Whale Watch Log: May 3, 2016

Despite the rain and grey clouds, today was a spectacular day on the water! We entered the Sanctuary headed aboard the Salacia to the NW corner of Stellwagen, to find 7 scattered humpbacks bubble net and kick feeding. The was little to no wind today, so the glass calm seas made it easy to spot bubbles at the surface forming into nets, and the whales didn’t disappoint!

Buzzard's fluke

Our first looks were of humpback whale Buzzard and another whale with an all-black fluke, working together to kick and bubble net feed. A second group (that included humpback whale Swimmer) appeared to be doing the same – but instead mainly bubble fed, feeding just beneath the surface a few meters.

Trio feeding
Trio of humpbacks lunge feeding

But the real stars of the shows today were a trio of very active spiral net cooperatively feeding humpbacks, Tracer, Viking, and an unknown whale (we’ve had many unknown flukes popping up this spring!). This trio made huge nets over and over near our boat, and all of us would anxiously wait for the whales to come up mouths agape full with water and sand lance! 

Filtering sand lance

I can never get tired of watching this behavior! Since we were able to watch so many repetitive feeding bouts, we were able to notice some of the distinct feeding traits of each whale. Tracer and Viking would drag (filter) at the surface, but in particular each time Viking finishing filtering, it would then do some sort of chin slap/mouth snap, almost as if Viking was trying to gargle/shoot down the rest of its food into its throat (see photo). It was hard to really interpret this behavior, but cool to observe nonetheless!

Viking chin slap

We also spotted many herring gulls and Bonaparte’s gulls (see photo), which have been in the area the last few days.

Bonapartes gulls

— Laura

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