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, June 30, 2012

June 30 Prince of Whale, Newburyport

Good evening!
Definitely a beautiful day on the ocean! We traveled to southern Jeffreys Ledge in search of whales today based on a report from a fishing boat. We found 2 fin whales in the area! The whales were busy- likely trying to catch a ton or so of food.

The first whale we encountered was #0112, a fin whale first seen in 2001. This whale is a regular to the area but today was the first day we saw it this year!
Fin whale #0112

Fin whale surfacing- check out the blowholes!

As spotted a second whale in the area, we also saw a cool avian friend! We think this is a Razorbill- a little out of place for this time of year, but still very cool!

Who is this avian-alcid friend?? Razorbill? I'm waiting for my Audubon friends to comment here....
 The second fin whale was not all that cooperative and I am not sure of its identity but it may be #0611. I have a bit of work to do in order to figure that out. If it is #0611, it may have some new markings that we didn't observe in the past.

Overall, today was  great escape from the heat and traffic on the mainland! Thanks to our very interested passengers for showing interest in both the whales AND birds!! And congratulations to our raffle winner from NY, NY! Enjoy your adopted whale, Flask!

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June 30 Granite State

The day was filled with more Fin whale and Minke whale sightings during both trips today.  This morning we started our trip with a very familiar whale, it was Ladder again.  Even before seeing this whale go on a deeper dive we knew who was nearby just from capturing the smallest portion of this whale's body above the surface.
The dorsal  fin and beginnings of Ladder's scar pattern just breaks the surface
Ladder was definitely on the move as this whale was constantly heading in the same direction each time it surfaced.  We were able to get some great looks at this adult Fin whale (thanks to our great Captain and his "whale-sense!") before heading to other areas of Jeffreys Ledge.
After spending time with some different Minke whales we ended up coming upon another Fin whale.  This whale was definitely utilizing the area as this whale was relatively staying in the general area each time it returned up from the depths of the ocean.  We were far from home and needed to start the journey back but we were able to get some nice looks at this whale who we were able to match to our Fin Whale Catalog as being #0417!  How exciting to have another Fin whale sighting match an animal in our catalog!

This afternoon we also started with a Fin whale but this whale was taking such short dives as it was literally returning to the surface every 2-3 minutes!  We were able to enjoy this whale from all sides of the boat as this animal kept surfacing every which direction not far from the boat!  Turns out it was one of the same Fin whales we had gotten the chance to see yesterday.  Great to know this animal is still swimming around Jeffreys going after lots of food in the water!
No official ID # yet but this whale can still easily be identified from other Fin whales we spot!

With Minke whales surfacing all throughout the afternoon, we documented 9 different Minkes, we also got the chance to spend time with another Fin whale.  As we made our way towards a spout in the distance we quickly realized there were two spouts; two Fin whales were swimming together!  They continued to follow alongside each other for two different surfacings and then on the third time they split apart.  One whale surfaced behind us and one off our port side.  We made our way to the animal a bit closer to us and got the chance to watch this whale do some filitering as this animal surfaced a couple times with a mouthful of food and ocean water inside its mouth!

Fin whale's right profile. Note the lower portion of the jaw line is bright white!

As seems to be the case oh so often, each sighting provides different behaviors, different experiences, and most importantly different memories for all when having the opportunity to witness such enormous mammals just going about their day!  Wonder what memories are to come tomorrow... Only time will tell!

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Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29 Granite State

This morning brought a little bit of everything in terms of weather, everything that is except wind.  Clouds, rain, sprinkles, and eventually the sun finally came out.  Luckily whales are constantly surrounded by vast amounts of water so a few rain drops here and there do nothing to affect them, they just cause us humans to put on the jackets and pull up the hoods.  We got the chance to get some incredible looks at mulitple Minke whales and Fin whales this morning through, and around, the raindrops.
A very unique dorsal fin and marking on this Fin whale
Rain doesn't affect Minke whales either!
Fin whale just breaking the surface as it comes up from the depths of the ocean for some air
The sunshine continued for our afternoon trip and while the wind was barely even noticeable on the ocean this morning, this afternoon it continued to pick up the further offshore we went as the day progressed.  We also ended up getting the chance to spend time with multiple Fin whales this afternoon but wow, they never stayed in one spot for long!  Our whales were constantly shifting around in every which direction possible.  However, with some good predictions of boat placement, and a little bit of luck, we ended up getting some really nice looks at both of our Fin whales.  Best part was we were able to positively identify both animals!  Our first Fin whale sighting of the trip was #0402. 
This whale was first seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 2004 and it wasn't until 2010 that we learned its gender.  #0402 is a female as she was seen in 2010 moving around Jeffreys Ledge with her calf!  While see was alone today we are thrilled to have her back on the Ledge!
The spout from #0402 gets pushed away by the wind we were surrounded by this afternoon

