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Whale Sightings Reports

Captain’s Lady III 10/5/2013

The month of October continues to bring great whale sightings! There was a great variety of life out on the ledge. Our first stop was with Valley along with her new calf who was born earlier this year. This makes calf # 7 for Valley! As we were watching the pair, out of no where Valley breached right next to us! Valley is a large full grown female, weighing in between 40-45 tons. She managed to breach and get her whole body out of the water, very impressive! As we all caught our breath, she tail breached for us! Activities like these are a special treat, we do not see these every day!

Valley and calf

We left the pair to go check out some other blows in the area.  We came across more humpbacks not to far away, they were “Echo” and “Cacophony” Echo was first sighted in 1988 and had her first calf in 1993, to date she has had 6 calves.

Echo
“Cacophony” and “Echo”


“Cacophony”

Cacophony is believed to be a male and was born in 1990.  We also had a great look at a Blue Shark who Captain Bob did a great job of sneaking up on!  Blue Sharks can reach up to 12.5 feet and are the most plentiful shark in the sea.  During our trip home we passed by 2 different pods of Harbor Porpoise, 5 seals off shore and in the mouth of the Merrimac River a huge Ocean Sunfish!

Resting Harbor Seals off of Salisbury Beach

Sadly our 2013 season is coming to an end after Columbus Day weekend, be sure to make your reservations for the upcoming weekend and see all The Gulf of Maine has to offer.  Thank you to all who spent a wonderful day of whale watching with us and we wish all of our German students safe travels.

Cheers!

 

 

September 29, 2013

The foggy conditions this morning were a bit ominous as we arrived to prepare the Captain’s Lady III for another whale watch. But soon the sun began to poke through the clouds and the fog rapidly burnt off, just in time for us to arrive at Jeffreys Ledge where whales had been reported! Our trip out brought several small groups of harbor porpoises (notoriously shy animals) as well as some seals. Then we saw the tell-tale black fin flopping up and down- an ocean sunfish!! We pulled up near it and this large fish swam right up to the boat! Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) are “interesting” looking fish and the largest species of bony fish in the world!

Ocean Sunfish

As we approached an area where whales were seen the day before, we slowed down and took a good look around. No whales, but we did see several seals including 3 harbor seals and a pair of gray seals! This harbor seal might have thought it was too bright out since it has one eye closed.

Harbor Seal

We headed further out to the Ledge and made our way through the fleet of tuna boats. We try not to disturb the tuna fisher-people as the tuna industry can be quite lucrative depending on the size and quality of bluefin tuna caught. But in the area with the tuna  boats were several humpback and minke whales!

Our first whales were a pair- Echo and Cacophony! Although Cacophony has been seen earlier, this was our first sighting of Echo for the year!  And just after the pair lifted their flukes and dove, a third humpback popped up close by! This was Trowel! She has been seen prior this year but hasn’t  been a regular visitor to our area. She has only been seen here during the 2009 season!

Check out the variations in pigment on the flukes below:

Cacophony
Echo
Trowel
Such a variety of life out there today! Today reminded us that we never know what to expect from nature, yet we were happily pleased with the outcomes today!
Whale Breath

 We hope to see you all back again soon! We only have a couple weeks left before we hang up our  binoculars and cameras for another long winter season.

 

September 22, 2013

Happy Autumnal Equinox! This morning’s rain didn’t scare everyone away so we headed out in search of whales amongst the seas and swells. Our first whale sighting was a fin whale- possibly #9619- although it was being a bit aloof and and not making it easy for us to get good looks. In the same area were a couple other fin whales and some minke whales! So we took a few looks at them as well. One of the fin whale was a bit more cooperative and stayed up for a dozen breaths giving us great views of its pretty chevron pattern behind the blowholes!

Fin whale chevron
Fin whale dorsal fin
Another fin whale!
Fin whale tall spout

We spotted another spout in the distance so we headed over to check it out. This was a humpback whale named Cacophony! Cacophony was only staying up for a few breaths before diving but the underwater times were short so we got several great looks!

Cacophony’s “noisy” flukes
Humpback dorsal fin
Going for a deep dive

Amongst the whales we also found a few harbor seals for a fun added bonus! Certainly a great way to spend the first day of fall!

 

 

September 16, 2013

In spite of a few sprinkles as we were boarding, we ended up with a very nice pelagic bird and whale watch. We left the Merrimack River and passed by several harbor seals on the way. Near the ledge, we slowed down for a tuna fleet and found a shy minke whale, and a fin whale on a mission. We didn’t spend much time with these less-than-cooperative whales and instead, continued on. We got to the area where whales had been seen just yesterday but it seems the whale decided to move on. Soon we got a call from some other whale seekers in the area and headed down to check out the fin whales they had found.

To our surprise, we found Dingle hanging out with a yet-to-be-ID’ed whale along with a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins!  We got some amazing looks at these huge whales while the dolphins were playing around near them.

Dingle, the fin whale
Dingle’s unique markings
Dingle with dolphins
Dingle’s head with dolphins off his nose!

At one point, Dingle seemed to be annoyed with the dolphins and rolled over in a big splash, showing us his flukes and flipper!

Dingle’s flipper
Part of Dingle’s fluke as he rolled at the surface

Then a 3rd fin whale showed up- this on has been identified as #9619, a whale first seen by Blue Ocean staff in 1996 and has only otherwise been seen in 2009!

