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.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 9- Prince of Whales

What a fantastic final weekend of our whale watching season! On Friday, we were treated to a few looks at critically endangered right whales, and a few fin whales. Saturday brought us an enormous number of Atlantic white sided dolphins and more fin whales, and Sunday, to top it off, we found several fin whales including #9618, dozens of harbor porpoises, leaping bluefin tuna everywhere, and a mother humpback whale with her calf!

Fin whale #9618, first documented in 1984 on Stellwagen Bank and later documented on Jeffreys Ledge in 1996, has been seen several times earlier this summer- in July and August.
Fin whale #9618
A second very large fin whale was seen nearby. This one I thought could be #9709 but upon closer inspection, it is not...likely this whale is a new animal to our catalog!
New fin whale surfacing
Check out the beautiful chevron on this whale- very unique and distinctive!

Fin whale chevron marking
Seemingly everywhere throughout the trip today were harbor porpoises and bluefin tuna jumping around. We saw at least 4 different groups of porpoises, but no sightings of the white one we had seen last week.
Bluefin tuna
As we spotted a couple more blows from fin whales, our friends on the Granite State radioed to inform us of a pair of whales heading our way. After a bit of searching, our special guests Cynthia and John spotted the blows and back of a whale about a mile away. This was a mother/calf pair of humpback whales and even more exciting for us since we hadn't seen any humpbacks since late August!

The calf appeared to be nursing, something it won't be doing much longer as it is nearing weaning time (the calf was likely born in the Caribbean in Dec-January of this past winter). Both the mom, who we later identified as Solo, and her calf were lifting their flukes as they went down on a deep dive together. Absolutely beautiful!

Humpback whales, Solo and her calf

Thanks to everyone on board today for making this such a special trip for us all, and thanks to all of the Prince of Whales passengers this season for your continued support! We look forward to seeing you back on the water next spring!

Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 6 Granite State

October already??? Wow. That can only mean one thing... we are just about done with our 2011 whale watching season. However, while we are beginning to wrap up the year, the whales have continued to keep us on our toes. The weather has been less than ideal recently which has been keeping us planted firmly on solid land but our past couple trips to Jeffreys Ledge has continued to showcase the variety Jeffreys always seems to offer. We've had some unexpected sightings in more ways than one!

On September 27 we had quite the cetacean sightings. At least 5 Fin whales were spotted along with a Humpback whale that made it's first appearance on Jeffreys Ledge this season. Viper, a whale that has spent a lot of time a bit further north with our whale watching friends at Bar Harbor Whale Watch over the course of this year's feeding season, was spotted. Viper was doing a bit of traveling but still allowed us a chance to spend some time with this particular whale.

Viper of course was not the only surprise. Little did we know what else was lurking around the water and this time it was not even a baleen whale, it was a toothed-whale. To be more specific, about 20-25 of these toothed-whales. We happened to come across a pod of Common dolphins!!!

Common Dolphins

This sighting marks only the 2nd time EVER the Granite State has seen these animals. Half of our crew had never even seen these cetaceans before and we've spent A LOT of time on the water. What an incredible surprise!!! These animals look a bit different than our usual suspects of dolphins (namely Atlantic white-sided dolphins) and boy were these whales quick.

Common dolphins above vs. Atlantic white-sided dolphins below (photo taken earlier this season)

If you thought white-sided dolphins were tricky to get photographs of, these whales were even more unexpectedly zip-zooming in every which direction around the boat.

Common Dolphins jumping clear out of the water!

Nature, mysterious and wondrous, always has a way of unexpectedly surprising us.

Unique coloration pattern of a Common Dolphin above vs. an Atlantic white-sided dolphin below (photo taken earlier this season)

Today continued with more surprises in and around Jeffreys Ledge as we finally got out on the water for the first time for the month of October. We ended up carefully maneuvering through an area where lots of endangered Right whales were around. Scattered out in the distance in so many different directions were those distinct v-shaped blows and smooth, dark tails, known as a Right whale. A few areas where these whales were occupying included lots of white water and knew a surface active group (SAG) was in effect. Of course Right whales weren't the only animals utilizing Jeffreys Ledge today. A pair of Fin whales were found swimming along together.

The dorsal fins of our Fin whales. Note the animal below has ever so slightly a more "bent" or angled dorsal fin compared to the more "triangular" or upright fin above.
These massively large animals were so graceful as they synchronized their surfacings together; a feat that is quite impressive when you think just one of these animals can reach lengths over 60ft and weigh 60+ tons!

Our Fin whales at the surface together

We are down to our last weekend of the 2011 Season. The weather finally seems like it wants to cooperate for us so feel free to get your last "whale fix" and go whale watching in the next few days this holiday weekend!

Fin whale getting a good breath of air at the surface

Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25- Prince of Whales

After spending a week at the dock, we had no idea what to expect for whales today. The off-shore boats were reporting fog, which is never any good when we make our living by looking for whales!

