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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31 Captain's Lady III

What a perfect day for watching whales!! Clear skies and calm seas. Today we headed southeast, past Cape Ann in search of whales. The ride was longer than we liked, but what can we do- the whales are where they are and we have absolutely no control over that! But our long ride was well worth it! We passed by several minke whales and found a few humpback whales and fin whales!

The first humpback whale we saw was our friend, Pinball! She has certainly been the star of this season so far- we have seen her on at least 20 different days!  But today was unlike any other so far this summer. Pinball was quite active: flicking her tail, trying to tail-breach, surfacing close by and even rolling a little at the surface!  We all got some incredible looks at this Adoptable Whale  as she seemed to be attracted to the boat.
Pinball diving
Pinball's unique flukes
Pinball coming by closely!
Pinball surfacing in front of us!

 Also in the area with Pinball were a couple of minke whales and a fin whale! The first fin whale cruised by and we got only a fleeting glance at it. The identity of this one is still pending.
Fin whale
Another humpback whale, Nile, was seen close by! Nile has been in the area for quite some time now and it was great to see her, and Pinball, blowing clouds of bubbles to capture their food!  Both Nile and Pinball are adult females. We hope to see them with new calves soon!
 In the meantime, several northern gannets were seen soaring overhead! Gannets are the largest seabirds in the area with a 6-foot wingspan!
Northern Gannet
 We spent some time with a second fin whale- this one's ID eluded me but after checking the catalog, I can be sure to say this is #0904- a fin whale first seen by Blue Ocean Society researchers in 2009, and who has been seen on Stellwagen Bank by other researchers from Provincetown, MA! Althought this whale has a large injury to its back, it appears to be doing fine and healing well as it has had the issue for at least 4 years. Our colleage in P'town calls this one "Lightning".
Fin whale #0904
I can't be sure to say what caused this injurt but it is likely from a collision with a boat. To all you boaters out there- please be careful when navigating near whales. The whales are frequently focused on feeding, and don't always pay attention to the ever-present noise of boats in their habitat.

Although we returned home a little later than expected, we had an incredible trip that will not be forgotten for a long time! Thanks to all of our understanding and enthusiastic passengers!

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July 30 Atlantic Queen

It was a gorgeous day out on the water yesterday. You could almost sense the crisp feeling that fall is just around the corner. We headed out toward Jeffreys Ledge, but came across a minke whale within 10 miles from shore.

This minke whale was definitely feeding, as it was spending a great deal of time below the surface. We did however get some great looks at this species.

Minke whales are baleen whales which means they do not have teeth in their mouth, but instead have a series of baleen plates which hang from their upper jaw. They use these plates as a filtering system to feed. Luckily because whales are mammals, they need to come up to the surface to breathe. One of the surfacings was just off of our starboard side and surprised not only the staff on board, but also many of our passengers.

We also had some interesting bird sightings. This little flock flew around our boat a few times.

Does anyone know which species these birds are? 

Unfortunately sea life was not the only thing we saw out on the water. There was a lot of loose sea weed floating around full of marine debris. Items included, mylar balloons, plastic bottles, cups, buckets, paper, plastic, and rope! Marine debris is a major threat to our sea animals who can easily ingest this material. 

On the way back in we have a wonderful view of the Isles of Shoals. 

Thank you for everyone who joined us out on the water!

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, Granite State

It was quite a nice day on the ocean today.  Blue skies and clam winds were a perfect combination and despite a small fog bank that we encountered for a short time in the morning, the weather remained that way throughout the whole day.

Our morning was filled with several Minke whale sightings.  These whales were slightly sporadic with their movement, but we were able to get great look at a couple of them as they started to settle on some food for a mid morning meal.  We were also surprised to find a Blue Shark as well and the kids onboard were certainly impressed by its size.

On our way home, we made a quick stop at Boon Island and were able to see several grey and harbor seals resting on the rocks.  We even found a baby harbor seal lounging on a log and taking a break from all that swimming.

Our afternoon was very similar in sightings, except instead of a blue shark and seals, we were treated to a great pod of harbor porpoise.  Harbor porpoise are among the smallest of whales species that we see in our study area in the Gulf of Maine reaching lengths of 3-4 feet long.  They are also sometimes elusive around boats and therefore can be difficult to track.  Today was quite different, where we were able to spend quality time with them and get some great looks as well.  

Before heading home we stopped to pick up a few pieces of marine debris in the water.  Even though we cannot possibly pick up every piece of marine debris that we see while on the ocean, we do try to pick up large aggregations of balloons or single large ones that we may see, especially if they are in an area where we are watching whales.  Often times marine life will mistake balloons for food along the water's surface and eating these items can prove to be life threatening where they can become lodged in their digestive tract.  I found it ironic that one of the balloons we picked up was of a fish.  Please remember to place any and all trash in the proper place and dispose of balloons appropriately. It could truly save a life.