Fin whale #9619

During the trip, when the first whale swam directly at the boat,  I mentioned that the whale certainly knew we were there as they have excellent hearing abilities. A passenger asked me what the whales were listening for. I mentioned that in addition to listening for ships and other whales (whose sounds can travel over 1000 miles underwater), they were also listening for the sounds of fish- herring in particular. Our curious passenger seemed surprised that herring make noise, so I just had to tell her of an article I had read about the sounds of herring- they “fart” to communicate and the whales can hear it!  Check out this link if you have time and want to learn about the intricacies of fish talk! http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/11/1110_031110_herringfarts.html

The pelagic birds were a bit sparse today but we did get many looks at northern gannets! Also we saw 2 common loons, a great shearwater, a juvenile laughing gull and a surprising look at a whimbrel!

Additionally, 2 eagles were spotted along the shore as we headed up river along with  several more harbor seals.

Pile of harbor seals!

Great day on the water and thanks again for joining us!

 

September 8, 2013

Sunday’s trip started out beautifully with a light breeze from the west. As the day continued, the weather forecasters were actually correct and the wind increased dramatically. As we all know, higher wind speeds bring higher sea states! Fortunately, we got great looks at many whales before the seas really built up.

Our first pair of whales were humpbacks! One was named Victim- a female who has had at least 3 calves that we know of. Her companion wasn’t lifting its tail so we haven’t been able to positively ID it yet but we are working on it with only the dorsal fin to go on. ** This just in- we have identified Victim’s friend as another female named Bat!

Victim diving
Victim
Bat!

 As we were watching this pair, we saw lots of other spouts around us. We moved on to look at another pair of humpback whales but those two were not being cooperative for our purposes and we never relocated them! I guess they didn’t want to be watched today :)

As we went in search of another spout, a minke whale surfaced nearby, and then surprising us, we saw a fin whale!! Quite the variety of life out there today! At one point as we were waiting for the fin whale to surface, we spotted a blow a little further away. We were about to move towards it until we saw something huge right in front of the boat- the fin whale had come to find us!! Incredibly amazing looks at this whale- the second largest on the planet- as it passed just feet from the bow.

Fin whale spouting right in front of the boat
Fin whale dorasl fin
Fin whale swirly chevron/blaze marking

As we waited for the fin whale, another minke popped up right next to us! The whales were certainly making our job easy today!

Minke
Minke with notched dorsal fin

Soon it was time to head for home as the seas were starting to build. But on our way home, we spotted more blows so we had to stop! Another pair of humpback whales!  These two were not into lifting their tails either, but based on their dorsal fins, one was Pina, a female, and the other I believe was Chablis- a male.

Chablis
Pina

Wow- what a day! Three species of whales. Nine individuals! Fall whale watching always brings us surprises! Can’t wait to get out there again soon.

 

September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day! The rain didn’t deter our passengers today. As other boats remained tied to the docks, we ventured out in search of whales. Even after being submerged in fog, we still pressed on, out to an area we hoped we’d find whales.

Well, today was our lucky day! As the fog began to subside, a minke whale showed up pretty close to us! We stopped the boat and soon realized we were watching 2 minke whales feeding in the same area!  One of the two was very skilled in “poking out”, or showing us its rostrum just before it took a breath! We could even see its white chin!

Minke whale with rostrum poking out!
Minke whale with notch in fin

After watching these two for a bit, we continued on passing by a third minke before stopping on two more! Minkes seemed to be everywhere today! One of these two was a bit easier to watch and several times came right towards the boat!

4th Minke breaking through the surface water
Minke with smooth dorsal fin
Minke incoming! You can just make out the blowholes on the lower right

As we tried to leave, a harbor seal pup popped up nearby! The seals can be skittish, but this youngster was curious and just hung out as we passed by. As I said, harbor seals look really cute, but if you see one on land, give it plenty of space. Not only are they wild animals and will bite, but they are also protected by law. Seals frequently come ashore to rest so please watch them from a safe distance.

Harbor seal pup
Harbor seal pup

Thanks to all of our hearty passengers today who braved the wet weather in search of whales! We hope to see you back out for another adventure soon!

 

September 1, 2013

Welcome September! And welcome back humpback whales!! It has been a very long time since we have seen humpback whales closer than 30 miles from Newburyport. Today, thanks to the teamwork of whale watching boats from Boston, MA to Rye, NH we saw a pair on southern Jeffreys Ledge and only about 17 miles away! The fog held off and we watched these whales for nearly an hour.

The pair was familiar but certainly not whales that are common visitors to Jeffreys Ledge. One was Pina, a female first seen in 1990. Pina has been seen in our area sporadically- in 1996, 2009 and 2012. The whale traveling with Pina was another female, Pepper! Pepper is one of the longest-documented humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine! She was first documented in 1976, hanging out with her friend, Salt!  Salt and Pepper were the first 2 humpbacks to be given names, and as neither are regular visitors to our area, it made this sighting even more special. Pepper has only been documented once before in our area- in late Sept 2008.

Humpback Whale, Pepper
Humpback Whale, Pina

The pair was moving slowly to the NW, taking short dives and moving in sync. At one point, Pepper decided to flipper slap, the technical term for when a whale slaps its flipper on the surface. I never said scientists were creative… She did this 12 times (thanks to the excellent data collecting skills of our intern/volunteer Alicia) giving us all the opportunity to check out her huge, 1-ton flipper.

Pina diving, and Pepper slapping

 

Pepper’s huge, 15-ft long flipper

As we awaited the pair to come back up for air, a harbor seal popped up nearby, and just as quickly, it disappeared back into the sea.

As we watched the humpback whales, we couldn’t help but notice some fishing gear (buoys) in the area, very close to where Pepper was slapping. Entanglements in fishing gear is a notorious problem for all species of whales and the vast majority of humpbacks in the Gulf of Maine have scars from prior entanglements…and those are the lucky ones that survived. Even though the local fisheries are required to abide by certain regulations to ensure their gear is as safe for whales as the government mandates, the entanglements, injuries and deaths still occur. As I mentioned, one thing you can do to help the whales is to know where your seafood comes from, how it is caught and what other animals are put at risk or even killed to get that food to your table. Your dining choices are crucial in the protection of our endangered whales.