Our first sighting was by far my favorite- Casper the white harbor porpoise was back! We saw this pod and individual nearly 2 weeks ago, and honestly, I was concerned for its safety. Animals without natural camouflage typically don't do well in the wild (image a white deer trying to hide in the woods). But this little guy is appearing healthy and happy. All the conditions were working in our favor and I was able to get some more detailed photos of the extent of this unique porpoise's coloration- definitely not albino, but still very white!

White porpoise- "Casper"

All in all we saw about 40 porpoises today in 6 different pods!

We also had a near-record day for minke whale sightings- 10! We spent some time with a few of them and got some great ID shots so hopefully we can track these individuals over time and learn more about them!

Minke whale

While watching one of the minkes, we spotted a fin flopping around not far away- an Ocean Sunfish! This large fish was great and allowed us to "sneak up on it" in our 95-foot boat!
Ocean Sunfish

More minke whales seemed to be spread out all over the inner ledges and the calm seas helped us to get great looks as well as hear their blows.
Certainly a beautiful day on the water and we managed to avoid most of the fog!
Thanks for joining us!

PS- almost forgot to mention the cool diving gannet and jumping bluefin tuna show! Certainly a great display of nature and the food chain!

Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12- Prince of Whales

Crazy good day on the POW pelagic bird/whale watch! We started our marine mammal viewing in the river with a couple of harbor seals bouncing around.

Just a few miles offshore, we saw a lot of splashing that we first thought might be from dolphins but instead we were pleased to find a large pod of harbor porpoises! Typically the harbor porpoises are seen in small groups of 3-5 individuals and are a bit shy...this pod had at least 20 AND a white individual! I want to say it is an albino porpoise, but I'm really not sure if it technically albino- it had a little black on its fin and some gray on its back but not sure if that was scar tissue or actual pigment...anyway, very cool and VERY rare sighting!

The "white whale"! (harbor porpoise)

Soon after the porpoises, we found a nice minke whale!

A second minke was seen but was not all that cooperative for our purposes.

The birding was pretty good throughout the trip. Here, a parasitic jaeger is looking for another bird to stalk and force it to relinquish its lunch.
We followed some draggers who were discarding their by-catch. The gulls, petrels, shearwaters, jaegers and even a fulmar were having a feast!
A blow from a large whale was finally spotted. At first, this huge fin whale was not being all that good, but on our second attempt with her, we managed some fantastic looks! This is fin whale #9904, a female first observed in 1999.As we watched the birds behind the dragger, we passed by an ocean sunfish! After attempting to relocate the rare fulmar, we circled back and relocated the sunfish, giving us all some very unique views.
On our way in, after chasing some phalaropes, we found a nice pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins! The dolphins were just milling about, and seemed to enjoy having a boat to play with! Lots of small calves were seen, as well as several very large males!

Absolutely beautiful day on the water today! Thanks to all of you who joined us for the birds and whales!

Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 Granite State

On a day that has changed the lives of all of us it was that much more meaningful to have the chance to watch some of nature's finest throughout our trips today. We had quite the sightings, both during our morning and afternoon trips, truly showcasing just how spectacular wildlife can be. This morning we were fortunate to find Right whales engaged in a social activity only this species seems to exhibit especially in our part of the Atlantic Ocean. Known as a Surface Active Group, these whales are known to frolic with each other rolling all around, creating quite the disturbance of water even from a distance, as the whales breathe, roll over, lift their tails, and do it all over again in a kind of "dance."

We also were lucky to find a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins today. There were about 20 of these whales making their way through the water together. With a bit of wave action we were dealing with on the boat, these animals definitely didn't mind as they were changing course constantly swimming from one wave to the next and back again. Definitely a nice find and some nice looks at these toothed-whales.
This afternoon we had another type of "dance" from a Humpback whale that was putting on quite the show. This whale was originally sighted by a fishing boat on their way home from the day and was spotted by the major splashing it was creating on the surface of the water. We weren't far from the report so we made our way over and even from a distance it was incredible to watch this animal raise its tail high above the surface of the water and smack in down over, and over, and over again. This animal continued on with this behavior until just before we got to the area, but again even having witnessed this activity in general was wonderful. Once we were close the whale changed up its behaviors and started to flipper slap! Instead if bringing the back half of its body above the water this whale was rolling over on its side and belly lifting its extremely large flippers above the surface. Wow.

Patches bright white flippers that probably reach lengths of 15ft and weigh almost 1-ton each!

After a little bit of time watching this animal roll around and go on a few deeper dive we were able to identify this whale as Patches, a whale first sighted in 1980, and one that is at least 31 years old! We had found an adult whale. Patches was seen last year on Jeffreys Ledge but this is its first appearance to our area this season so we are thrilled to have this animal around.

The dorsal fin (above) and tail (below) of Patches
After the initial activity this whale was showcasing for all our passengers on board today little did we know we were in for one more treat. Out of nowhere this whale jumped completely out of the water! It only breached once but boy was it intense to see a large adult Humpback whale sky-rocket its body into the air and crash back on the water. What a sight.

