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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 27 and 28 Granite State

The weekend almost came and went before we were finally able to go whale watching. Mother Nature certainly did her best trying to blow out the weekend weather but alas the wind calmed down and off we were to Jeffreys Ledge for a Memorial Day whale watch (a trip that was not part of the original plan).  The ocean and the whales did not disappoint and thanks to our "never-give-up" attitude of our passengers we were determined to go see whales before the holiday was over. And see whales we did.

Minke whales and Humpback whales were the whales to watch. Minke whales were scattered about during our travels and the Humpback whales were scooting around as well. Popping up here one moment and there another it was a bit tricky to attempt to predict where the whales were going to surface next but that is not shocking when you know you are dealing with wild animals. Humpback whales Boomerang, Hornbill and Pinball gave us some very nice looks throughout the trip.

Today we were back out on the water and with almost no wind the conditions on Jeffreys Ledge were ideal for whale searching. More Minke whales were around and we even saw some of the same whales from yesterday. Both Hornbill and Boomerang were still around. 
Hornbill above and below
We even got a chance to see another Humpback whale, Mogul, circling around the area. Some of our whales were creating bubble clouds, meaning there was a very good chance feeding was occurring below the surface, and the whales were corralling some afternoon snacks. 
Before returning back to the harbor with our school trip we got a chance to see one more species. A small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins was swimming by. What a special treat to end our trip on.
A dolphin swims by the boat

We are busy doing some school programs near shore for the rest of the week but we will be ready to whale watch once again this coming weekend. Hope to see you there!

Keep your eye out for all kinds of fun finds. We found this sea anemone in Rye Harbor at low tide this morning!

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Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27 Atlantic Queen


What a gorgeous day on the water!  The seas were calm, and it was a beautiful sunny Memorial Day.

We started out our trip with some great looks at Mogul, a 27-year old male humpback. At first, Mogul took long dives, but then stayed under only a few minutes at a time.  He time he surfaced, we seemed to get better looks!  We could see his flippers under the glassy surface of the ocean, and hear him  exhale and inhale. It was a great way to start the trip!


Next, we saw another humpback. This one didn't spend much time at the surface, but after looking at my photos I believe this is an old favorite - another male humpback named Hornbill, who was first spotted by researchers in 1977.  After a couple looks at this busy whale, we moved on to an energetic pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins!


The pod was widespread, but we estimate there were about 50 dolphins total. We got great looks at them off the bow, and saw one lobtailing (slapping its tail on the water surface) many times near the boat.

Atlantic White-sided Dolphins

Lobtailing Dolphin

Atlantic White-sided Dolphins

It was a great way to end a fantastic day on the water. Thanks to all who joined us, and congratulations to drawing winner Judy Haley - enjoy your adoption of Satula!

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22, Captain's Lady III, Newburyport

 Today was a little bit of a rough day in terms of the sea conditions but all in all, it turned out to be fantastic! As we neared Jeffreys Ledge, we were greeted by a couple of minke whales. These "little" whales (20-30 feet) were a bit elusive but we managed to see them several times. We then received reports from some of our fisherman friends of bigger whales not too far away. We pressed on and finally spotted a spout and a fluke!  Humpback whales!

The first humpback whale we saw was our old friend Satula. Satula was first seen in 1988 and has been seen nearly every year since 1996 (when our data collection/research began). He is distinctive due to his lack of a dorsal fin.
Satula's missing fin
  As we watched him, we saw a second spout nearby.This was Pinball! Both Pinball and Satula are Adopt-a-Whales with our organization! Although Pinball was a bit aloof today, we did get a few looks at her before she disappeared into the haze.

Suddenly, more humpback whales appeared. Two whales quickly turned into five! A trio of humpbacks surfaced close by. Where they came from was anyone's guess. Upon watching a few spouts from the group, we quickly realized that we were witnessing a pretty special sighting- a mom and her new calf!! The mom was identified as Spar, a 25 year-old who is seen sporadically on Jeffreys Ledge. This is her 6th calf that we know of.   