Pepper
Pina

As we watched Pepper glide by the buoys, we all breathed a sigh of relief that she managed to avoid this risk.  We also noticed many other whale watching boats in the area to see these whales too. Humpback whales have been rare for all areas between Bar Harbor and Provincetown this summer. We don’t know why but it seems whales throughout the Gulf of Maine have a different agenda this summer. Even the research teams that study critically endangered right whales in the Bay of Fundy have seen very few right whales in that area. It certainly has been a strange season but we are looking forward to what the fall brings!

 

August 25, 2013

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!

Phalaropes

Great day all in all! The variety of life never ceases to amaze!

 

August 23, 2013

We had beautiful conditions on the ocean for this morning’s whale watch but unfortunately the whales were not as cooperative as the ocean. In our travels we did come across at least 4 different minke whales as well as a small harbor seal pup. Though we didn’t get any good looks at the whale it was a great morning for a boat ride.

One of this morning’s elusive minke whales

After our uncooperative whales this morning we decided to go in a different direction in the afternoon to Stellwagen Bank where we had some whale reports. Upon arriving to an area with a few whale watching boats we saw a spout. This spout belonged to a huge fin whale. The closer we got we started seeing some smaller whales in the area, Atlantic White Sided Dolphins! This small pod of dolphins was associated with the fin whale, traveling just ahead of the whale as it surfaced.

Fin whale with a pod of dolphins

Seeing dolphins associated with a large fin whale is an amazing sight to see and a great opportunity to appreciate the size of the fin whale. As we watched this group of whales we got another surprise. A second fin whale showed up in the group! All of a sudden we had a group of about 10-15 dolphins and 2 fins whales all traveling together, what a sight!

Our two fin whales side by side
Atlantic White Sided Dolphins

Thanks to our passengers who braved the 30+ mile journey to Stellwagen for what turned out to be a great day of whale watching and a great day on the water. And congratulations to Janna S. from Portsmouth NH for winning our raffle today!

 

August 22, 2013

What a great day! Thanks to our colleagues on fishing and whale watching boats, we were given the heads-up that a huge fin whale was in the area today. We got to the area and slowed down, and it was our diligent passengers who spotted the whale first!! Although this whale was a little unpredictable, we still got some incredible views of it! By looking at the dorsal fin shape and incredibly bright chevron/blaze markings, we knew this was # 0282, an adult whale first seen in 2002, and most recently seen on July 17. Where has this whale been for the past month? We may never know.

Fin whale spout
Fin whale #0282′s incredible markings
Fin whale #0282′s triangular fin

Also in the area of the fin whale were one or two minke whales. We got photos of one of them, and even though the photo is less than ideal (OK, a little blurry) we could tell the difference between this one and the minke whale we found on our way home.

Minke A (with notch near top of fin)
Minke B seen on our trip home (with notch near middle of fin)

Such a beautiful day with a nice cool breeze offshore. On our way up the Merrimack River, we hit the heat from land, and also saw these crazy kids trying to race our 106-foot boat. They did a great job keeping up with us and probably  just missed whale watching- this was our crew from the last  13 years, Ryan and Jessie!

Ryan and Jessie, nearly outrunning the Lady III

We hope to see you all back out on the ocean with us soon!

 

August 21, 2013

Glassy calm seas today! We had our first sighting just 10 minutes outside of the River today! Harbor porpoises were popping up in a group of about 10-12. Although they were a bit shy, we managed to get some looks before moving on.

Harbor Porpoises

We passed by a second pod of porpoises and a harbor seal a little while later. Then, just as we were receiving a report of whales nearby, we spotted the tell-tale sign of an ocean sunfish (scientific name Mola mola)- the slow flopping back and forth of its large fin. We moved in slowly and were able to spend about 10 minutes with this fish- the largest species of bony fish! At one point it swam right up to the boat! They look a bit odd, but ocean sunfish are pretty cool fish.

Our first ocean sunfish

As we searched for the reported whales in the area, a harbor seal pup showed up. This little one was playing with something- possibly the remains of a fish, and kept it’s distance.

We kept searching, hoping the fishing boats were right- that there were whales in the area….waiting….waiting….

Then a minke whale surfaced not too far away! As we got closer, we saw that there were actually 2 minke whales in the area!! The first minke had a smooth dorsal fin and small marking just behind the fin. This will be useful in cataloging this whale in the future! We got incredible looks at these whales. The water was so calm, we could easily see the minke “mittens” as the whale surfaced.

Minke A
Minke A

The second minke whale had a notch in its dorsal fin- can’t wait to add this one to our catalog too! Check out the blowholes in the image below!

Minke B
Minke B

In the meantime, an unusual bird flew by and briefly tried to land on the boat. According to our PhD Ornithologist, Dr. Larson from Mass Audubon, this was a female or immature Red-winged Blackbird! Definitely not a pelagic species, but fun to see offshore! Hope it makes it back to dry land soon!

Red-winged Blackbird!

 

As we waited for one of the minkes to surface again, we spotted another ocean sunfish.

Second ocean sunfish

This large fish seemed to enjoy people watching as it hung out under our bow pulpit for quite some time!  Also during its visit with us, it came very close to some marine debris- a Cheetos bag. Marine debris is extremely hazardous to all forms of marine life. They often mistake debris for food, and that can eventually kill them.This was particularly scary for an ocean sunfish that primarily feeds on jellyfish. Plastic bags can easily look like jellies and be mistaken for food. Fortunately, this sunfish was smart enough to know the difference and did not try to eat it.  Please keep this as a reminder to always take care of your trash in a responsible way. We most certainly don’t want to cause more distress to our beloved marine life!