Our other whale was being just as "skirmish" at first.  Constantly moving around and spending a bit of extra time under the water it took a bit of time to get some looks at this whale.  The dorsal fin looked familiar but it wasn't until later on that I realized who this was.  It was Ladder!!!! 
Seeing the less obvious side (non-scarred side) of this animal tried to throw us for a loop but sorry Ladder we still figured you out!  Today documented one of the few instances Ladder was sighted swimming on its own as opposed to usually being seen in association with another Fin whale.  We last saw Ladder June 9 so it has been almost 3 weeks to the day since we last saw this adult animal.  What a great surprise and a great way to wrap up our afternoon!

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Atlantic Queen June 29

For the second day in a row we were deep in Fin whales!  When we saw our first blow we were excited then it turned in two then three!  There were exhales all around us near and far. 
I think fluke prints or foot prints are quite cool especially when it as big as the one above from 1 of our Fin whales

Though the picture above is not showing much of this Fin Whale it is because this is the whale who popped up directly in front of making it difficult to fit a 60-70 foot whale in the photo.

Above is the Fin whale who got my heart pounding today!  Congratulations to Abigail from Maryland who won out raffle today "Trigger" a female  Fin whale.  A special thanks to Ryan from Small Town Pictures who was aboard filming a spot for The Blue Ocean Society, look for us on the big screen!

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June 29 Prince of Whales, Newburyport

After a rainy morning complete with thunder and lightning, the skies cleared when we reached the ledge to make for a clear, but breezy, afternoon of whale watching. After a bit of searching, we found two fin whales. One was surfacing frequently while the other would only blow now and then.

We began with the more cooperative of the two. After a couple surfacings, we got a nice look and recognized this whale as #0369- Dingle! It is always nice to see a familiar fin!

After leaving Dingle, we tried to get a look at the second whale in the area. This whale would only surface for 1-2 blows before diving, and it was moving in between dives! Our best look at it was when we decided to leave and we picked up speed to go home. Still, this whale was showing us why the species has the nickname of being the greyhound of the sea!

The birds are picking up on the Ledge as well! We saw a couple gannets on our trip out, several great shearwaters and many Wilson's storm petrels!

Enjoy the weekend!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28 Granite State

There was a bit of land breeze today and at first glance thought perhaps it might be a bit breezy out on the ocean.  Clearly, that was not the case at all.  It was absolutely beautiful!  The only motion of the ocean was a meandering swell as the wind quickly dissipated and eventually disappeared all together resulting in lake-like conditions throughout our travels this morning.

Our first whale of the morning was a Fin whale moving through the area.  Initially this whale was seen in an area where there were at least 3 Minke whales circling about but we quickly learned this whale had other plans.  Within minutes this whale was out ahead of us and we ended up playing a game of "catch."  This whale was on the move and we were attempting our best to stay within the movements of this Fin whale.  We were able to get a few looks before the whale would be under the water once more, moving in a direction only the whale knew before surfacing out in the distance once again.  Sometime these whales have their own plans that involve NOT being watched by our passengers (which can and does happen when you are dealing with wild animals!) so off we were to check out other areas of Jeffreys Ledge.

Soon we came across another Fin whale.  This whale was behaving quite differently than our first.  This enormous mammal was pretty much just circling the area as with each breath the whale took it would effortlessly swim in an arc.  We were able to get some incredible looks since this whale was being so slow in its movements allowing us to easily stay parallel to it. 
Fin whale spout
Turns out, thanks to the dorsal fin and chevron pattern, we were able to recognize this whale as one of the same animals we had seen just yesterday.  The coolest part was, after spending more time looking through our Fin Whale Catalog we knew exactly who this animal was.  It was #0837!  This whale was first sighted by Blue Ocean Society affiliates in 2008 and while it has been a few years it is great to know this whale decided to return back to Jeffreys Ledge this year.
Fin whale #0837's head

#0837's body and dorsal fin
The trip wasn't over as after spending more time with #0837 who even suddenly had another Fin whale surface alongside for just a moment (and then moved off in their own separate directions!) we had come across a group of toothed whales.

