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.

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!

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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!

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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.
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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.

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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!
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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!

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 4- Prince of Whales

After a couple days of watching minke whales and a very long-diving fin whale, we were excited to find some very cooperative whales today! The rare sei whales were popping up on each side of the boat, giving us nice views of their spouts and pointed fins!

We also spotted a couple of right whales in the area- known by their distinctive v-shaped spouts and lack of dorsal fin!

On our return trip, we got sidetracked by a tall spout, likely a fin whale, but this whale was not at all cooperative and as we waited for it, a minke whale appeared! But then that whale was gone as well. Seems like these whales had another agenda today which did not include being looked at by us!

Happy Labor Day to everyone and a special congratulations to Marc, the winner of our whale adoption raffle today!

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

September 3 Granite State

Jeffreys Ledge sure had its own surprises in store for us today. Unfortunately they weren't quite the surprises we were hoping for. The whales that we've been seeing the past few days almost completely disappeared, or at least scattered immensely. With multiple boats from the New England area searching the whales were nowhere near what has been around. Of course that is also what is very much capable of happening when it comes to dealing with wild animals. They can, and do, move and all we can do is hope we find out where they moved too. As we are always in contact with fishing vessels and other whale watching boats there are eyes all over Jeffreys Ledge and sometimes finding these creatures can be a tad bit challenging.

One of the nice surprises of the day was when we came across a Fin whale quite a bit inshore of Jeffreys Ledge this morning. It is not uncommon to find whales closer to home, but typically we have to go 20 miles before coming across these large mammals. While this whale was inshore, it was definitely on the move and steadily traveling around. We a couple really nice looks especially when the whale crossed just in front of the bow, cruising through the water and waves with such ease. Amazing to see an animal weighing 60+tons just push the ocean aside as it comes to the surface for a breath of air.

Our travels also provided 5 Minke whales and even another baleen whale, a Sei whale, to our morning trip. On our ride home we got reports of whale activity a bit closer to home and in a different direction than where we had traveled this morning so we figured we would give it a go for our afternoon trip.

As we made our way into areas of whale reports this afternoon we did find a Minke whale before making our way over to where our friends aboard the Prince of Whales were. Both of us were awaiting a whale the Atlantic Queen had come across and passed along the news to all of us! There was a Fin whale in the area. This whale was being a bit challenging taking 14-minute, 8-minute, and over 25-minute(!!!) dive intervals. Not only was this whale spending lots of time under the water, it also was sporadically surfacing in all which directions.

Our Fin whale even swimming away from us is still impressive in size!

We did manage a few nice looks before another Minke whale passed through the area. This whale was spending only a few minutes under the water and just gliding through the water so off we went to spend time with this baleen whale!

Minke whale surfacing
As we enjoyed our time with this animal it was also a little tense as both this Minke whale and the Fin whale were in an area where there was a lot of fishing gear in the water. All the buoys on the ocean's surface have lines attached to them, some going all the way down to the bottom of the ocean (around 250ft!) of line the whales must avoid! Whales can easily get tangled in lines as the lines are pretty much invisible to a whale going after all of its food. Thankfully the whole time we watched these animals they avoided these potential dangerous threats; something these whales must do on a daily basis.

Our Minke whale swimming just in front of fishing gear! Luckily this whale did a great job avoiding all the gear in the water during the time we spent in this area.

Thanks to all of our passengers today who joined us for another adventure. Patience was key and we thank you for helping to keep an eye on all of our sightings. Who knows what another day will do to these animals. We will find out once again tomorrow!

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Atlantic Queen September 2, 2011

Sometimes the weather and your passengers really can make your day! We took our passenger about 20 miles from Rye Harbor today to find more fun, curious Minke whales. I think Minke's get way to over looked in my opinion, they can be so much fun to spend time with. Once again today they came up next to us several times after going right under the boat. Some passengers got some very close looks as one came up right under the pulpit, rolling over to show us it's stark white belly! Thank you to all who joined us today your enthusiasm and questions made for a perfect day. Congratulations to Rhonda who won our raffle today, enjoy your humpback whale!

September 2 Granite State

The weather was fantastic for sighting cetacean life today! A crisp clear horizon, calms seas, and a bit of sunshine to keep you warm (it can get quite chilly out on the ocean at any time of the year!) provided perfect conditions for sighting animals from miles away today.

Our first whales of the day was a small group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. My oh my did this group of whales want nothing to do with us! Each and every surfacing was in a different direction, coming to the surface for just a few breaths before zipping to some other section of the ocean before turning right back around once again. Up down and all around we, and them, were going in circles trying to catch a quick glimpse of these squirm-ish animals this morning. Alas, we decided to cut our losses and continue further offshore to areas of Jeffreys Ledge we've had some success with over the past few days. Well as we continued on we saw more splashing. It was another pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. This particular group was made up of a few more animals, around 30, and were much more conducive to allowing our passengers to get some great looks at these whales.

As we made our way offshore in search of other whale activity we ended up coming into an area where we had two pairs of Sei whales. Even faster than the dolphins we saw earlier (Sei whales being the fastest whales on the entire planet!) these larger whales were thankfully not going anywhere in particular. Actually, they did a great job themselves surfacing on either side of the boat, and even out behind us, giving everyone on board a chance to see such sleek moving animals.

Sei whales at the surface

At one point the pair closer to us surfaced off our starboard side and then took an extremely sharp turn right in towards us!

A Sei whale maneuvering in our direction! Have no fear, the engines were shut off as these whales (and all whales for that matter always) have the right of way

Suddenly we had 2 Sei whales swim directly under the pulpit!!!!! With the two whales still just below the water, and barely any wind on the surface of the ocean, you could look down and see the entire length, including the tails, of these whales as they once again crossed back over to the other side of the boat! Simply amazing.

With some awesome looks at these fast moving creatures we decided to make our way further east to check out some other spouts we were seeing. Well the more we scanned the horizon the more spouts we kept seeing. Whales, whales, and more whales. Sei whales kept surfacing every which direction. Pairs, trios, and single Sei whales were moving through the water with such ease and synchrony it was incredible.

One of our many Sei whale pairs seen today

At the end of the day we sighted 18 different Sei whales! And no doubt there were more that we couldn't even make our way too. And why do you ask? Because scattered amongst the Sei whale frenzy, we were seeing signs of highly endangered Right whales! These whales, even from a distance are very easy to distinguish from a Sei whale by multiple factors. One: Right whales have no dorsal fin. Their entire back is a smooth, large, surface. Sei whales on the other hand typically have extremely tall and broad dorsal fins located on their backs. Two: Right whale spouts (if given the right perspective) are very often a v-shaped formation whereas a Sei whale's spout, or exhalation, is much more vertical and column-like. And three: Right whales will typically raise their tails above the surface of the water when they go on a deeper dive whereas Sei whales just arch their back steeply not raising their tails for us to see. Who knew even from out in the distance people can determine what species it is just by keying in on some distinguishing characteristics? Pretty cool, huh? Come find out other ways to tell whales apart this holiday weekend and join us aboard!

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