 

Ocean Sunfish precariously close to a Cheetos bag.

On our way home, we received a report of a dolphin in the area. This was a single Atlantic white sided dolphin. This solitary one was a bit wiggly and we weren’t able to get photos. Typically, dolphins travel in family pods made up of related females and their young, but the adult males are known to venture off on their own, or with other males so perhaps this was a male taking some time away from the groups.

Today was a lovely day on the ocean. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

 

 

August 20, 2013

Another picture perfect day on the water! I sure hope this spell of weather continues, and the marine life continues to improve. Today we had 7 Minke whales, a Mola mola (Ocean Sunfish), 2 pods of Porpoise, 17 Harbor seals, and a Spiny Dog fish. The sea’s were glass calm making finding marine life a bit easier for us.

Minke whale head out of the water

 

Minke blow holes and mittens!

 

Mola mola

 

Mola mola

 

2 happy friendly Harbor seals

Thank you to all our passengers who choose to whale watch with us today,we hope you enjoyed the multiple sightings of both whales and fish. Congratulations to Allen from Great Falls, VA who won our raffle today, “Sunny” the ocean sunfish. There are still plenty of days left to come out and join us,male your reservations today!

Cheers!

 

August 19, 2013

Another perfect day near Jeffreys Ledge! On our way out, we got a report from a fishing boat of some dolphins just inshore of the Ledge. As we approached the area, our crew started searching. Instead of seeing little dolphin splashes and fins, we spotted a blow from a large whale a few miles in front of us! We slowed down, and as we were anticipating seeing a big whale, we instead found the pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins! We checked out this pod of about 20-30 dolphins, and then out of nowhere, we found the large whale! Or should I say, it found us!! We soon realized that this fin whale was hanging out with the pod of dolphins!!!  Catching us completely off guard, it surfaced right next to us and right in the middle of the dolphin pod.  Awesome!  The whale certainly knew we were there- our engines were on (but not in gear) so it could hear us, and being a 110-foot boat, it had to have seen us! Sometimes the whales are just as curious about us as we are about them!

Atlantic white sided dolphin
Fin whale crossing the bow!

 

 

 

 

 With the activity so close to land today, we got to spend an hour with this group. We also spotted a minke whale briefly nearby! Quite the diverse crowd on the Ledge!  We are still working on identifying this curious, social fin whale- it could be a new addition to our area!

Thanks to our wonderful passengers for your great questions and genuine interest!

 

August 17, 2013

Can the weather and conditions get any better?  Both our morning and afternoon trips were filled with whales, both baleen and toothed whales.

Atlantic White Sided Dolphin
Mom and calf
Minke mittens!
Minke with cool markings
Minke surfacing
Another Minke whales
Captain Hailey in training!

The conditions for the coming week look amazing,the whales continue to increase,enjoy the rest of your summer on the water with us!!  Congratulations to our raffle winners, Comet the Fin whale and Flask the Humpback were adopted today, enjoy your new big friends!

 

August 16, 2013

What a beautiful cool summer day on the water.  Both our morning and afternoon trips we had several whales and even diving Northern Gannets.  Our morning trip only took us 13 miles from Newburyport.  We found 8 Minke whales on our morning trip.

 

Minke dorsal fin
Graceful Minke
One of our morning Minke’s

 

Our afternoon brought us back to the same general area,some of our Minke whales had already moved on to search for more food,then we got a call about some Atlantic White Sided Dolphin in the area,we left the Minke’s to find some high spirited tooth whales,as usual they did not disappoint.

 

 

Atlantic White Sided Dolphin

During our trips we are  collecting data on what species of marine mammals we may see and note there different behaviors,we also are collecting data on marine debris, a huge problem in all the worlds oceans.  As we were enjoying our dolphins we noticed a boogie board in the middle of the pod of dolphin, never a site we like to see no matter what the article of trash may be.  Captain Ryan quickly noticed the board and he and deck hand Amy retrieved it from the water!!  Gotta love our captains and crew!!

Captain Ryan and Amy saving the day!!

Thank you to all our passengers who joined us today both morning and afternoon trips we completely enjoyed your questions and the energy you brought to our day!

 

August 15, 2013

After the wind and waves of yesterday, today’s calm seas we a much welcomed change. As we headed towards Jeffreys Ledge, our sharp-eyed intern, Allison, spotted a pod of dolphins nearby! We turned around and got some fantastic looks at this curious pod.  Several mom/calf pairs were seen, and the dolphins genuinely seemed interested in us! We normally see Atlantic white sided dolphins on aboug 20-25% of our trips but this year we have only seen them a handful of times.

Dolphins surfing in the wake
Two dolphins- possibly a mom and her yearling

We continued on to find a fin whale that was first reported to us by fishermen early this morning, and then by our friends on the Granite State. To our surprise, this was our good friend, Fjord!

Fin Whale Spout

Fjord was first seen by Blue Ocean Society in 1996, and prior to that had been seen as far back as 1981 by other groups!

Fjord coming in for a closer look at us!
Fjord’s unique fin!

 

Fjord was hanging around the area allowing us many views. Around Fjord, the fin whale, we spotted 2 minke whales! The minkes were a bit elusive but we finally got a great look at one on our way back! Check out the “minke mittens” on the photo below!

Minke whale- see the white patch on the flipper?
Minke whale
Minke whale

Thanks to all who joined us and supported our mission!