We had about 30-40 Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  It has been well over a month and a half since we've last gotten the chance to see these whales and were super excited to have that streak end! 
Atlantic white-sided dolphin

Conditions were spectacular as the flat calm ocean allowed everyone to follow our group of whales as they swam at the surface and even sometimes below the surface!  What a great way to end our morning.

This afternoon also started with a Fin whale but a different animal just a few miles past the Isles of Shoals.  This whale spent a little time circling the area before making its way further north.  Since we wanted to head offshore, not towards the Maine coast, we left our whale and continued to scan the horizon for more whale activity. 
Fin whale just off the port side before it decided to venture further away
More activity appeared out in the distance as we saw plenty of splashing up ahead of us.  We had found more dolphins!  Our afternoon crowd also got the opportunity to spend time with a group of ~30 animals.  Such a fun species to watch as Atlantic white-sided dolphins every second sometimes appear to change directions.
More Atlantic white-sided dolphins!
Active dolphins

Further offshore, thanks to our friends on the Atlantic Queen, we came into an area where we had a handful of Fin whales around.  At least 5 of these whales were scattered about.  They all appeared to come up for a few breaths and spend considerably more time under water but we ended up getting some great looks at a pair of these animals as they grouped up and swam just off our starboard side.  Another great way to end the trip as the whole time we were in the area we were not watching any animals surface in association with another.  Who knows how long those two animals remained side-by-side but it was great to see them in their grandeur so close to each other and the boat!
Fin whale #1 of the 2 that decided to join together for a few breaths
Fin whale #2 of our pair
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June 28 Atlantic Queen

Whay a difference a day makes when you whale watch.  Yesterday we were a bit light on whales and today we had 5 Fin whales and 6-7 Minke whales all around us!  Some of our Fin whales varied in size but they were still enormous.  Below a Minke whale riding along beside the boat.

One of our many Fin whales above that we were able to get great looks at.  The weather is heating up the next couple of days,what better way to spend a beautiful day than with whales! 
Congratulations to the Ascioti family from New York who won our raffle today, and to our generous passengers who supported our efforts to protect marine mammals in The Gulf of Maine.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27 Granite State

This morning we spent time with a pair of Fin whales.  While both creatures were spending on average about 11 minutes under the surface of the water each time they would resurface, not only would they still be together, they were barely moving around.  These whales were being a bit sneaky as sometimes they would surface just high enough to take a breath of air but not enough to see their dorsal fins.  Unfortunately even when you did see the two whales dorsal fin's it was still difficult to determine exactly which of the two whales was at the surface as both whales at first glance appeared to be very similar looking.  However, after a little bit of a closer inspection you can see just the slightest differences that make each of these animals unique from one another.
First Fin whale of the pair
A closer look at our first Fin whale's dorsal fin. Note the slight indentation on the back portion of this whale's dorsal fin
Second Fin whale of our morning pair
A slightly broader dorsal fin with a small bend at the tip of the fin itself

With a bit of wave action, the whales seemed to be behaving better than the ocean!  We were able to get some incredible looks as these enormous mammals would cruise down either side of the boat crashing through the waves as they came up to get some big breaths of air.  I guess when you are one of the second largest animals on Earth the Fin whales just push the waves aside as opposed to being pushed aside by the waves!
Fin whale charging through the waves!
A small portion of the white lower jaw and even the chevron  pattern (silver/gray area along the side of this whale) as it swims with ease against the wind/waves!
This afternoon we went searching for our morning pair but had no luck.  Looks like those two animals had ventured off to other areas of the ocean, maybe together or maybe seperately, but they were gone and instead found a different Fin whale that had moved into the area!  This animal had such an interesting dorsal fin that it didn't take long for our crew to match this whale to our Blue Ocean Society Fin Whale Catalog.  It was #0811.  This whale was first sighted on Jeffreys Ledge in 2008 and had been most recently seen in 2010 until today.  Another familiar fin has returned to the Ledge, always a fun sight to see!
Fin whale #0811
A zoomed in look at Fin whale's #0811 dorsal fin.  This fin is completely different looking than the two Fin whales we spent time with this morning and one of the main features we use to tell each Fin whale apart from another!
With a few other Fin whales and some great looks at some of the Minke whales in the area we headed for home.  Thanks to all our passengers who took a bit of a "wild ride" this morning and to all our very inquisitive younger passengers this afternoon.  Some great questions were asked by some very young brains and we sure enjoyed the enthusiasm and eagerness to learn as much as possible about all aspects of whales during our trip!