The whale accompanying Spar and her little one was Geometry, a 16-year-old male. Geometry is also not a regular visitor to our area although we have seen him a few times.  Just as quickly  as Spar and her calf, and Geometry came into the area, they left and we never saw them again! Sneaky whales! We waited for Satula or Pinball to resurface. The ocean seemed eerily quiet. Then out of no where, Satula breached, clearing the water nearly completely! It was incredible and the first time I have seen this familiar guy do that! I hope most of our passengers were able to see it! Breaching is something that humpbacks are known to do, but a behavior we rarely see!  


We got one more look at Satula and then decided it was time to head back in. The seas calmed down and our trip back to Newburyport was beautiful. We hope to see you all back on the water with us soon!

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Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20 Atlantic Queen

What a fantastic day!  We never know what to expect in May - sometimes we see a lot of whales, and sometimes we have to do a lot of looking.  We didn't have to look too far today!

First we spotted Satula (Finnish for "saddle"), a male humpback who was first seen as an adult in 1988.  He has a distinctive saddle-shaped blotch on his left fluke, and is missing his dorsal fin.

Satula's dorsal
While we were watching Satula, we spotted some blows and a minke whale not too far away. We headed toward the blows, and started seeing both blows and small dorsal fins. We had come upon two fin whales with about 20 Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  These whales were on a mission - not spending much time at the surface, but we did get some good looks, and eventually the dolphins zig-zagged right toward us and surrounded the bow of the boat!

Dolphin near the bow

We then headed to a huge flock of birds (greater black-backed gulls and northern gannets) a little further offshore, and saw 2 more fin whales, plus another humpback - a 16-year old female named Cosmos!  Cosmos has one of my favorite flukes - black with star-like dots and a comet-shaped marking on her left fluke.





After some great looks at Cosmos, it was time to be on our way.  What a great first trip of the season! Thanks to the home school group from Milton, NH that joined us, and congratulations to The Dash Family - enjoy your adoption of Pinball!

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Granite State May 18 and 19

Happy Queen Victoria weekend! Last weekend was opening weekend and this weekend was equally as exciting as it turned out to be a Blue Ocean Adopt-a-Whale kind of weekend! Our sightings on both Saturday and Sunday included Minke whales, Fin whales, and Humpback whales.  On Saturday we started with HWC #0050. This Humpback whale has been seen over the years including last year on Jeffreys Ledge.  
Humpback whale #0050
We also spent some time with Fin whale #0629, Streak. This whale provided quite the sighting as we watched this whale blow a bubble cloud, something only Humpback whales are typically known to do, to help capture their food.
Streak the Fin whale

Humpback whales Pinball, Satula, and Hornbill were also seen on Saturday circling around the same general area. Both Pinball and Satula are Adopt-a-Whale creatures for our affiliated research organization the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. All three of these whales are frequent visitors to Jeffreys Ledge so we were excited to see these whales once again this year.



Today we started with a few Fin whales. A couple of these whales were surfacing sporadically but soon we ended up watching pair of Fin whales on the move together. Fin whale #0354 and friend were synchronizing their movements and gave us some incredible looks at two of the second largest animals in the world!
Fin whale #0354
Second Fin whale

We also got the chance to watch a few Humpback whales as well out on the ledge today. Satula was seen again today cruising through the area as well as Hancock before this whale decided to continue further offshore.
Perhaps the most exciting find of the day was a mother and her calf pair. Owl was seen with her 2013 calf swimming alongside her today! Owl is quite the favorite on the Granite State, and another Adopt-a-Whale for the Blue Ocean Society, so not only was it fantastic to see her but to have a "little one" in tow put a huge smile on all of our faces.
Owl and her 2013 calf's dorsal fins

Humpback whales are pregnant for 11 months before giving birth to their young so for anyone who had the opportunity to see Owl last season she was very much pregnant all of last year! What a special surprise for all of us today. We even got a curious approach from Owl's calf as it completely circled the boat before swimming off to go catch up with mom.
Owl's calf swimming circles around the boat!
Weekend #2 was another success. Hopefully #3 will be just the same. Until then!