 

August 11, 2013

Beautiful day on the ocean today!! Our morning trip was filled with minke whales! We had about 4 all in one small area. Very fun to look in all directions and see whales all around!  We got nice looks at 2 of the 4 and can easily tell them apart by their fins!

Minke “A”, with notches in its fin
Minke “B”
Minke “B”- check out that cool marking!
Minke nose poking out!

Our afternoon trip was pretty awesome, if I do say so… The variety of life near the Ledge always surprises and amazes me. Thanks to the excellent observation skills of our volunteer, Cyncy, we got to spend some time with a loggerhead sea turtle! These turtles are rare in our area and not often seen at all. This was the FIRST loggerhead I’ve personally seen in this area in 19 seasons.  (Wow- 19 seasons….I must have started my career when i was 6 :) Loggerheads are threatened in the western North Atlantic, and endangered in the eastern North Atlantic.  Although the lifespan isn’t known, we know they reach maturity at 35 years old! This one had some algae on its carapace (shell) which is not unusual.

 

As we watched the turtle we saw a couple minkes around us. We were excited to see whales so close to shore, but really wanted to spend some time with this rare animal. We tried to keep it in sight until another whale watch boat came to see it too, but it dove and I’m not sure if the other boat got to see it or not!

Before we checked out the minke whales, a young harbor seal pup was seen in the area. Usually adult harbor seals are skittish and shy, but this youngster had no fear and was checking us out! So cute! But remember if you see a seal on land, keep away from it! Not only are they federally protected but they also will bite!

Finally we broke away from this curious critter and went in search of the whales. We found a total of 5 minke whales this afternoon. We are trying to learn more about these poorly studied whales by documenting the individuals as best we can in order to create a catalog of local minkes. By doing so, we can learn more about the population and its trends.

Minke with pointed fin
Minke with “typical” fin
Minke with large notch in fin

Certainly a nice way to spend the day! Thanks to everyone who spent part of their Sunday with us and the marine life today!

 

August 10, 2013

After a couple of days tied up at the dock we were anxious to head out and see what the sightings had to hold for us.  Both our morning and afternoon trips we came up with several Minke whales who kept us on our toes,as Minke whales do!

 

Minke whale on the move
Quick moving Minke whale

Minke going down
Pleasure boater way to close to our Minke whale!!

Most days on the water spending time with whales doing what whales do is a relaxing and pleasurable time. Well not all days are like that.  We spotted a Minke whale who had an interaction with a boat at some point in its life.  The scar this small whale is living with is visible from both sides of the animal; always a disturbing and sad sight.  All marine mammals are protected from harm and harassment in the United States, but they are not always protected from boaters who feel as though they can chase whales down.  Whales are found through out the Gulf of Maine sometimes closer to shore,  sometimes off shore. We just never know where they will be from one day to the next.  If you know of friends who own boats and spend time in the Gulf of Maine please remind them to always be on alert for whales or other marine life. “See a Spout, Watch Out!” Remember we are just visitors to the home of whales. Give them the space and respect they deserve, and help us spread the word about whale conservation and education.  The world will be a better place for whales if you do!

Thank you to all of our enthusiastic and curious passengers we had the pleasure of spending time with today. Your questions and comments keep us  motivated to continue to protect the marine mammals who call the Gulf of Maine home.

 

August 7, 2013

Glassy calm conditions made our wildlife sightings excellent today!

We began with our first animal just outside the Merrimack River. It was an Ocean Sunfish!! We got a quick look at this huge fish before it got spooked and took off.  Ocean Sunfish are the world’s largest species of bony fish. We only see them on a fraction of whale watch trips so today’s viewing was particularly special!

Next we found a really nice pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. This was a group of about 50 animals, milling about and then charging around in short bursts. Again the sea conditions were perfect for seeing them underwater as they crossed our bow and along our sides many times!

After hanging with the dolphins, we continued offshore and found a minke whale. This  30-foot whale was a bit elusive at first but then settled down and surfaced nearby a few times. This whale was also quite distinctive with 2 notches in its fin. We are looking forward to scouring our database to see if this whale has been seen before!

Certainly a lovely day of wildlife viewing! Thanks to all who joined us and hope to see you again soon.

 

August 3-4, 2013

The past few days have been showing us quite the range of what the Gulf of Maine can offer as far as weather conditions and marine life! Sunday’s morning trip took us over 30 miles SE to Stellwagen Bank, where we found one, maybe two minke whales. Although we got a couple decent looks, this whale(s) was on a mission which didn’t include being watched  by us!

Sunday’s afternoon trip was a bit more active with several minke whales inshore, near Jeffreys Ldege, as well as a couple pods of Atlantic white sided dolphins!!  The minkes were great, and the dolphins were, well, busy. We had a hard time getting close looks at them as they seemed more interested in chasing fish than visiting with our boat.

minke whale
minke whale

But the pelagic birds were the star (in my opinion) of the day! Check out these images of a Northern Gannet taking off near our bow!

Also on the way back in from our afternoon trip, we saw some more of what Mother Nature had to offer back on land! The storms that passed by were quite impressive to watch, and by shear luck, we missed them and stayed dry!

Storm over Ipswich/Newburyport

 

Monday’s trip was a bit rough….literally. The winds were stronger than predicted and the seas were pretty steep offshore. We decided to keep the ride as smooth as we could by heading north, along the coast, to an area between the Isles of Shoals and Boon Island where we have seen whales recently. Unfortunately, even with the cooperation of other whale watch boats in the area, the whales didn’t show themselves. The wind and sea conditions were not helping us at all in our search! We ended up heading home, with our tail between our legs and no whales to show for our efforts. Our course home took us through the Isles of Shoals and we did get some great viewings at some marine mammals- seals!! One of the rocks near Duck Island was covered in harbor seals and we had a curious grey seal pop us close to us too!

