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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Atlantic Queen August 30

Breezy and a bit lumpy out on the water,  all our passengers were troupers, getting a bit wet at times,but it all paid off.  Clamp and her calf were breaching, tail breaching, spy hopping, and just being a joy to spent time with.

Our 2012 calves are really gaining weight and strength,to do these types of activities takes a lot of energy to display.

Humpbacks don't exhibit this type of behavior very often, so when you are able to see it, it is an experience of a life time!

Congratulations to Cassie from S. Berwick,ME who won our raffle today, "Satula" the humpback whale.

Though the dog days of summer are coming to an end we will continue to whale watch weekends until Columbus Day weekend, plan your trip now!

Clamp's calf coming in for a closer look

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

August 30 Prince of Whales

As we left the dock this afternoon, the breeze was picking up.  That means the seas had the potential of being a little rough 20 miles out on Jeffreys Ledge. But it couldn't be rough since my parents and my Nana were on board and they (almost) always have perfect trips.

We made it a little over half-way to the Ledge when we spotted a small pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins off the bow! This pod included some large males, and one super-tiny calf! The pod was a bit busy doing its own thing but still, some of the members came in close to check us out.
Dolphin mother and calf
We continued on to the Ledge and the seas kept building. Sure, we have encountered much worse conditions, but increasing amounts of white water have an inverse correlation on our whale spotting abilities.  Fortunately, Captain Billy spotted a few blows in the distance.

The first pair of humpback whales we encountered was our good friend "Owl" and her new friend "Ember". Owl has been a regular on Jeffreys Ledge over the year which is why we made her one of our adoptable whales! She is 26 this year and is looking great in spite of the huge, but healing, scar on her back that she has had for about 23 years. Ember is a 30 year old male who is not a regular of the area, but who was part of a satellite tagging project this summer to help make the tag technology better and safer for the whales.
Owl (background) and Ember showing his tag
Owl high fluking!
Owl surprised us by surfacing close, and then lifting her tail extremely high in the air when diving down. Usually she is a low-fluker, so it was nice to see her full tail. Ember only gave us marginal looks at his tail but still great to see a newcomer to the area!

In the distance, we spotted more blows and even a few breaches! We approached what we thought were two single humpbacks. But soon two turned into three- a single and a pair! We followed the pair for a bit. The smaller of the two decided to approach our boat!! This was certainly a young whale- a juvenile perhaps, or so I thought until suddenly from below, we saw a MUCH larger whale begin to surface! In no time I realize the "juvenile" whale was actually Pinball's very large calf!! Pinball (another adoptable whale!!) was surfacing from below, putting herself between her calf and and us- a good motherly thing to do. As we watched them, Mother Nature decided to give us a little "kiss from the sea", soaking everyone on the bow of the boat, including my Nana! Oh, I knew I would hear about that later on! But then we all were rewarded by seeing Pinball's calf breach nearby! Of course I missed the shot since I was too busy looking at a tiny Wilson's storm petrel (my birder friends should be proud) but it was still awesome to see!
Pinball's calf coming in for a closer look at us!
Pinball's calf
In spite of the rocky conditions, we had a fantastic day with the whales! Thanks to all of you who joined us and we hope to see you back on the ocean soon!

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August 30 Granite State

Our trip today brought us back to an area where whales have been lurking around Jeffreys Ledge recently and were happy to see as we made our way into the area the whales were still there.  We got the chance to spend time with 4 Humpback whales today.  Once again it was apparent most of them were taking some naps.  Our first stop was on a pair.  It was Owl and Ember. 
Ember and Owl
Ember has been spending A LOT of time south of us thanks to a current project with folks at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.  Ember is one of the whales that got tagged this season as a project to learn more about the tags themselves and the movements of some of the whales in the Gulf of Maine.  To check out Ember's movements and more about the project check out the Satellite Tag Humpback Whale Project.  No only was it exciting to see Ember today, this is the first time this whale has been sighted on Jeffreys Ledge at all this season.  To make things ever more interesting it was swimming alongside Owl, another favorite whale we on the Granite State are especially fond of.  Two fun whales and both just slowly moving around the area!