Please be sure to share the ocean with the whales. If you find yourself out on the water please be sure to keep an extra eye out for whale activity and give them plenty of room to maneuver around. There is lots of ocean out there for boaters and whales a like. Thank you in advance!


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May 19, 2013 Captain's Lady III

First day for the new Newburyport Whale Watch! We had a nice day with several fin whales and a few minke whales and dive-bombing gannets everywhere!

Our first fin whales were in a pair- one was easy to identify- #0354 has a few distinct nicks in its fin. We have been watching this whale on Jeffreys Ledge since 2003.

Close up of fin whale # 0354
 #0354 was hanging out with this whale (below)- still not quite sure who it is but we are working on confirming an ID.

Another fin whale was spotted in the distance. The blows (or spouts) from fin whales can reach 20 feet high in the air!
Fin whale spout
 As we were waiting for the pair to resurface, the distant whale decided to surface right behind our boat. Much to my happy surprise, this was an old friend- a fin whale named Fjord!
Fin whale "Fjord"

Fjord was first seen in 1996 by Blue Ocean Society researchers and has been seen nearly every year since then! He is also known for showing up early in the season, frequently on the first trip of the season in mid-May!! So glad to see he is still on his usual schedule!

A couple of minke whales were poking around as well, but they were a bit wiggly and difficult to keep track of. Overall it was a great day on the ocean, especially for May. Thanks to all of you for joining us! Hope to see you back again soon.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Welcome to the 2013 season on the Granite State!

Finally after more than six months of not whale watching in New England we were back out on the water and ready to search for any signs of life out on Jeffreys Ledge today! Being out on the water for the first trip of the year we were completely unaware of what we may encounter as all we had to go on was word from our fishing boat friends as to what they have been seeing recently. Jitters, anxiousness, and overwhelming excitement were just a few of the emotions running wild as we headed towards Jeffreys Ledge today.

The day turned out great as we were lucky enough to start the 2013 season with a grand slam of species. Four different types of whales were seen today though some appeared to be much more cooperative than others. The day started with a group of 20-30 Atlantic white-sided dolphins.
Atlantic white-sided dolphins
This group was continuously circling around the area, perhaps going after some food below the surface, and gave us even more hope that there was more life to go in search for.

Our next stop was on a single spout but once we got closer one spout turned into two! A mother and her calf Fin whale pair had just gone on a deeper dive off the starboard side of the boat. How exciting! Unfortunately after waiting, and waiting, and waiting a little bit more we were unable to relocate the pair. As happy as we were to know a mother and her calf were in our midst we knew there was a chance these two "greyhounds of the sea" could have been on the move and continued much further away from us in a very short period of time. So we moved on.

Soon another spout was seen and we made our way towards the area. A Humpback whale was nearby. As it lifted its tail above the waterline, guess who it was? An adopt-a-whale was our first Humpback sighting of the season; hello Pinball! 
Pinball above and below

While she was moving around the area (we know Pinball is a she for she's had calves in the past including last year!) we did get the chance to get a few great looks at her. As we were watching Pinball we were also keeping an eye out in the distance for there was another spout moving into the area.

A second Humpback whale was swimming by. Sedge swam by as we tracked along with its movements allowing for some nice looks at this whale before turning for home. 
Sedge's extremely uniquely shaped dorsal fin

Soon after turning for home a Minke whale surfaced a couple of time off the port side. Four different species all in one trip. What a way to start the season!  Thanks to all our passengers who shared in the day as the cloudy/drizzly morning turned into a sunny skies kind of day!
Happy start of the season everyone!

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