Grey Seal
Harbor and Grey Seals hauled out near Duck Island

We are back out tomorrow and can’t wait to see what is waiting for us!

 

August 1, 2013

Ever tried to tell a 40-70 ton animal where to go? If so, you probably know it didn’t listen and it went wherever it wanted.  That was the case today. The whales we had yesterday decided to move further south, increasing our already-long commute by at least 3 miles.  I am still amazed that we can drive over 30 miles of ocean and see nothing on the surface, and then suddenly be surrounded by nearly a dozen whales.

Today our long drive was well worth it! We got great looks at 2 fin whales and a humpback whale, and also had several minke whales all around us. A third fin whale was in the distance and it seemed like the whale activity was everywhere we looked!

The first fin whale was a huge surprise- it was one of our Adopt-a-Whales, Fjord!  This whale is known to show up early in the season, and then occasionally later in the season. We only saw him once this year so far and that was way back on May 19!  Welcome back Fjord!!

Fjord’s obvious fin

The next fin whale was a bit of a puzzle- I knew we had seen this whale in prior seasons but couldn’t positively ID her without the catalog in hand. Later in the day, after checking the catalog, I identified this whale as #0417- a female that we first saw in 2004. Although we have never seen her with a calf to verify her gender, our research colleagues told us she has calved in 2003 and 2008!

 

Fin whale #0417′s beautiful blaze!

 

Fin whale #0417

 

As we left the fin whales, we saw several minkes all around and then another species of whale- a humpback was in the neighborhood too!! Nile is still in the area and we got great looks at her today!

The “big-winged New Englander”

 

Diving

 

Nile’s fin and tag scar

 

Nile!

Although our time was limited, Captain Chris did a great job at safely working around the whales to give us the best possible looks. Again, we apologize for the long ride and late arrival home, but when in whale-land, we need to go with the flow!  Nature always keeps us on our toes, and in the end Nature will always win! Thanks to everyone for your patience today!!

 

July 31, 2013

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!
Pinball diving off the bow

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!

Nile

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!

 

July 29, 2013

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. 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 near us.

 

Fulcrum diving

Soon it was time to go so we said goodbye and made our way back home. Certainly a wonderful day with the whales today! And it is always great to see a calf, especially since humpback whales are endangered.

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.

 

 

July 24, 2013

Today was a beautiful day on the water and thanks to a report from our friends on the Granite State, we watched humpback whale, Pinball, for a bit while she was feeding. Pinball was fantastic and had no concern of our presence as she repeatedly surfaced close to us and even turned in towards us many times!

Pinball, showing off her “big wings”
Pinball crossing the bow

As one of our adoptable whales, we are always excited to see Pinball in our area. She can go wherever she wants and is seen in other parts of the Gulf of Maine regularly.

Pinball!

But today she was right on top of Jeffreys Ledge!

Pinball diving

Such a great day! Hope to see you all again soon!

 

July 21, 2013

What a day out there!! Today was all about quality. We got some pretty amazing looks at a fin whale (2nd largest animal on Earth!) this morning, and then were surprised to find a pod of Common Dolphins (thanks to our friends on the Starfish) in the afternoon! Despite their name, common dolphins are not so common in our area!   We also saw 2 minke whales: one with a dorsal fin, and one without :( Fortunately, we believe the fin-less minke is the same one we’ve been tracking for 3 years now and seems to be healing very well. It’s always remarkable to witness the power of natural healing!

Here are some of our photos from today- Enjoy!

Comet, the fin whale during the morning trip made us nervous by swimming near fishing gear- a major hazard for a whale, especially since she already has scars from a prior entanglement(s)

Comet’s pretty face! You can see her eye, just at the corner of her mouth!

 

Comet’s chevron marking
Comet’s unique scars
Comet spouting near Boon Island
Phalaropes!

 

Here are the amazing views of this afternoon’s common dolphin sighting! These were the first dolphins I have seen all season! Awesome! We also saw a handful of phalaropes fly by just off the Isles of Shoals!


Common dolphins
Beautiful Common Dolphin
Check out the distinctive hour-glass marking!
Common dolphin bow riding!

And here is the quick look we got at the fin-less minke whale on our trip back in, just past the Isles of Shoals.

Minke whale- minus its dorsal fin

 

July 18, 2013

What a day with the fabulous minke whales!! As we traveled out to Jeffreys Ledge this morning, we kept seeing minke whales along out path! Although minkes are common to see in our area, we seldom see 6+ in one trip! And they were very well behaved, which is not always the case with the wiggly whales.

 At one point, we could follow the minke along underwater as it swam right alongside the boat! Fantastic looks! Check out this pointed nose (the feature based on which they were given their scientific name).

Minke whale’s pointed nose
Minke whale with notched dorsal fin

As the minke whales darted around the boat, we were also working hard to fully document these whales as little is known about them here in the western north Atlantic. How many different minke whales do we see each year? Do the same minkes return to the area annually? How long does a minke whale stay in the area? Where else have these minkes been seen? The hard-working folks at Blue Ocean Society are trying to better determine all of this by collecting images of their markings and scars to be able to track their movements over time.

Thanks to all of our awesome passengers and the camp group from Joppa Flatts! We hope to see you back on another adventure soon!

 

July 17, 2013

It was a scorcher on land today! Thankfully the ocean breeze picked up a bit offshore to cool things down a little.