As we ventured in search of more whale activity we caught a quick glimpse at a Blue shark.  This shark stayed just below the surface and did not seem to mind us sneaking over to it to catch a quick look before heading over to more whales spouts.  It was a fun, random sighting, of a fish we don't always get the chance to find while out on the open ocean.
Blue shark swimming along (dorsal fin on the right, tail on the left)
As we eased our way from the shark to the whales we quickly realized we had a mother and her calf Humpback pair nearby.  The calf was on the surface for a long, long time.  For the first part of our time in the area we didn't even see mom.  Finally mom surfaced just ahead of the calf and we knew we were watching Clamp and her calf!  The last time we saw this pair was on July 17.  A month and a half later these two are back!  We ended up watching the calf nap on the surface almost the entire time we were in the area. 
The waves were increasing in size and caused Clamp's calf to pop up most of the top of its head above the surface to get a good breath of air!
A few times mom was swimming just below the calf but, with a bit of wave action offshore this afternoon, it was a bit tricky to see if the two of them were actually touching or just swimming extremely close to one another.  Regardless we were able to spend some incredible quality time with this pair. 
Clamp and her calf surfacing for some air as they swim directly into the waves
The calf started to swish its tail side to side at one point and even rolled ever so slightly during the process allowing us to see a bit of the whale's unique pigmentation pattern!
Eventually the calf woke up and exhibited some nursing behaviors.  Even whales wake up from naps and get hungry just like us humans!

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August 29 Starfish

Beautiful almost fall like day out at Jeffreys Ledge yesterday. Seas were calm and the cool breeze was a nice reminder that the summer is coming to a close and fall is on its way. We started our trip a little early with a sighting of a minke whale just off of our starboard side. Great sighting from a group of passengers who were diligently gazing at the horizon in search of whales.

We then saw a few spouts out in the distance and made our way into the area. There was another whale watch boat there as well with some whales so we decided to press on. We never like to crowd these beautiful animals or overstay our welcome. Luckily in the near vicinity we saw three separate blows! It was Valley, Bat, and Perseid all logging (sleeping) at the surface. We got some beautiful looks at these whales.

Valley's Fluke Pattern
Perseid's Fluke Pattern
Bat's Fluke Pattern

Then we saw a few spouts on the other side of our boat. Turns out we also had Pinball and her 2012 calf next to us. This is Pinball's 6th calf since we have been watching her out at Jeffreys Ledge. This mom calf pair is one of my personal favorites, and it was so nice to see them doing well. The calf was a bit sleeping and spent most of its time logging at the surface. This gave us a great opportunity to watch the calf in amazement.

Pinball's Fluke Pattern

We then ended the day passing a final humpback whale (and watching 3 other blows in the area). Below is the fluke of Jabiru, our last humpback of the day.

Great day out at the ledge. Hope to see you all again soon!

August 29 Atlantic Queen

3 Female humpbacks - Perseid, Valley and Bat
Fantastic day yesterday, with humpback whales all around!

We started out the trip with Clamp and her calf.  Clamp was born in 1990 and this calf is her 5th.  These two afforded us great looks while they rested, or "logged," on the water surface.  Often, the calf hung out at the surface while Mom rested just below.

Clamp and calf fluking together

Clamp's distinctive fluke
Clamp's calf
We then moved into an area nearby where there were 5 more humpbacks!  We spent our time with a trio, Perseid (a female born in 1998), Valley (a female first seen in 1985) and Bat (a female first seen in 1979). These whales have been together for at least the last few days.  These were a bit more active than Clamp and her calf, and we got great looks at them and their enormous flukes!
Perseid and Bat
There was another pair of whales nearby, and on the way home, we got a quick look at two more humpbacks. One we couldn't identify as we didn't see its flukes well, but the other was one of our adoptable whales, Owl, a female born in 1986. It was a great way to end the trip!

Thanks to everyone who joined us today, and congratulations to Justina, who won our free drawing - enjoy your adoption of Owl!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 29 Granite State

Today our trip started with an unusual, and large, sighting.  While it is meant to be in the water it wasn't actually a whale or a fish at all!  The HMS Bounty was spending a bit of time around the Isles of Shoals and what better way to start a day out at sea than with a very famous boat!  The replica, HMS Bounty, was originally built for the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty."  More recently this square-rigged sailing vessel was used in the "Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Mans Chest" as the Edinburgh Trader.  A "pirate" ship that was set nicely in the foreground of some of our own pirate stories in New England here amongst the Isles of Shoals. 
The HMS Bounty
After searching for pirates we were headed offshore and shifted gears as we were off in search of whales!  The ocean was just right for our first sighting of whales... We had a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins close by. 
This group of 85 individuals were effortlessly moving through the water at a very relaxed pace (for such fast moving whales!) and with the calm seas we could watch their every movement as these whales swam along side the boat! 
Flat calm water cannot be beat when we come across a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins
We recently have been lucky having the opportunity to encounter this type of whale out on Jeffreys Ledge.  Interestingly enough, with all the data that has been collected over the years, thanks to our whale watching boats and the Blue Ocean Society, we really do typically see this type of marine mammal only 20-25% of our whale watching trips!  For anyone who joined us at the start of the season, you were well aware that it took us 1 and 1/2 months before we came across a pod of dolphins after seeing them on our very first whale watching trip this year.  Who knows, maybe we will be without any sightings of these agile critters soon but until that day comes we, and all our passengers, sure do enjoy the moments of watching such graceful creatures of the Gulf of Maine.

