Naturalists Notes 6-20-18
June 20, 2018
Happy humpback day! We set out for the 10 a.m. whale watch aboard the Asteria and headed toward the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank on a beautiful Wednesday morning. Our first sighting was a rather surface active minke whale which treated us to a few lunges and some great looks on either side of the boat. After spending a few minutes with this smaller baleen whale, we moved about two miles ahead and caught up with a pair of humpback whales. This pair was Dross and calf, who were spending some time slightly apart. For a while, we only had eyes for Dross, who blew several bubble clouds all around the boat, only to quickly lunge through several hundred unlucky fish. She even surprised us by blowing a stream of bubbles underneath the boat and lunging just off of our port pulpit! Soon, we found ourselves near her spunky calf again, and were amused by its playful surfacing’s. Unfortunately, as the calf traveled back toward its’ mother, it found its’ path being cut off by a recreational sailboat. It was forced to take a hasty fluking dive as this boat traveled within 10 feet of it, and although it did not appear to make contact, it was a little difficult to tell as the calf had to make some quick decisions to try and get out of the way. Eventually, the calf resurfaced about a quarter of a mile away, and right next to mom. We let out a sigh of relief at this reunion, and were treated to a few more looks before heading back to Boston.
Flukes up! Ashlyn, Colin, and Emma
Hello, This afternoon we enjoyed the beautiful weather and calm seas on our ride out to near the northern edge of Stellwagen Bank. We had one early sighting of a minke whale, and spent the rest of our time with two of our recent favorite humpbacks, Dross and her calf. The calf surfaced more frequently than its mother, and treated us to several high fluking dives. This gave us opportunity to get a great look at its tail pattern, and provided us with several great shots to help us identify and follow this little one over its lifetime. While the calf milled around at the surface, Dross fed deeper in the water column while making large bubble nets. One bubble net appeared right near our boat, which gave us a glimpse at her feeding just subsurface. The highlight of the trip was a breach by the calf, followed immediately by a breach from Dross! The two then abruptly split, and it was quite interesting to note this sudden change right after a double breach. They remained apart for the rest of our time with them, with Dross’s calf at times being over a mile away from its mom. We’ve been seeing this calf acting more independent over the last week or so. Maybe we’re watching it get a taste of what it’s like to be an adult humpback whale!
For the 2:30 whale watch, we boarded the Cetacea, and after a quick ride once again found ourselves in the company of Dross and her calf. This time, the two stuck side by side for the duration of the trip, an interesting change in behavior from the morning. Dross continued to blow bubble clouds and wow us with a few surface lunges, and the calf even began blowing bubbles of its’ own! Almost as if it was attempting to mimic mom, it also kept surfacing rapidly, trying hard to lunge! This time, the calf was just as curious about us, and swam slowly around the boat, turning on its’ side every so often. We also watched the calf take very consistent fluking dives, and although not quite as high and elegant as mom’s, it was amazing to see how higher they’ve gotten just in the past few weeks. This little one is continuing to learn what life as a whale is like, and it’s always exciting to watch them grow! We slowly turned back west after a wonderful trip with the pair, and shortly after were interrupted by another friendly minke whale! We were treated to a few bonus lunges, and before we knew it, the minke disappeared, a sure sign it was indeed time to return home.
I would like to extend a special thanks to all of the passengers onboard this morning’s whale watch. Through collaboration, we were able to thoroughly document the calf’s interaction with the sailboat, as well as note the wellbeing of the calf. I think Dross and her calf have managed to grab most of our hearts (mine for sure) throughout this season, and it was so encouraging to know that passengers felt the same way.
Flukes up! Ashlyn, Colin, and Emma