We found a fantastic fin whale and a minke whale today!!  The fin whale was #0282 (hopefully we’ll give it a name soon!) and has been seen a few times in the past week. This big one was pretty busy at first but then decided to slow things down a bit and was great! It even surfaced right next to the boat unexpectedly!  We all got nice looks at its unique chevron marking and distinctive white lower jaw.

Fin whale spout

 

Fin whale #0282′s cool chevron marking
Fin whale e#0282

As we watched the fin whale, we noticed a minke whale in the area too! It seemed this whale was following the fin whale around wherever it went!

As more boats came in to see #0282, we decided to go searching for other whale activity as not to crowd the whale, but ended up right back with #0282 and the minke later on our way home!

Fin whales have been my favorite whale for a long time and #0282 did not disappoint. The more we can learn about these endangered animals, the better we can protect them from harm.

Thanks to our energetic group from the Jump Start camp for all of your enthusiasm and excitement around the whales!

 

July 16, 2013

What a hot day both on the dock and off shore.  Our first stop of the day was just off the Isles of Shoals were we found fin whale,”Comet”, once again.  Comet was not moving very far and we were able to get some very close looks at this beautiful fin whale.

Comet with her distinctive scars
Comets dorsal fin

As we spent time with Comet, we had 3 Minke whales darting all around the area, not coming to close by but we did get some distant looks at them.  We were surprised to get a call from some of our fishing friends that they had spotted a humpback whale. The only problem with it was it was 10 miles away and we were short on time.  Captain Chris wanted to be sure all of our passengers got to see a humpback as they have been spread out this season.  The report was correct and we found “Pinball”!  She was circling her prey and blowing bubble clouds to capture her afternoon snack.

Pinball going for a dive
Pinball’s fluke

Pinball popped up right next to the boat today, which we were not expecting and our passengers got a once and a life time look at her!  Thank you to Captain Chris who went over and beyond to be sure all on board had a great experience!

 

July 15, 2013

This morning we headed out to the area near Boon Island where we had found some whales yesterday. Fortunately, our friends on the Granite State, who were a little ahead of us, found a fin whale right on our course. We shared the whale for a couple of surfacings before they continued on. At first, the fin whale was being a little wiggly and hard to keep track of. Then she slowed down enough for us to tell that it was Comet again!

Fin whale spout- 20 feet high!

 

It was like a lake out there! Check out the glassy-calm water!

Comet was fantastic and the ocean conditions really helped us to fully appreciate her massive size- with the water so calm, we could see underwater pretty well and watched her swim right alongside us several times! I’m always amazed to have such a giant animal right next to us!

Comet’s left side

Our trackline today took us past the Isles of Shoals, and we could see Boon Island, off Cape Neddick, ME, in the distance. This was a most scenic whale watch!

Fin whale rostrum and spout

Thanks to all of our awesome passengers for your curiosity and appreciation of the sighting today! Can’t wait to see what’s out there tomorrow!

 

July 14, 2013

What a difference a few hours can make! Our morning trip  was incredible!  We headed north of Boon Island where a couple of fin whales were seen yesterday. With the help of our friends on the Granite State, we  came into an area with 3 huge fin whales- one of whom was spending a lot of time at the surface feeding!

School of fish at the surface
Fin whale lunging through a school of fish
Fin whale rostrum and spout

For a half hour, we sat on the glassy-calm ocean with our engines shut down and just watched as the whales came up all around us. The fin whale known as Streak was seen the most frequently- she is a female first documented in 1982 off Mount Desert Rock and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. She has been seen near Jeffreys Ledge in 2006, 2010 and 2011!

Streak (fin whale) showing off her scars

Streak is easy to ID by the large notch in her dorsal fin along with her entanglement scars. Entanglements is a big problem for whales and the majority of whale we see in the Gulf of Maine have scars from prior entanglements. A lot of work is being done to try to reduce and/or prevent this issue, but as long as we expect to have wild-caught seafood on our dining tables, whales will continue to be injured (and some even killed) by some of the gear used to catch that seafood. I have said it before and I will say it again- please know where your seafood comes from, how it is caught, and what else is impacted/injured in the process.

As Streak circled our boat, feeding of the schools of fish, two other fin whales cruised by us! One was Comet- one of our Adoptable fin whales who is also a female with scars (first documented in 1997), and the other was a whale simply known as #0282 (first seen in 2002).

Fin whale #0282

It was quite the exciting morning with lots of whales and lots of activity. We also saw a minke whale and some seals in the area! On our trip back in, we passed closely by Boon Island Light- the tallest lighthouse in New England which is located off of Cape Neddick, ME.

Boon Island Light

As we headed back up the Merrimack River to our dock, we couldn’t help but notice all the beach-goers on Salisbury Beach!

During our afternoon trip, we headed right back to where Streak, Comet and #0282 were seen. But what a difference a few hours makes! We arrived and no whales were to be found! We searched and searched and talked with other whale watching boats in the area. It seemed as if the fin whales had vacated the area!! We were about to give up when we got word that one of the fin whales had just appeared. We managed to get some nice looks at Comet, but she was moving around a lot more than she was in the morning. She wasn’t making our job easy at all by surfacing in all different directions, sometimes nearly a mile away!

Comet

But such is the life of a whale. They have the freedom to hang out near boats, or to completely take off at a moment’s notice. We never know what to expect out on the ocean and today was a prime example of that.

 

July 13, 2013

We had 2 trips yesterday that brought us off the coast of southern Maine.  We had to spend a bit more time getting to the whales but it all paid off.  The morning trip we spent time with “Comet” a female Finback whale, 3 Minke whales,and a huge Basking Shark.  Our afternoon trip we again spent time with Comet and another Finback “Streak” #0629, 2 seals, 6 Minke whales and 2 small pods of porpoise.

