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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21, Captain's Lady III

Glassy calm seas today! We had our first sighting just 10 minutes outside of the River today! Harbor porpoises were popping up in a group of about 10-12. Although they were a bit shy, we managed to get some looks before moving on.
Harbor Porpoises
We passed by a second pod of porpoises and a harbor seal a little while later. Then, just as we were receiving a report of whales nearby, we spotted the tell-tale sign of an ocean sunfish (scientific name Mola mola)- the slow flopping back and forth of its large fin. We moved in slowly and were able to spend about 10 minutes with this fish- the largest species of bony fish! At one point it swam right up to the boat! They look a bit odd, but ocean sunfish are pretty cool fish.
Our first ocean sunfish
As we searched for the reported whales in the area, a harbor seal pup showed up. This little one was playing with something- possibly the remains of a fish, and kept it's distance.
We kept searching, hoping the fishing boats were right- that there were whales in the area....waiting....waiting....
Then a minke whale surfaced not too far away! As we got closer, we saw that there were actually 2 minke whales in the area!! The first minke had a smooth dorsal fin and small marking just behind the fin. This will be useful in cataloging this whale in the future! We got incredible looks at these whales. The water was so calm, we could easily see the minke "mittens" as the whale surfaced.
Minke A
Minke A
 The second minke whale had a notch in its dorsal fin- can't wait to add this one to our catalog too! Check out the blowholes in the image below!
Minke B
Minke B
In the meantime, an unusual bird flew by and briefly tried to land on the boat. According to our PhD Ornithologist, Dr. Larson from Mass Audubon, this was a female or immature Red-winged Blackbird! Definitely not a pelagic species, but fun to see offshore! Hope it makes it back to dry land soon!
Red-winged Blackbird!

As we waited for one of the minkes to surface again, we spotted another ocean sunfish.
Second ocean sunfish
 This large fish seemed to enjoy people watching as it hung out under our bow pulpit for quite some time!  Also during its visit with us, it came very close to some marine debris- a Cheetos bag. Marine debris is extremely hazardous to all forms of marine life. They often mistake debris for food, and that can eventually kill them.This was particularly scary for an ocean sunfish that primarily feeds on jellyfish. Plastic bags can easily look like jellies and be mistaken for food. Fortunately, this sunfish was smart enough to know the difference and did not try to eat it.  Please keep this as a reminder to always take care of your trash in a responsible way. We most certainly don't want to cause more distress to our beloved marine life!

Ocean Sunfish precariously close to a Cheetos bag.
On our way home, we received a report of a dolphin in the area. This was a single Atlantic white sided dolphin. This solitary one was a bit wiggly and we weren't able to get photos. Typically, dolphins travel in family pods made up of related females and their young, but the adult males are known to venture off on their own, or with other males so perhaps this was a male taking some time away from the groups.

Today was a lovely day on the ocean. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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