Once we continued further offshore closer to Jeffreys Ledge we made our way into an area where we began to see whale spouts in every direction out in the distance.  Granted our visibility was widespread, allowing to search miles in all directions, and soon we didn't know where to start!  We decided to head a bit further offshore and check out some of the whales before changing course and checking out some animals a bit closer to home.

Turns out all the whales we spent time with today were Humpback whales.  Many of these whales are once again back on Jeffreys Ledge whether continuing to swim around the area, or having decided to return once again this season, we certainly enjoy familiar tails and even a new additions into the mix as well today!  A few Minke whales surfaced but being a bit erratic in their movements we chose to ease our way towards a pair of Humpback whales first.  Owl and Orbit were swimming side-by-side. 
Owl is once again back on Jeffreys Ledge as she was sighted a few times on the ledge earlier in the season
Even at the end of August we are still seeing newcomers to the area.  Welcome to Jeffreys Ledge this year Orbit!
Instead of swimming however, these two whales were more likely seen napping on the surface rather and swimming at the surface.  Both animals remained very relaxed, bobbing at the surface, and giving all of us some very nice looks at these two large female whales.  Little did we know just about all of our Humpback whales today were spotted napping on the surface, and for that matter almost every single one of them was a known female.  We saw 9 different Humpback whales during our travels today and got the chance to check out 7 of them spending time in our area.  Our next grouping consisted of a trio of females: Valley, Perseid, and Bat.  Bat was last sighted on Jeffreys Ledge August 9 so it was a nice surprise to see her return again as the season continues to progress.  All three of these whales were also spending plenty of time at the surface, napping, though Perseid definitely appeared to be a bit more "wiggly."   This whale would breathe for a few breaths disappear for a minute further down in the ocean depths and then surface once more while the other two lady-whales just hovered at the surface nearby.  Check out just how unique a few of our Humpback whale tail's truly are when compared to each other:
At one point Valley definitely became a bit more focused when she started to arch her entire body.  She was sticking her belly down while her snout and back were raised high above the surface.  Then I saw her do something I have never seen a Humpback whale do.  There was a brief, and yet very noticeable, time frame when Valley managed to get a small patch of floating seaweed to lay just on top of her snout/head.  It didn't move anywhere but stayed almost perfectly placed right at the tip of her head.  I have heard of whales "playing" in, or with, seaweed but have never witnessed it myself. 
Valley in an "arch" position with a small patch of seaweed resting on the tip of her head!
I am no expert in this particular whale behavior department but I certainly do feel confident in saying Valley was well aware of that floating flora residing on her body as she maneuvered herself in the water to come in contact and keep the broken-off patch right there on the tip of her head.  While Valley's intentions are only known to her it certainly was a reminder of just how intelligent and well-knowing of their surroundings these whales certainly possess.

We had a bit more time to investigate a few of the other whales were were seeing in the area so after easing our way away from the trio we headed over to a few other pairs.  We eventually ended up spending time with one more pair of Humpback whales: Patches and Springboard.  And guess what???  They too were sleeping.  Patches changed things up a bit at one point as this whale, and presumably the only male Humpback whale we saw today, eased its way over to us.  Patches decided to come check us out as we were checking it out!  A small spy hop and a good time just facing us was enough of the curious approach to watch as this large whale moved ever so easily up the entire length of the boat.
Patches bringing its top part/point of its head out of the water
Patches surfacing right next to the boat!
Patches off on a deeper dive

We certainly had quite the sightings today and even on our ride home we were still not done.  Just over a mile from home we came across our final ocean-dwelling creature of the day.  An Ocean sunfish was basking in the sun!  What an unexpected find so close to land.  The fish made no attempt to swim away so we got some great looks at this unique looking fish before pulling into the harbor.  It was another wonderfully unexpected day looking at wildlife!

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Prince of Whales August 29


Patches checking out our port side
Close to boat

Our trio of females Valley, Bat,and Persied
What a day!  We had so many whales today!  We stared with "Sockeye" minke, then passed 3 harbor seals, a pod of dolphin and then the stars of the day the humpbacks.  We had the trio of females, Valley, Bat, and Persied,these big beautiful females stayed close by and all treated us to great looks

We also spent time with "Pinball"and her 6th calf, her calf was napping,and boy is it getting big!

We wrapped up our day with Patches, a male and Springboard, a female, both literally watched us and perhaps used our hull as a scratching post!  These 2whales, as you can see from the photo's above came so close my heart was beating out of my chest!  AMAZING
Congratulations to Regan from Rowley Ma, who won our raffle, "Pinball"  the humpback whale.

Thank you to the whales for making today a most remarkable day, to our passengers who supported us, mother nature for a perfect day of weather,and of course our captain and crew,after all we couldn't do the work we do without them!

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