Basking Shark
Feeding Basking Shark
“Comet”
“Streak #0629″
Super Harbor Seal

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

 

July 8, 2013

Today was a bit more difficult in the whale searching department. The wind and seas picked up and the skies were overcast testing our whale spotting skills. Luckily, Captain Chris spotted a  blow as we approached the Ledge.

Dingle, the fin whale, was back in the neighborhood! Although he was being a bit elusive, we did manage to see him, and a minke whale, several times!

Fin whale, Dingle
Minke whale

The minke was the same one we saw on June 20, evidenced by a uniquely notched dorsal fin.  Thanks to deckhand Amy for the minke image!

For birds we spotted several Wilson’s Storm Petrels, a few Northern Gannets, and these frisky Great Black-backed Gulls!

As the winds continued to increase and the seas began to build, we decided to head for home.  We are staying on the dock tomorrow but hope to back out on the water Wednesday!

 

July 7, 2013

The weather and whales have been great the past few days. Today we had an amazingly calm day on the ocean! Days like today are few and far between. Our morning trip brought us 6 minke whales!!  And each seemed to exhibit slightly different behaviors from one whale just coming up for one quick breath, to another whale that seemed to enjoy hanging around the boat!

Minke whale
Minke whale- check out the “mittens”!

As you can see, these whales were close enough for us to get these great pictures of their pointed noses piercing the surface just before each breath! Awesome!

The afternoon trip was a little different. On our way out, our friends on the Atlantic Queen called us over to visit with a fin whale!! Fin whales are my favorite so I was pretty excited. What made the sighting even better was this was Comet, a female fin whale first seen by Blue Ocean Society researchers in 1997!! Welcome back, Comet!  We saw her a few times last summer, but this was our first sighting of her this year. She was even doing her signature-behavior: lifting the caudal end of her body up high so we could almost see her tail!  Comet is extra-special since she is one of our four adoptable fin whales.

Comet the fin whale
Comet’s unique scars

Over the past year, Comet has acquired a few new scars/scratches but otherwise seems in great shape. We hope to see her with a calf in the years to come!

After seeing Comet, we headed off in search of more life. We found some minke whales and got great looks at one of them as it cruised along side our boat.

Minke incoming!
Minke dorsal fin with unique notches

Certainly an excellent day on the ocean! Thanks to everyone who helped out Blue Ocean Society’s cause and be sure to visit their website to adopt Comet or one of her friends! www.blueoceansociety.org

July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!!

What a scorcher on land!! It was great to beat the heat offshore! We found an area that seemed to be filled with minke whales today!! At least 4, maybe 5, whales were in a small area near Jeffreys Ledge. At one point, you could see a minke whale in almost every direction! We spent some time with one that seemed to be at the surface a little more than the rest. This one was familiar- I’m pretty sure we’ve seen it in the past few weeks. Minke whales are not very distinctive, but it is possible to differentiate between individuals based on scars and markings.

You can just barely make out the “mitten” on this minke!

We headed out a bit further but didn’t see much other life offshore so we headed back to visit with the minkes again. This time we got close looks at 2 which were hanging out near each other! We saw our friend from earlier again, along with this beauty-

Minke’s pointed nose
Minke whale with small nick in its fin

What a great way to spend a holiday! Thanks to everyone on board who supported Blue Ocean Society’s research and conservation programs by purchasing t-shirts, cards and stuffed animals! And be sure to check out their website if we didn’t have the t-shirt you wanted :) www.blueoceansociety.org

 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

As we left the Merrimack River, the fog was getting thicker the farther out we went.  Searching for whales in the fog is more than difficult- it can be down right painful. None of the fleet has special electronics that tells us where the whales are. We find them by looking for them, so with only a few hundred feet of visibility at best, fog makes our job pretty tough.  Fortunately, the weather gods cooperated and we found some areas of better visibility/less fog!

Some sharp-eyed passengers spotted our first minke whale! This whale was surfacing for a couple of breaths at a time and not moving too far in between surfacings!

Also in that area we found several species of pelagic birds including northern gannets, great shearwaters and Wilson’s storm petrels!!

Northern Gannet
Great Shearwater

We were even treated to a cute harbor seal that popped up near the minke and our boat!!

We continued on and the visibility continued to get better! We found a second minke whales that was awesome- perhaps the best minke we have seen all season!! This whale was taking many breaths before diving and came close to the boat a few times! We could even see the white “minke mittens” as the whale swam by us.

Check out the minke mittens (white patches on the flippers)

It ended up being a really nice day and thanks to all of our curious passengers for making the trip even better!

 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Today was a bit tough for us in terms of finding whales. Not every day is as easy as others. The whales definitely have tails and move around a whole lot!  We headed out on our morning trip in search of whales. We arrived at Jeffreys Ledge to find 4-5 other whale watching boats, but no whales!! Where did they go??

We did a lot of searching and finally our minke-spotting intern, Tyler, informed me that there was a whale nearby! Thanks Tyler!! This minke whale ended up being fantastic- lunging/porpoising at the surface and even popping up close to the boat! What a great surprise!!

Thanks to deckhand Amy for the great photos today!!

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We are happy to announce that we are up and running for another exciting season! So far, our sightings have been very good this year. Recently we have been watching minke, fin and humpback whales on a regular basis, and pretty close to home which means more whale watching time and less travel time!

Today we spent some quality time with a minke whale, and then later, a humpback whale named Satula. Satula has been in the area for a couple of weeks now and is known to be a regular to the Jeffreys Ledge region. Today he was taking short dives and not moving too far between surfacings. He even came up right next to the boat once!!  It was an excellent trip. Beat the heat and reserve your spot on an upcoming trip soon!

 

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