Naturalist Notes 10-18-21 to 10-24-21

Whale tail water streaming off before submerging underwater.

Whale Watch Sightings 10/18/21 through 10/24/21

Please find the Naturalist Notes for the week of 10/18/21 to 10/24/21 from the onboard team of naturalists for our New England Whale Watching tour in partnership with the New England Aquarium. 

10/18/21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

We headed out into the blustery seas to Jeffreys Ledge, noticing a large number of northern gannets throughout the trip. We watched Pinball as she descended on dives of about 8-10 minutes, likely enjoying some of the same fish the gannets were diving for. We were treated to a few great looks as she swam in our direction, and the glowing green from her white pectoral fins underwater made for a fantastic sight. Eventually it was time to return to Boston, but as we passed Thacher Island another whale emerged and we found ourselves in the company of Repeat as it took much shorter dives but moved much more erratically. It was clearly gorging on the plentiful fish beneath the waves, evidenced by the bubble clouds spotted at the surface paired with random movements. It was a great fall day to be on the water and we’ll savor every one we can get!

Laura L. and Sulmaan

 

10/20/21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 10am headed out on the Aurora in search of wildlife. Following reports of a nearby humpback, we spotted Patches just 15 miles from Boston! Unfortunately, we soon realized that there were fresh wounds on the trailing edge of his fluke. Fortunately, this whale seemed to be still successfully feeding and eating – evidenced by some defecation at the surface. This is the first time we’ve seen Patches this season, another northern whale who seems to have started to make his way south as the humpbacks get ready to migrate!

Once we were able to get enough documentation on Patches, we moved farther east towards the Northwest Corner and soon found the ever-reliable Dross and Dross 21 Calf. Mom and calf were very active today, as the calf was boisterously following mom while she bubble-cloud fed all around the boat. We got to see incredibly impressive lunges from Dross with fish flying everywhere – some birds even tried to join in and pick up the leftovers! Dross even threw in a few side lunges, and we sometimes got to see her large flippers extend above the surface. With such great looks all around the boat we got to witness a few cool moments, from a bird getting caught up in Dross’s blow to the calf’s numerous forceful surfaces – with his barnacle-covered rostrum coming out first!

With gorgeous weathering conditions and great bird spotting (we were able to see a juvenile golden eagle!!!), we reluctantly headed back to Boston. What an awesome day!

Kate and Sulmaan

 

10/21/21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

It certainly didn’t feel like mid-October in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary today, with the warm temperature, calm winds, and fair seas. Upon reaching the northwest corner, we spotted two separate groups of humpbacks. We first watched a trio- Grommet, Gunslinger, and a low fluking whale that has yet to be matched. They were on a stray course to the north taking seven minute dives. We inched closet and closer to Dross and calf and we’re able to take a good look at them, but after diving they surfaced near to where we had started with the first three whales. It was as if the two groups traded spots, and our original three then popped up where Dross and her calf had started. A brief sighting of a minke whale, northern gannets, and several flocks of surf and white winged scoters rounded out a great afternoon offshore!

Laura L., Colin, and Heidi

 

10/22/21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 10am whale watch headed out on the Asteria towards the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. While we initially spotted an allusive fin whale, we moved towards a region where we spotted multiple blows and quickly found Dross and Dross 21 Calf! Dross was actively eating – and showed off some very impressive bubble clouds as she forcefully lunged around our vessel. The multitude of fish in the water was further evidenced by an incredible amount of diving gannets. I have never so many gannets, and it was really cool to see these giant birds feeding near the whales (see photo)! We also spotted a third individual in the area – who was likely the same mysterious unknown that was spotted yesterday. With increasing winds, this individual became surface activate – and we got to see the occasional lobtail, tail breach, high fluking dive, and trumpet. What a lovely fall day!

Kate and Anna

 

12:00pm Whale Watch Sightings

The Aurora made her way out to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of wildlife. As soon as we arrived, we quickly spotted a couple of spouts up ahead of us. Upon closer inspection, these were two humpback whales who we have come to know VERY well, Dross and her calf. Dross kept surprising us with some pretty spectacular lunge feeding, while her calf seemed to be observing close by. Dross was being a bit unpredictable, lunging right where we would least suspect her. After she settled into a longer dive, we started seeing a few scattered blows in the distance, we went to check out another humpback whale, who has yet to be identified. This individual was likely feeding a bit deeper in the water column, spending more time beneath the waves. We then turned around and happened to come across a small blue shark at the surface, a rare treat for us on board! Eventually, we settled back in watching Dross and her calf, but this time Dross lunged very close to us! She then travelled right in front of us, giving the whole boat quite a good look at her. With a beautiful fluking dive, she bid us farewell, and we headed back to Boston. It was a perfect day on the water!

