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Naturalists Notes
Naturalists Notes 5-26-18

May 26, 2018

10:00 AM

Greetings Whaleville, Today Team Aurora made for a morning cluster of feeding humpback whales 34 miles east of port, south of the shipping lane on Stellwagen Bank.  Of four feeding associations we identified, in order of appearance, Pele, Masai, Eruption, Spell, Ganesh 2014 Calf, Crisscross, Falcon, Shoreline, Crinkle, Pinch, and Firefly.  Pinch head-breached to precede each bout of kick feeding, with each attack interval followed by a glowing bubblenet. The theater was attended by greedy herring gulls who nearly impeded our visual feast!

Periscope Down, Rich W D & Chelsi N

 

11:00 AM

Today aboard the Asteria we headed to the southern part of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary where we spent our time in the company of many whales. On our 11AM we stopped briefly on a sighting of several dozen Atlantic white-sided dolphins that were quite spread out.  A few of the dolphins started showing off with aerial displays.  As we continued on to the bank, we saw groups spread out over a wide distance and got a very close approach by a group of several adults including Cajun, Falcon, and Crisscross.  A single humpback whale surfaced several times without fluking nearby, but was joined by a second whale that ended up being Masai, who became extremely interested in us!  Masai frequently surfaced so close to the boat we had a hard time seeing it from our observation deck.  At one point, Masai swam just under the bow, rolling to look up at the passengers.  We pretty much just had to float for several minutes as we continued to be mugged by this whale, but eventually we slowly moved out and received a departing “wave” as Masai showed off a few more pectoral slaps.  Masai’s unknown friend continued to hover also relatively nearby, but did not seem interested in getting quite as close.  Still, it made for a very special encounter today.  We also had a few minutes to observe Ventisca and Ravine traveling together and pass by us during the trip.   Dolphins abound by the dozens in this area too, as well as a handful of minke whales and a single, brief fin whale.

Until next time, Heidi

 

12:00 PM

Hello Whale Friends, The word of the day was definitely “spectacular” for our ventures out to Stellwagen Bank. Our 12pm trip took us to Midbank, where 2 distant blows soon separated into groups of 2, 3, and 4 whales. Before long we found ourselves surrounded by groups of humpbacks, punctuated by a few lone minkes. Whales on all sides, it was hard to keep up with the ever-changing conglomeration of marine mammals as we were joined by a pod of Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins and even two gray seals! Though many of our humpbacks hid their tell-tale tails from us, we were able to identify Pele, Ventisca, and Firefly in the whale pile. As we were preparing to leave, we were delighted to find that our last looks contained a playfully curious calf, belonging to none other than the infamous Jabiru. This calf swam back and forth along our starboard side for many minutes, allowing for beautiful looks at its white flippers glowing green beneath the almost flat calm waters. Our second attempt at departing was foiled again as one of our humpbacks exploded out of the water in a series of low breaches! Our excitement was audible as we finally made our way back to Boston after a wonderously successful first trip.

Peace, love, and lucky snarge! Linnea

 

1:30 PM

We squeaked in an early afternoon whale watch aboard the Cetacea with a boatload of excitable passengers of all ages. As we scoured the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary I noticed that save for a bird here and there it was feeling pretty quiet; that is until we reached today’s hotspot. Within minutes we began seeing groups of three and four humpbacks all around us. We were quickly joined by Jabiru’s calf, easily identified by the gray stripes on either side of the whale. Sometimes the coloration of the little guys takes on this type of grayish hue, usually on the fluke and around the eyes. I liken it to when babies’ eyes darken over time. The calf was soon followed by mom as well as Cajun, Crisscross, and an unknown adult. They made random movements and quick surfacings leading us to guess that the adults were feeding along the bottom. The calf even made a close approach, swooping its flipper alongside of us. The abundant sightings of three gray seals was an added bonus and we returned to Boston satisfied with the day.

Laura L. and Colin

 

2:30 PM

Greetings Whaleville, Our 230pm to the same region was made 2 miles further east, where we happened upon a feeding battalion of Boutonniere, Pele, Toboggan, A-Plus, Bristle, 15BH123, Dracula, Bounce, Canopy, Aerospace, Perseid, Trimmer, Tracer, Etch-a-Sketch, Geometry, Pinch, Milkweed, Crisscross, Dome, Cajun, and Masai. Tracer and Etch-a-Sketch pummeled the seas with kick feeding whilst Pinch continued the earlier pattern of chin-breaching.  An entire day of percussion is owed to the cetacean thunder of hungry, hungry Humpbacks!

Periscope Down, Rich W D & Chelsi N

 

3:30 PM

On our second trip we returned to the same area and found groups of humpbacks spread out.  We started with a group of six that included two mother-calf pairs!  Jabiru and Venom appeared to possibly be doing some sub surface or bottom feeding with Mend and Falcon while their calves played at the surface, occasionally coming very close to us and doing a few rolls.  All of the adults in the area were doing very short dives but also only coming up for only two to three breaths before going down again.  A group with Cajun, Crisscross, and Dome gave us a close pass again, and we also witnessed a couple of sporadic breaches from Masai!  This whale didn’t mug us a second time, but showed off a few flipper slaps and was with the same individual as our first trip (fluke still unidentified).  An interesting thing we observed was Masai blowing a long stream of bubbles before fully surfacing every time it came up from a dive.  We had another group of three that consisted of three 2014 calves – Crinkle, Spell, and Ganesh’s 14 – that milled around, and two other larger groups of 5-6 whales for a total of easily 25-30 whales in the area.  The groups seemed to slowly be coming closer and closer together over the course of the trip, and we got  a few last second looks at Cajun and Venom’s groups before we headed home.  A couple points during the trip, we had not one, but two gray seals pop up and be a bit curious about us as well!

Until next time, Heidi

 

5:00 PM

Hello Whale Friends, Heading back out for the 5pm trip, we again made our way towards Midbank and were once more greeted with similar sights. Isolated blows multiplying across the horizon. This time the whales were a little more elusive, spreading out and turning circles around us. We pin-balled between groups, trying to capture those beautiful tails. We were also able to see some products of feeding in the form of scat! This was a good indication that the whales are feeding regularly on the abundant spoils of Stellwagen. We managed to get some wonderful looks at a group of 4 T5s, all fluking in tandem, and a couple more curious seals. A few bursts of breaching seemed to signal the end of the show, as soon after the whales scattered and disappeared from view.

Overall a day that exceeded expectations in the very best ways.

Peace, love, and lucky snarge! Linnea

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