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Prince of Whales June 27 2012

We had a bit of a bumpy ride today heading out to the ledge, but soon after we left the dock the sun started to peak out.  The whales made us work quite hard today, we work hard everyday for our whales but sometimes they have other plans in mind.  We serached for quite a while when our captain saw a spout about 2 miles ahead, with wide eyes we were looking once more.  We ended up finding a very busy Fin whale, but this whale was not alone, it had some friends in tow, Atlantic White Sided Dolphin.

Though the pod was quite small only 4 in the pod, 2 adults and 2 calves, it was still wondereful to see them.  This was our first sighting of dolphin this season. 

We often see Fin whales with dolphin, why?  we don't really know but the size comparison is quite amazing a 70 ft whale next to a 9ft whale, pretty cool.  Congratulations to Connor who won our faffle today and to all our patient passengers.

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Tuesday, June 26th, Granite State

With grey skies looming in Rye harbor, we were unsure of what to expect when we left the dock in search of whales.  After passing the Isles of  Shoals, we headed towards a shouthern area of Jeffrey's Ledge and found several whales throughout our travels.  We started with not 1, but 2 very nice Minke whales and thought they were a great way to start our trip.  Shortly after spending time with our Minke whales, we saw an exhalation from a larger whale not to far away from where we were.  In the interest of time, we decided to see if we could spend time with the larger whale and I'm glad we did!  It turned out to be a very large Fin whale and it wasn't long before we realized who it was.  I'm happy to report that Dingle has returned to Jeffrey's Ledge, for yet another feeding season!  Today was the first time we have documented that Dingle has returned and it was great to share the happy news with all our passengers. 

Dingle seemed to be travelling in several different directions every time the whale would return to the surface and it didn't take long to figure out why. Photographed below is our fish finder. It does not help us find whales, but it does track bait fish and other food items underneath the surface of the water and there was a whole lot of food in this particular area.

The more time we spent in the area, the more whales we started to see. Before long, we had found 6 different Minke whales, and 3 different Fin whales. The food was plentiful and the whales were taking full advantage. What a great way to spend our day. As we headed for home, our course took us through some rain showers, but everyone did great. Thank you to all our passengers for joining us today and for helping us tract a familiar friend who has retunred to the Ledge for another feeding season.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 24 Granite State

For the fourth day in a row we have spent time with some familiar whales.  While we often get the chance to see animals we recognize in the field and continue to see them over the course of a few consecutive days we've come to realize an interesting trait that has been reoccurring during our recent whale watches.  Today we got the chance to spend time with Halfmoon the Humpback whale during both of our trips. 
Whales tend to move around constantly as they search for food so sometimes we are lucky enough to see the same animal in the same general location during our morning and afternoon trips, and sometimes these animals do a bit of travelling and end up on other parts of Jeffreys Ledge as the day progresses.  These behaviors are quite normal and sometimes even expected as we venture out throughout the day.  However, for the 4th day in a row we have not only gotten the chance to see Halfmoon we have also been seeing Fjord the Fin whale in relatively close proximity to each other. 
While spending time with these two whales over the course of the past few days they have never crossed paths but instead have tended to be within a few miles of each other.  Again, this is not crazily unusual as both Fin whales and Humpback whales feed on the exact same food.  It simply makes sense that if one type of whale is around it is very much possible another type can be close by. 

The real zinger of all this is that both animals have been up, down, and all around different portions of Jeffreys Ledge over the past 4 days.  One morning both are seen in one particular region, 24hrs later a completely different region, and the trend seems to be continuing each and every day.  While this may not seem to be all that exciting of news, we have been finding it quite intriguing.  Honestly it could be completely coincidental seeing these two animals day in and day out on different section of the Ledge but regardless we continue to chuckle as each time we end up seeing one, the other never seems to be too far away.  So thanks again to Halfmoon and Fjord for allowing our passengers to get some great looks at these two large adult whales (Fjord is at least 31 years old while Halfmoon is at least 33 years old!) and to all our passengers, many of whom are repeat whale-spotting pros, and our first time crowds, for another beautiful day spent watching such incredibly intriguing mammals.

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