Not a bad way to spend the day today. Thanks to all of our passengers who joined us. It was a very special day in more ways than one.
Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter

September 10 Granite State

Large, fast, sleek, and agile pretty much sums up our trips today. During both of our trips we got some great looks at Fin whales swimming through the water. These animals being some of the second largest animals on the entire planet were just coasting around the ocean with such ease.

Even when we dealt with a little unexpected "adventuresome" sea conditions this morning, the whales still had no problem maneuvering around the area unfazed. Just incredible. On both the morning and afternoon trips we spent time with the same animal that was still circling around the area. In the afternoon we even got a chance to see a "present" left on the surface of the ocean, a red cloud in fact, of whale defecation! This animal had recently been feeding on krill. We also had another Fin whale move into the same area in the afternoon and managed to get some wonderful looks at both of the whales before ending our day.

Fin whale #9709 surprised us it surfaced amongst the other Fin whale in the area allowing for some great close looks off our port side!

Of course we also had a few surprises on both of our trips as well. This morning we were lucky enough to see out of the blue a Basking shark not too far away from the boat. This large fish (the 2nd largest shark on the planet!) was just swimming through the area. As this shark remained just underneath the water we were able to slowly stay alongside it and get some great looks.
The dorsal fin (left) and the tail (right) breaking the surface of the water as this shark swam alongside us!

Such a large creature and one that doesn't even have any teeth in its mouth! It is a filter feeder just like many of the whales we see! Granted sharks filter feed slightly differently than baleen whales but Basking sharks feed on plankton just like some whales! What an unexpected find and some incredible looks at such a large fish!

A closeup look at the dorsal fin of our Basking Shark

Our afternoon special treat was a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Our friends on the Atlantic Queen had spotted these animals and passed along the information so we could get a bit of time watching these quick "little" whales zig and zag through the area. The group consisted of about 25 whales and were meandering around giving us some wonderful sights around the entire boat!
Another day of whales of different shapes and sizes with a few of unexpected surprises mixed in. Basically something we hope for on a daily basis. Who knows what we may find while searching the ocean but we have as much fun as hopefully all of you do seeing just what lurks underneath the water in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.

Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9 Granite State

It's been a long week as the weather has been keeping us on land recently. Finally we were able to make it back to Jeffreys Ledge and search for some whales. Well we searched, and searched some more, and when we were still coming up short we searched some more. We had good visibility so we were beginning to get a bit concerned. Where had all the whales gone? Alas however, just as we started to head in the direction of home our crew spotted a spout. One spout turned into two. We ended up coming across a pair of Sei whales! Not only were the two whales sticking side by side the entire time we spent watching them, these fastest whales in the water were just moseying through the area. Both animals were surfacing effortlessly and slowly, not using their amazing burst of speeds (over 30mph!!!) through the area.

Our Sei whales just gliding through the water with such ease

We were able to get some great looks at this pair before heading back to Rye Harbor. And of course we can't forget to mention the few Minke whales we spotted during our ride back home as well.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. It has not been unusual recently to have one day be a bit more challenging to come across whales and the next suddenly have animals in areas where we've seen nothing just a day earlier! Such is the case when searching for all types of wildlife; sometimes it take a bit more effort than other days. However, with a little bit of patience, a little bit of luck, and some nice conditions forecasted for the next few days anything is possible. The only thing you can predict with wildlife is that they are completely unpredictable. And that is what continues to bring us all back for more. Tomorrow is a new day and the only way to find out what is around is to once again try our luck. Hope you join us and do the same!
Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 4 Granite State

Today we were lucky enough to spend time with Fin whale #9709 during both of our trips. Not only was this whale further inshore than we typically see such enormous whales, but we were able to spend some quality time with her as well as she maneuvered her way around the ocean. As we try to individually identify just about everything that we see during our trips, we have been keeping tabs on this whale since it was first sighted in 1997 on Jeffreys Ledge! While we may not know how old this animal is, we do know it is at least 14 years old.

Zooming in on this whale's dorsal fin we can match up the unique squiggles on the back part of the fin corresponding to Fin whale #9709 in our on board catalog!

Even more exciting to know is that this whale is an adult female. During the 2007 whale watching season, this animal was sighted with a calf; she's a girl! Since she was swimming alone on her own this year we know she most likely did not give birth to another calf, as the calf would still be staying close to mom these days. All alone this whale is still impressive in size especially being one of the second largest animals in the world!
Our travels today also allowed us to spend some time with a few Minke whales scattered out over the ocean and even a glimpse at one of the rarest whales we ever have the opportunity to see here in the North Atlantic Ocean; highly endangered Right whales.

Wishing everyone a Happy Labor Day as we too will be enjoying a bit of time off as the weather is not quite conducive for whale watching adventures over the next couple of days. Until the next time...

#9709 surfacing just alongside the boat!

Keep in touch!Become a Fan on Facebook || Follow Us On Twitter