Until Next Time!

David & Colin

 

10/23/21

10:00am and 2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Asteria, the 10am whale watch made its way out towards the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life. We spotted a pair of blows in the distance who turned out to be Dross and her 2021 calf! These two were only taking 2 to 5 minute dives which allowed us to get some really great looks at them. Dross was blowing bubble rings and lunging up right through them! Dross did this several times right near the boat too! The calf was watching intently staying very close to mom the whole time. The calf did get a little playful and started rolling around, and it even lobtailed! After some great looks we had to head back to Boston.

The 2:30pm whale watch headed out towards the same area in hopes for similar luck to the first trip. We started out on a non-fluking humpback who I am still working to ID. After some brief looks at this whale, we headed over to Dross and her 2021 calf. These two were doing the same thing as the first time, with Dross lunging up through bubble rings and the calf spending a lot of time with mom. The calf even blew a few bubbles of its own! After some spectacular looks at both and a beautiful fluking dive from Dross we had to head back to Boston. However, on the way home we spotted a pair of blows in the distance. It was a pair of humpback whales, one of which I was able to identify as Grommet. This pair was very hungry as they lunged at the surface several times! This pair gave us some really great looks until we had to head back to Boston. It was a really spectacular day out on Stellwagen Bank!

 

12:00pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today a very eager crew headed out to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary! For some of us, it felt like months of not seeing whales due to the poor weather. Today the seas were uncomfortable but manageable and we braved our way out into the slapping waves.

We quickly found Dross and her calf. Dross was feeding, scaring tiny fish to the surface, and blowing great bubble clouds and nets. Our passengers were delighted! Her calf joined in for a while before tiring and taking a quick logging break.

We spotted another blow in the distance and went to go see what Crisp was up to! This whale was taking longer dives but still surfaced near enough for the passengers to ooh and aah over her. Satisfied with a wondrous day on the water, we headed home to Boston.

Watch on,
Mira

 

10/24/21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 10am whale watch headed out on the Asteria towards Stellwagen Bank. We quickly found the fan favorites, Dross and Dross 21 Calf, on the northwest corner. Dross was exhibiting her classic bubble cloud feeding- and we got to see some powerful lunges around the boat.

Today, there seemed to be a shift in behavior from Dross’s calf. Throughout the season, we’ve noticed that while Dross’s calf is one of the largest calves that we have seen this year – it has still stayed very close to mom. I have rarely seen this calf go on a fluking dive, and this baby has been seen nursing well into the fall. However, today this calf seemed to be really coming into its own – going on beautiful and consistent fluking dives. Although we did see this calf go a short burst of nursing, minutes later mom and calf surfaced off our right pulpit – both with mouths full of food! It seemed like this calf is finally getting the hang of feeding on its own! It’s been awesome seeing this calf grow up this season – and today it felt like it was getting the hang of becoming an adult humpback whale.

Despite some strong wind and swells, we got some amazing looks at these two whales – including some cute rolling from calf. What a great morning!

Kate, Laura, and Heidi

 

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

We really lucked out with today’s weather- it looked pretty marginal into this morning but really turned into a beautiful fall day. Upon returning to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank for the afternoon trip, we spotted two pairs of humpback whales and decided to start with the less frequently sighted Grommet and Gunslinger. The two were taking brief dives and surfacing with low lunges (see photo)- Grommet with her rostrum breaking the surface and Gunslinger with a slightly different approach and coming up flipper first. We had a great time watching them as they charged around to feed and then noticed that they were starting to make their way in the direction of Dross and her calf. We caught sight of one of the farther pair’s tail splash up out of the water, then Grommet and Gunslinger made an abrupt turn and went back in the direction they came from. Whether these two events were related or not is a bit of a mystery, but the adult pair’s behavior switched up to longer dives with unpredictable movements, and so we rounded out the day with Dross and her calf. They were moving rather slowly and remaining just subsurface, but Dross did surprise us with one big lunge off the bow. The afternoon light made the whole ocean look like it was glowing and we cruised back, quite content with the day!

Laura L., Kate, and Heidi

More Images From This Week


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Boston Harbor City Cruises proudly contributes its data to the GOM Humpback Whale Catalog curated by Center for Coastal Studies.
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As a proud member of Whale Sense (whalesense.org), we are committed to responsible whale watching practices.  All photos were taken in compliance with established guidelines and regulations.