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, August 31, 2013

August 31 Atlantic Queen

Some fog appeared to be rolling in as we left the harbor, but it turned out to be a pretty clear day!We had nice, calm seas which were perfect for spotting minke whales, and there were plenty of these 20-30 foot baleen whales!

We saw 7-8 minke whales throughout the trip, and even saw a few harbor seals popping their heads up to get a look at us!  We got some great looks at minke whales right off the bow.

We also got some terrific looks at one of my favorite seabirds - the northern gannet.  There were several of these bright white adults around as well!

All in all, a great day! Thanks to all who joined us today! Thanks also to volunteers Jessica, Dan and Ally for their help!

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August 31 Granite State

We were fortunate enough to see 6 Minke whales on each of our trips today. Some whales were being a bit more cooperative than others but that can be very much expected for we go looking for wildlife (not tame or trained life). 
One of our Minke whales from this morning (above and below)

With a handful of our whales spending more time on the surface than others we were able to get some very nice looks at these mammals.
A few of our afternoon Minke whales (above and below)

We were also lucky enough to catch a few looks at a couple of other marine creatures roaming around Jeffreys Ledge today. This morning we came across a lone Atlantic white-sided dolphin. It is pretty uncommon to see this type of toothed-whale swimming along on its own. They need to swim in groups for one because they work together to help corral food they are chasing after which allows them to ultimately catch their prey. 
Getting some really good looks at a single dolphin this morning
Not only was this whale by itself it was also behaving oddly. Each time it surfaced it would spy-hop. This behavior involves bring the majority of a whale's head vertically above the waterline basically as a way to almost check out the world above the ocean. While we occasionally see this behavior from whales to see it occur every time this whale surfaced was very strange. We did not see anything visibly wrong with this animal (no line noted anywhere we could see on this whale's body or any visible injuries) so we can only hope this whale eventually met back up with a pod after leaving the area.  
Thinking good thoughts that this whale eventually met up with some other dolphin friends!
This afternoon we had an unexpected visitor to the area while we were watching one of our many Minke whales. A harbor seal surfaced close by and did not seem to be fazed by us in the least! 
Harbor seal looking at us looking at it!
It rested for a little before looking over at us, proceeded to swim around for a bit, and eventually disappeared from the ocean's surface. While we were a bit further offshore than what is typically an area to spot seals, they occasional venture further offshore before ultimately turning around and heading back towards land/islands. 
Seal swimming on through the waves
Some nice looks at all of our whales and a few extra surprises made for another successful journey to Jeffreys Ledge today!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30 Granite State

What a beautiful day today. The sun was shining, the winds from yesterday (which had kept us on land) had completely subsided, and the lack of humidity made for some perfect conditions to spend time out on the boat. We ended up seeing 6 Minke whales during our trip today including four in one area! 
Our first whale of the day swims right alongside the boat!
Many of the whales we spent time with today were maneuvering around such a concentrated area we didn't even know how many whales were around us! 

One of the many great looks at the Minke whales seen today
The whales would pop up and surface so close to us that we ended up starting with two Minke whales which later became three, and ultimately four (thanks to photographing these whales dorsal fins; each being uniquely shaped) as we spent time out in the Gulf of Maine today. Take a look at the following pictures to see how each Minke whale can have such differently shaped dorsal fins:

We were fortunate enough to get some incredible looks at so many of these whales while they swam just past the boat on multiple occasions. 
Another Minke whale swimming so close to us (the boat was shut down as we always give the whales the right of way when we are out on the water!)
A few times we could even track a couple of the whales' movements as they swam just below the surface allowing for us to keep an eye on their "Minke mittens" a few feet below the waterline.
A Minke whale surfacing with its snout breaking the surface first and a great look at its mittens (the light patch seen in the center of the photo; a white band found on the flipper of all Minke whales)

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28 Granite State

There was no getting around it today. There was fog EVERYWHERE. In the harbor, out on the open ocean, and waiting for us as we returned; the fog was out in full-force. And even in all the fog we dealt with throughout the day we still not only saw whales but got some great looks at those animals. We ended up in an area where there were 2 Minke whales (possibly 3 but unfortunately we were not able to photo-document a third one) scooting all around. 
 Minke whale #1 of the day

Minke whale #2 (note the differently shaped dorsal fin of this whale compared to our other Minke whale of the day)
The whales were constantly changing direction that it took us a few minutes for us to even to realize just how many whales we had around. Since our whales were moving around so much (and not far, just in different directions) we were able to get some great looks as the whales swam alongside us, in front of us, and back behind us, allowing for all of us to check out these "piked whales." 
Minke whale swimming right past the boat
Sometimes even with weather conditions making finding whales a bit more tricky, the whales have their own way of providing such a memorable experience as they moved through the water this afternoon,
Minke whale swimming right in towards the boat