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July 30 Captains Lady III

Again today we wanted to continue changing it up as far as our final destination.  We headed south again into the southern portion of Stellwagon Bank National Marine Sanctuary just off of Cape Ann Massachusetts.  If you follow our sightings you already know the whales are taking advantage all the room they have in The Gulf of Maine (36,000 square miles)  Spending a bit more time traveling south did pay off.  "Nile" was in a frisky mood today breaching 2 times and chin breaching 3 times!  Not something we see everyday!
Nile chin breaching
Nile heading down
Nile's fluke
Nile's unique dorsal fin
Nile was born in 1997,her mom's name is Mars.  She had her first calf in in 1997 who was named Amazon, Aswan was born in 2000,and Playground in 2007. We are not sure if she is pregnant now,only time will tell.  Nile was doing some feeding,most likely on krill which we noticed in her poop she left behind for us.  Really great day of whale watching,great weather,wonderful passengers and Nile the humpback whale who put on a show that I hope no one will forget!  Come on out and see us, life is much bettter on the water!


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July 29, Captain's Lady III

After a couple difficult days of non-ideal weather and uncooperative whales, we decided to change things up and try our luck in another location. We headed south past Cape Ann where we heard reports about a couple of whales. Fog stayed with us along most of the way but as we approached the area, it lifted enough so we could actually look around.  Our first sighting was of an Ocean Sunfish!!! This was the first of the season for us! So fun to watch this big round fish hang out near the surface and swim right up to the boat twice!
Ocean Sunfish- courtesy of Amy Warren

Captain Chris spotted a whale off our port bow. This turned into two humpback whales- Fulcrum and her calf!!

Fulcrum and her calf
Fulcrum is very easy to identify due to the gnarly propeller injury on her back. But that didn't stop her from producing an active calf! We watched there two for a little while as the calf rolled around in the seaweed and Fulcrum spy-hopped nearby! Then the calf began to spy-hop too!
Fulcrum spy-hopping in the seaweed
Fulcrum spy-hopping near her calf
The calf spy-hopping near its mom
Fulcrum's calf
After a bit of playing in the seaweed, both Fulcrum and her calf dove. Soon we saw bubbles floating up to the surface! The pair began to feed by blowing these bubble clouds to corral the fish! And not only was Fulcrum blowing these clouds, but her calf was too! We watched as two clouds would appear side by side- one big, and the other small!  Fulcrum is a great mom- teaching her calf how to not only spy-hop, but also how to catch fish! A minke whale was seen scooting through the area but was a little too quick for a photo.

Bubble cloud
 Soon we saw another spout nearby so we left Fulcrum and her calf to check out the other whale. This was a humpback named Nile! Nile is also a female but hasn't had a calf (that we know about) since 2009. Nile was busy moving all around and at one point when we went to see her, Fulcrum and her calf popped up out of no where right near us! I guess they weren't done with us yet! We let Nile move off and stayed put while Fulcrum and her calf continued to feed.

Fulcrum's blowholes!

Fulcrum diving
Soon it was time to go so we said goodbye and made our way back home.
Fulcrum and her calf diving
This trip was a combined whale/seabird watch, but sadly for the birders, very few pelagic birds were seen today! We did see several gannets and Wilson's storm petrels, and even a guillemot near Rockport Harbor on our way back! Hopefully we'll have better bird luck on our next combo trip on August 12.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 28 Granite State

We spent time watching 5 Minke whales and even a quick look at a blue shark during our morning trip today. 
First Minke whale of the day

A different Minke whale at the surface
Most of the whales we saw were spending a bit of time underneath the surface of the water but were mostly staying put, swimming in circles, allowing for some great looks at these marine mammals once they were in eyesight.
Another Minke whale swims past the boat
Having the opportunity to see these animals allows us to help track their movements as these whales tend to have very uniquely shaped dorsal fins thus being able to be distinguished from one another. Check out a sampling of the whales we spotted this morning (below) to see just how different their fins are compared with one another!

This afternoon we were unfortunately overtaken by Mother Nature. Fog rolled in once we got out to where we had seen our Minke whales from the morning. The leftover chop from the wind and swells of the morning were causing quite the "washing machine" feeling to many on board as we searched for whale activity in the ever-moving extra motions of the ocean this afternoon. Even with a few other whale watching boats in the area who were also out searching we were all having difficultly finding whales. Alas we ran out of time, had to end our searching efforts, and head home without finding any whales. We do hope to see all of our passengers again in the future for hopefully a much more whale-full day of whale watching!

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Captains Lady III July 27

We  finally got out on the water today after a few days tied up at the dock.  Loosing a few days we never know what to expect.  Luckily we have a lot of friends out on the water to help us find whales.  Our friends on The Atlantic Queen and Granite State gave us reports of whales not to far from shore.  We spent time with "Comet" and "Dingle" today.

Dingle heading toward the bow

As our passengers were leaving the boat a very kind gentleman said "wow you have a great job" I replied with a big smile "I absolutely do!"Its not just the whales who create the great job I have its the many passengers you meet during our trips year after year that thank us for the work we do,believe in our mission and of course fall in love with whales.  Thank you to all of our passengers both past and present for your support and encouragement.


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