July 14, 2015

Captain Jimmy and team Cetacea were first of the fleet to arrive on scene yesterday, where marine animal activity had exploded! We began stumbling across whales miles before approaching the bank. 

First we found Nile and Perseid logging amongst traveling minke and fin whales followed by a sighting of Ventisca subsurface feeding.

Soon, however, a horizon of whale spouts appeared before us! It was absolutely magical! As we approached, activity heated up and whales began breaching in all different directions. We realized quickly that a kick feeding frenzy was in play and that whales from all corners of Massachusetts Bay (and some) had swam in for the event. 

We slowly cruised through the whale soup, getting IDs upon IDs along the way. Passengers oohed and aahed as whales feasted around us.  Among them were Venom, Lilium, Stub, Calderas, Putter, Wyoming, Strike, Coral, Soot, Level, Lariat, Mira, Zodiac, and Lavalier. These sightings made up only a fraction of the whales out there. Spouts continued to stretched for another couple miles where whale watching boats from all over Massachusetts enjoyed similar displays. Birds of all species partook in the great sand lance feast, shearwaters and gulls alike.

It’s days like this that whale biologists (and whale lovers) anticipate and look forward to. Hopefully these whales will continue to grace us with their presence in the coming days!

I can’t forget to mention the grand finale! En route to Boston, we came across Nile and Perseid, now alert and breaching together! You can’t ask for much more on the water :)

— Tasia


Aboard the Aurora with Captain Jeff we headed out to the SW corner to find a HUGE feeding frenzy! We estimated a total of 30-40 whales scattered about, consisting of mainly humpbacks kick feeding and bubble net feeding, with a few fin whales in the mix. This is the most whales I think I’ve seen on Stellwagen bank all season! And our research intern Connie had quite her hands full trying to record all the different sightings around us today – any direction we looked we would see blows and remnants of bubble clouds, as well as splashing of kicking flukes (see photo).

It was fabulous to see so many open mouths filtering at the surface – one has to wonder just how much sand lance/feed is in the area right now? On trips like this, I often get asked, “is this common, or will this last?” – to put in it perspective, two years ago at this exact same time of the year, we pretty much had only one whale on the bank, which was Nile on the SW corner. 

I use this as a reminder of just how variable Stellwagen bank can be – over the last few decades the Stellwagen region has often fluctuated with whale activity, and every day on the water really is different! Days like this are always special, as tomorrow there could easily be just a few whales in the area. We still have much to learn about the abundance (and sometimes lack) of prey in the region. It is not a general trend upward, but rather quite variable as far as we have observed!

In our frenzy of feeding we found it difficult to ID many whales, but some of our list included Stub, Raccoon, Reaper, Lavalier, Tear, Soot, & Pleats. With all of our boats on the water today – our combined sightings emails have created quite a list of ID’s!

— Laura

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