Our fish finder as we spent time in the area with our Minke whales. This split screen of the ocean just below us showcases a huge patch of food (condensed patch of color ranging from 100ft-200ft) in the ~200ft of ocean we are floating over. Probably some of the exact same food our Minke whales were going after!
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 25, Captain's Lady III

Two beautiful trips today!  The morning trip brought us 7 minke whales including "Scar Minke" and a huge fin whale! This was the same fin whale that was seen yesterday afternoon- #0932.
"scar minke" off the bow!
Scar Minke showing both of its scars
Fin whale 0932's chevron
 The fin whale seemed to be resting- only taking a couple breaths and not showing its fin often which would be indicative of a deep dive.
Fin whale 0932's notchy dorsal
Fin whale spout

 The afternoon trip brought us 6 minke whales and an ocean sunfish! The minkes started off being a bit elusive but we ended up with a great trip. Several times, the minkes surfaced close to the boat.

 We got incredible looks at this 30-foot baleen whale. Check out the cool markings!
As we waited for one of the minkes to surface again, we saw a splash close by. I assumed it was one of the minkes playing around. But then it happened again, and this wasn't a minke whale- it was an ocean sunfish- the largest species of bony fish! So cool!!! Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) has been seen hopping out of the water before but it is really rare to witness, especially so close to the boat!
Ocean Sunfish trying to fly
 After trying to fly a few times, the sunfish settled down and decided to check out the boat. We spent about 10 minutes with this huge fish swimming around the boat!
Ocean Sunfish
 Also near the Ledge, we spotted one great shearwater and a small group of phalaropes!
Great day all in all! The variety of life never ceases to amaze!

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August 25 Atlantic Queen

Dolphin Mom and Calf
Another gorgeous day on the water! We had beautiful, sunny skies, and blue, calm seas, with lots of marine life.  Once we got closer to Jeffreys Ledge, it seemed we were seeing minke whales everywhere - first there were 2 around the boat, and then 3, and then as we moved a bit farther out, we saw more!

Minke head, and the left "mitten"
Minke whale
Another Minke

We were lucky to get great looks at most of the minke whales, often right next to the boat.  We got to see their snout/chin several times, as well as the "minke mittens" on their flippers!

Minke with nicked dorsal fin
In total, we saw 6 different minke whales.  We look forward to analyzing our photos further to see if these are individuals we have already seen this season.

After what was already a great trip, we headed home.  Around the Isles of Shoals, we got a call from a captain on a fishing boat out of Seabrook - he had a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins not far from home!  As we got closer, we could see the dolphins splashing.

Here are some dolphin photos:

See the white side?

Soon we were surrounded by a very active pod of about 50 Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  We got great looks off the stern, and especially the bow, and were delighted to see several calves swimming with their moms!  What a great way to end the day. Thanks to all who joined us, and congratulations again to Nicole for winning the adoption of "Stripes"!

Mom and Calf
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August 24, Atlantic Queen

It was a beautiful day out on the water, and we didn't have to go far to see some amazing animals out in the Gulf of Maine. Our first animal we came upon was a minke whale. This minke whale was spending a lot of time under the surface, but luckily there was a pod of dolphins a few hundred feet away.

 While we were looking at the dolphins there was a fin whale in the area, who seemed to be swimming with the dolphins. Anytime we were waiting for the fin whale to resurface you could look for the dolphins, and sure enough the fin whale wouldn't be far behind. It's always so nice to see this much activity just off the coast of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. 

We started noticing that there were more and more boats coming into the area. We never like to overstay our welcome with these animals, and don't want to overcrowd them. So we decided to move a little further off shore. Once we did we came across another minke whale. This one has a large scar just before its dorsal fin. This minke has been seen quite a bit over the last few months out at Jeffreys Ledge.

While we were waiting for the minke whale to resurface we spotted an ocean sunfish or mola mola. Mola mola are the largest boney fish in the world!

It was then time to start heading back towards Rye Harbor, but not without a quick stop to try and find our fin whale again. We were unable to locate the fin whale, but found another pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins! This was a very active group and gave passengers a great show! We also saw a small pod of harbor porpoise, and a harbor seal!

Overall it was a wonderful day of activity! Thank you to Laura Stevens for being my volunteer intern for the afternoon. I couldn't have done it with out you.

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