Blue Ocean Society's Whale Sightings

Greetings! Thanks for visiting our blog. Our staff and interns will be posting their experiences here working on whale watch boats in NH and MA.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 26 Granite State

So Irene may be continuing to make her way up the entire east coast but today on Jeffreys Ledge the whales continued to thrive with quite the plethora of species out there!

This morning we were excited to come across a great group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins to start the trip on. This pod ~65 was just moseying around the area providing a great opportunity to stay with, and enjoy watching, these whales.
There were even a few younger critters in this group, staying side by side the larger adults, and effortlessly staying right in tune with the larger animal's movements.
After spending some time with these whales we picked up some speed and headed closer to Jeffreys Ledge. What was our next type of marine life? More dolphins! We had found another pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Not only was this a different group, but it was a larger and faster swimming pod! These animals were on the move perhaps chasing down some food further under the water as they were creating quite the ruckus for us above ocean level. These dolphins were constant splashing and quickly changing directions all the while having some birds swarming overhead, probably hoping to score some scraps of leftovers!

Atlantic white-sided dolphins on the move

We also knew while watching this group of dolphins it was a different pod than the group we had seen earlier. For one we had travelled a good distance from the previous sighting and while dolphins swim quickly, we would have seen them as they would have had to pass by us on their way to this offshore area. And two, we've been taking identifying photographs of each these animal's dorsal fins, helping us to distinguish individual animals within a particular group. Thanks to our Dolphin ID creator/master, Will, we knew this was a different group. What a nice surprise to see two different groups doing two different behaviors this morning.
While in the area of the dolphins we saw spouts from other whales near by. It was time to go investigate the area. We ended up finding 2 Fin whales moving through the water together.

A familiar Fin whale, #0354, who has returned to Jeffreys Ledge once again!

At first this pair of Fin whales appeared to be doing a bit of travelling as we had to play catch up the first couple times they surfaced together. The 3rd time they returned up from a deeper dive they both started to circle around the area. One whale left a trail of red clouds in the water, digested krill, before circling around once again and heading straight in towards the boat!

Whoa, hello big Fin whale!

Once these two animals popped up again we decided to search a few other areas nearby to see if any other animals were going to make themselves known. What we came into next were more Fin whales. We had made our way into an area where there were at least 5 around as we spotted them all spread out including a pair together, and three singles, scattered in different directions around the boat.

A pair of Fin whales at the surface

Well in a matter of minutes our whales started to form one larger group. First, 3 surfaced and began swimming together. After going on a deeper dive the next time they surfaced there were now 4 Fin whales on the move together. Our last viewing was of all 5 as two surfaced just off our starboard side and suddenly 3 more rose up from the depths of the ocean off our port side. Wow! Check out some of the uniquely shaped dorsal fins and scars found on a few of the Fin whales we watched:

We have only be able to positively identify one of the many Fin whales in this group. Above: Fin whale #0828

So many whales and yet we still had a bit more time out on the water. Our next stop was with yet another species, 2 Sei whales, that were circling around the water together.

Sei whale dorsal fins. Many times these fins are much taller and broader than the dorsal fins found on Fin whales
As we spent time watching these (many times except for recently!), rare sightings, another single Fin whale came through the area. This whale was on the move so we watched the Fin whale pass by while we spent our last bit of time with our other baleen whales, the Sei whales.

On our way home, as we always do, we keep an eye out just in case we happen to come into an area where more whales may be. What a surprise we found as we were heading back to Rye Harbor... PILOT WHALES!!!

Pilot whales are larger than the Atlantic white-sided dolphins we sometimes see and also are a uniform dark grey in color with broad dorsal fins
This group of about a dozen we found are also toothed-whales, and like the Atlantic white-sided dolphins that we come across, these pilot whales also swim in groups or pods. This was our first sightings of this species this year and so of course we veered slightly off course in order to spend just a few minutes with this group before heading back home. Thanks to our hard working crew who spotted these animals adding them to the list of an already stellar trip of whale sightings!

One pilot whale diving underneath the water while a few more surface near by

With such gorgeous conditions this afternoon we knew it would be good conditions for sighting whales, hopefully many of the ones we had seen in the morning, as we made our way back out to some of the same places we had been in the morning. Once again the whales continue to keep us enticed as we ended up seeing some different, and yet still, special sightings. Our first whale was a Fin whale that was taking looooooooooong dives so we decided to give ourselves a bit more time further offshore and moved on.

Our next sighting was much more cooperative. It was a pair of Sei whales, the exact same pair we had seen in the morning, and almost in the exact same spot! Hours had past and yet these two animals were still going strong circling around this particular spot of the ocean continuing to be associated with each other! Spending only minutes under the water, and not using their quick speed to zoom out of the area, (Sei whales are THE fastest swimming whales in the world!) we got some wonderful looks at these sleek creatures. While spending time with these whales we continued to see more spouts out in the distance. With such quality time spent around our Sei whales we decided to check out some of the other wildlife in the area. We ended up finding 2 Fin whales. These whales were spending a bit of time under the water, and doing a bit of travelling, so we continued to attempt to stay with one of these animals in the area. While awaiting for one to resurface, all of a sudden we saw a spout in the distance. Even from just the spout of this animal we knew exactly what it was; a highly endangered North Atlantic Right whale! The spout from these animals actually appears to be a v-shaped exhalation as their blowholes on the top of their heads are so steeply angled in comparison to the nostrils of most of the whales we see, we knew what was around. But there wasn't just one. Further out in the distance, another v-shaped spout occurred! We had just gone from watching two of the largest animals in the world (2 Fin whales) to being in an area where 2 of the rarest whales in our ocean currently resided (2 Right whales). Incredible. Even from out in the distance you could see these whales raise their large tails as they went down for a deeper dive. Beautiful and extremely rare creatures. What a great way to end our day.

Once again it ended up we were not quite done whale watching for the day. On our ride home we ended up intersecting a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins!

A few of these whales were jumping out of the water!

This group of approximately 75 whales were spread out over a vast area of the ocean. You could look down into the water and watch one of these dolphins have no problem keeping up with our moving vessel or look out towards the horizon and see splashing from these whales as they surfaced for a few breaths of air in every direction. Another awesome way to end another unique and special trip.

Even from out in the distance you can see how these dolphins acquired their name: Atlantic white-sided.

Irene will be keeping us off the ocean for a few days as she passes overhead. Who knows what all that churning of the ocean will do to the food around Jeffreys Ledge but we are extremely eager to find out later this week so stay tuned!!!

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