Naturalists Notes 6-27-18
June 27, 2018
This morning we traveled out to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank, where we encountered a lot of interesting activity! In total we spotted 4-5 humpback whales and 4 fin whales. Our trip began with the humpback whale Dross and her calf, who continued its curious antics that our boats first observed yesterday. The calf bobbed up and down in patches of seaweed while Dross fed nearby. After some time, we moved on to a trio of fin whales and another humpback whale, Scylla! Scylla was feeding deeper in the water column, often leaving remnants of bubble clouds in her wake. Overall, a very fun and memorable morning out on the water!
Happy Humpback day! For the 10 a.m. aboard the Sanctuary, we traveled to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in our quest for cetacean sightings. Upon reaching our destination, we were greeted with several blows in all directions, and decided to start with Dross and her calf. Both were spending ample time at the surface, Dross blowing a series of bubble rings and lunging through them, while the baby circled around its’ mom at the surface. This spunky calf rolled about, and even mimicked mom by blowing bubbles and surfacing rapidly. Dross surprised us with a bubble ring off of our starboard pulpit, and after lunging, she crossed our bow, relieving herself as she dove off our port pulpit. Amused passengers chuckled at this sighting, and we decided to let our pair be at the appearance of another bubble feeding humpback, who turned out to be Scylla. She treated us to some excellent bubble clouds and one great look at her fluke, before we were interrupted by a group of four (yes four!) fin whales! This group moved about randomly, but spent plenty of time at the surface and allowed for some amazing looks! At one point, they surfaced about 100 feet off our starboard side, allowing everyone onboard a great look at their enormous size. As we traveled parallel with them, both Scylla and Dross emerged through bubble clouds in front of us, while the calf lazily flicked its’ tail in and out of the water. An amazing last look indeed, and we headed toward Boston, eager to return for the 2:30 trip.
Flukes up! Ashlyn and Colin
We had an exciting day at the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. We started off with a fin whale! This large leviathan gave us a few good looks before disappearing from sight. We then made our way over to a single humpback whale. This whale was going on short non fluking dives, which made it tricky to identify but its dorsal matched that of the whale Scylla. Scylla was randomly travelling in the vicinity of the boat, and at one point came up right off our starboard side. Another set of blows caught our attention and we made our way over to check out Dross and calf. Dross was busy using bubble nets to feed, which the birds were also using to their advantage. A highlight of the trip was when the water directly next to the boat turned green and Dross came up with water streaming from her large mouth. We had excellent sightings of both mom and calf before the baby wandered off and mom continued feeding. We were just heading back to Boston when our trip was interrupted by 3-4 fin whales swimming in a loose association. We had another opportunity to watch the world’s second largest animal before concluding a great trip out on the water.
The latest trend appears to be a slight increase in whales on the northwest corner. Our first sighting of the day was a bit unique as we resighted the mom and calf fin whale pair from about two weeks ago. They were traveling to the west so we continued a bit to the east where we got to watch another fin whale as well as humpback Scylla. Scylla would take a few breaths before dipping back under the water and at one point blew a bubble cloud, leading us to believe she was on the hunt for some fish.
At about the time we decided to concentrate our time with Dross and her calf, the baby leaped completely out of the ocean. It was an exciting start to a very sweet encounter as we observed lots of seemingly playful behavior while mom foraged underwater. A couple of times we were lucky enough to see Dross lunge up with a closed mouthful of fish as herring gulls and a couple of greater shearwaters streamlined close by looking to catch some leftovers, including one trio who engaged in a fierce battle over one poor mackerel (See photo).
I’d also like to take a moment to thank Medha, our spring New England Aquarium Education and Research Intern who has stuck around for the month of June to continue sharing her knowledge not only with passengers but with our newer summer interns. What a great afternoon spent on Stellwagen!
Laura L. Charlie, and Medha
Happy Humpback day! Our 2:30 trip aboard the Sanctuary started off with a speedy fin whale before we even reached the bank. We allowed this whale to quickly cross our bow before turning slightly north toward a large splash. For the next hour, passengers were treated to a spectacular showing of surface activity by Dross’ calf. There were spinning breaches, chin breaches, and tail breaches galore. Our polite calf even rolled around and brought its’ flippers out of the water to say hello. We had a quick glance of Dross as she emerged through a bubble cloud, but mom and baby stayed quite far apart for the majority of the trip. The independent calf held our attention throughout the trip, showing us just how fun it is to be a baby humpback. After a series involving a tail breach, chin breach, and one last enormous full breach, we said goodbye to our calf, turned into the building seas and headed back to Boston.
Flukes up! Ashlyn and Colin