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Naturalists Notes
Naturalists Notes 5-22-18

May 22, 2018

10:00 AM

You can’t ask for better sea conditions than what we experienced on this morning’s low swell, glass calm whale watch. We got off to a bit of a lazy start with a brief glimpse at a minke before seeing the ten humpbacks spread throughout a mile radius. As we inched closer all of the whales would surface for 1-2 breaths before diving down. This pattern continued as we got closer but it was still thrilling for passengers to see whales in all directions and call them out to each other. As I scanned the area I noticed a single whale breach about a half mile behind the boat. Knowing it was unwise to zoom right over we exercised patience and were rewarded by some great looks at Shuffleboard lunge feeding.

A few more sporadic breaches, tail breaches, and flipper slaps later we had made up our minds that these whales might be acting a bit more erratic than we were able to keep up with and were considering moving south. I’m so happy we hadn’t charged away on impulse 15 minutes prior because the feeding activity picked up big time. Wish and Picket gulped side by side, with one of the whales rolling completely upside down, exposing the stretched skin of the expanded ventral pleats. Hancock made for some impressive photo opportunities as she lunged near to us and then swam under the pulpits giving us an amazing look at a humpback whale.

My favorite moment began as a passenger walked up to me and said that he thought something was approaching the boat, “a pod of dolphins or something”. It’s so valuable to have passengers who are actively searching for wildlife, if not for their own sake but for everyone else to benefit, because when I looked up I saw 150-200 Atlantic white sided dolphins charging our way. Our caption allowed for extra time to really appreciate these acrobatic critters, who clearly had a plan in motion and they seemed to be keyed in to the fish and were ready for lunch. What a fun trip!

Laura L.


12:00 PM

Hello, We had a great whale watch yesterday afternoon out on the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank, despite the rain and cold! The glass calm seas made for perfect viewing today, and our first sighting was of a large pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins. It was a great start to the day, as we enjoyed watching them leap around and seemingly play around in our wake. After some time, we moved on to watch 9-11 humpbacks and one fin whale! Most of the whales were by themselves, but we started on a large group of four humpbacks that included Ditto and three other unidentified individuals. Interestingly, we noticed that Ditto had a large wound directly on top of his head. While it’s jarring to see large wounds on whales and our minds usually gravitate towards human impacts as the cause, we can’t automatically assume that this particular one resulted from anthropogenic means. Most of our NEAq naturalists were lucky enough to listen to a discussion on scarring this spring at the annual Naturalists’ workshop, where we learned that in some cases you just can’t assume causation. It’s possible that this particular wound could be from an unfortunate ship strike (reminding us of the importance of careful viewing) or even some enthusiastic bottom feeding! We also spotted Scylla and Tripod before heading back to Boston. It was an exciting and memorable day out on the bank for everyone who braved the less-than-ideal weather conditions with us!

Sincerely, Kelsey