Naturalists Notes 8-6-18
August 6, 2018
Hello all, Upon glassy seas we ventured south to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
With blows of whales popping up all along the horizon line, we knew we had a lovely trip in store for us. We first started with a great look from Timberline who gave us a close approach. We could see this whale’s flippers underneath the calm seas descend as Timberline took a non-fluking dive.
After a look at this single whale, we moved towards an unassociated group of whales, approximately 6-7, who must have found a good spot for a meal. Spell, Diablo, Measles, Cosmos, Mudskipper, and Doric were amongst this group. They created bubble clouds and went on fluking dives. One of the highlights of the trip was when a humpback was surfacing, and with the seas so flat, we were able to see the water streaming from the side of their mouth!
We got some excellent last looks at Etch-a-Sketch kick feeding and had to make our way back to Boston.
In addition to our humpback sightings, we spotted 7 minke whales, and a small shark (perhaps a blue shark!) who quickly evaded our photography efforts on the way home.
We were halted by a small pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins including three pairs with tiny little calves keeping right up with their moms. The glassy water made for ideal conditions to watch and photograph these speedy cetaceans. Two minke whales and a humpback were also spotted nearby, prepping passengers to find the 6-7 other humpbacks on the southwest corner. We also noticed a bit more bird activity than we’ve been seeing lately with gulls and great shearwaters.
Etch-a-Sketch and Timberline were first found kick feeding independent of each other but eventually they joined but were mostly feeding subsurface. They headed toward three other humpbacks, one of whom snuggled into the tuna fleet and snoozed, two others who fed near to the pair. We enjoyed a couple of close surfacings and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon with a quick look at a pair of fin whales to round out the trip.
Laura L. and Sam
The southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank was a treasure trove of exciting marine species this morning. We started off our trip with a fin whale pair travelling slowly in flat calm seas, giving us a great view of both the asymmetrical coloration of their bright white jaws and their chevron patterns. After a short while we moved farther south to investigate several sleepy humpback whales, at least 200 Atlantic white sided dolphins, minke whales, and gray seals! Among the logging humpback whales we found UFO, Dyad, and her calf. The dolphin were certainly the stars of today’s trip, as we observed many moms with tiny calves in tow jumping at the surface and even tail slapping! We began to head back to Boston after a short while, only to be slowed down by one last sightings of a large blue shark. Overall it was an extremely fun day filled with sightings of six different species!
Our voyage to the southwest corner for the 12 p.m. whale watch aboard the Aurora began before we reached our destination, with several minke whales appearing off either side of the vessel. As we inched up on the southwest corner, we happened upon a lone female humpback, Mudskipper. She was leisurely hanging about at the surface, taking a quick snooze before doing a beautiful, high fluking dive in search of more food. We then moved on to three other humpback whales, and identified one as Diablo, who rolled onto her back and began flipper slapping! She continued this high energy behavior for a while, and was soon interrupted by a large nursery pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins. Surrounded by dolphins and an energetic Diablo, we soon also found ourselves observing Timberline, who was kickfeeding and surface lunging just ahead of us. Apostrophe then made an appearance, cruising up our port side lazily as the dolphins continued to splash around. In the distance, we noticed Scylla and Spell traveling north, perhaps in search of a quieter area to hunt. Our day ended with some beautiful looks at two logging whales, one being Etch-a-Sketch. Sleepy was certainly an understatement in describing her mood, as she lingered at the surface for about ten minutes, and with glass seas we were able to watch all of her little movements just beneath the surface. In awe, we admired her size, but before we knew it, the clock determined that we must make our way back to Boston. All in all, we enjoyed a wonderful day out on the ocean, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the week!
Flukes up! Ashlyn and Annie
Our afternoon spurred an impromptu whale ID party between intern Sam, ride along naturalist Heidi as we encountered at least 12 humpbacks scattered around. The (not yet final!) list included Samara, Etch-a-Sketch, Shards, Scylla, Deuce, Timberline, Cosmos, Venom and her calf, and Apostrophe. Most of these whales were feeding in some capacity- some taking deep dives, some blowing bubble clouds, and some kick feeding. We watched two different whales (Deuce and Shards) flipper slap at different times and had one random breach in the middle of it all. Toss in a couple of surface lunges and a close approach or two and we pretty much checked all the items off a whale watch checklist!
Unfortunately, one whale that we did not find was Komodo. We heard reports that she is entangled so the whale watch boats joined in the search with the Center for Coastal Studies’ R/V Ibis to locate the whale and attempt disentanglement. We had initially been hopeful that our beloved Cardhu had been found as we are all very worried about her with a lack of sightings since her partial disentanglement. I’ll be perfectly honest in saying that by the afternoon I was feeling bummed out and discouraged about the apparent lack of urgency in addressing these more dramatic issues as well as the more hidden initiatives such as moving away from single use items. Hope is key though, and as lines were being tied a kind soul pulled me aside to ask about what she can do and how to make sustainable choices in seafood. Whale watching is exhausting, but it sure can be rewarding, too.
Laura L. and Sam