Naturalist Notes 7-21-21 to 8-1-21

Whale Watch Dross Calf Breach

Whale Watch Sightings 7/26/21 through 08/01/21

Please find the Naturalist Notes for the week of 7-26-21 to 8-1-21 from the onboard team of naturalists for our New England Whale Watching tour in partnership with the New England Aquarium. 

7-26-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Aurora, the 10am whale watch made its way out towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life. We spotted a few blows in the area.  We had three humpbacks in the area who turned out to be Dross, her 2021 calf, and Milkweed.  We spent most of our time with Milkweed who was flipper slapping and lobtailing!  She did this for over 10 minutes, which allowed us to get some great looks at her!  After she calmed down, Milkweed continue to spend most of her time at the surface.  After some beautiful fluking dives from all three whales, we had to head back to Boston.  It was a really amazing day out on the water!

-Colin and Madeline

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

We left behind a hazy city aboard the Asteria for the 11 a.m. whale watch, making our way for the middle of Stellwagen Bank. Upon arriving, we were met with two blows from Dross and her 2021 calf! The pair were darting around the area, and shortly after, Dross began her typical bubble cloud feeding! With each bubble blown, we noticed she was inching closer to our vessel, until she was feeding right next to the boat! She even did an impressive side lunge from underneath the boat, exposing her pleats and her large size to our awestruck passengers (and naturalist!) We noticed the calf continued some of its mimicking behavior, emerging through mom’s receding bubble cloud long after she had. We know this little guy is a hungry one, and it certainly seems as though he’ll be on his way to blowing his own clouds in no time! Our trip wrapped up with a surprise appearance from Milkweed, who displayed some mildly curious behavior off our stern, and a friendly minke whale who repeatedly popped up off our bow! It was an excellent day on the water, and we enjoyed a beautiful ride back to Boston.

Flukes up!

-Ashlyn, Kate, and Heidi

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The Cetacea headed out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales, and to no surprise we found Dross and her 2021 Calf! These two Humpbacks were traveling very quickly in a linear pattern for the start of our trip, but Shortly after they changed up behaviors. Dross began to blow bubble clouds sporadically around us, demonstrating for passengers how these whales get their nickname as the Ballerinas of the sea. The Calf was definitely mimicking some of mom’s behaviors, surfacing after her through bubble clouds and in many instances, they showed off synchronized movements through the water. These two delighted passengers with multiple close approaches, allowing us to truly appreciate the size of these amazing marine mammals. We unfortunately ran out of time, and Dross waved goodbye with a beautiful fluking dive as we made our way home to Boston.

Overall, a fantastic day out on Stellwagen Bank!

-Sydney and Allie

 

7-27-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The morning trip journeyed towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank where we quickly encountered Dross and her calf! Dross was doing what she does best, feeding with large bubble clouds, and her calf mostly stuck close by her side. Although Dross’ behavior has been predictable lately, her surfacing was random and she would often surprise us by coming up close to our boat! These two were luckily only staying underwater for a few minutes at a time, and these short dive times with random close bubble clouds led to some really great looks at this duo. We were even treated to a brief bout of nursing right off the bow of our vessel! Eventually we made our way back towards Boston, after a fun afternoon on the water!

-Bruna & Laura

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Aurora 11am whale watch, we escaped the heat to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales. Our morning trip had spotted Dross and calf, and we were treated to continued great looks of this pair. Dross was bubble feeding with some subsurface bubble cloud nets, but occasionally would rise closer to the surface allowing us to appreciate her expanding pleats as she filtered at the surface. Dross’ calf appeared to be following along/working to herd fish along the outside of the net, or perhaps he was just watching to learn to the technique! It’s important for this calf to learn feeding skills as it will be on its own in just a few short months. This calf also is still nursing, we watched Dross’ calf try to nurse as mom was fluking, but looked like the calf picked bad timing as mom was diving, and some of her milk got missed and floated just underneath the surface (I at first mistook it for just whale poop!). After that Dross’ calf began to venture off on its own, and we left the pair to head home.

Cheers.

-Laura H.

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The Cetacea headed to the middle of Stellwagen Bank today in search of whales. We were delighted with a very brief but exciting visit from a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins, who quickly crossed our bow. Just beyond them, we saw the dark back of a humpback whale. It ended up being Dross and her 2021 calf! Dross was busy blowing bubble clouds, and the calf was also practicing its bubble blowing. This calf is growing very rapidly and is continuing to act a lot more like its mother. At one point, the calf even blew a ring of bubbles right next to our boat before surfacing next to it! Having observed this calf frequently over the last few months, it is such an incredible feeling to watch it keep growing and maturing. Dross continued to feed near us as well and gave us quite a few great looks at her bubble blowing technique, with her erupting from the center much to our delight. With great looks and a happy group of passengers, we then headed back to Boston. It was a great afternoon on the water!

Until Next Time!

-David and Allie

 

7-28-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Asteria headed out on the 10am whale watch in search of marine wildlife. Instead of heading directly to Stellwagen Bank, we got word from the Salem Ferry that whales had been spotted off of Nahant. After a very short boat ride, we quickly found two adult humpbacks right off of the mainland. 15BH29 (affectionally nicknamed Chunk) and an unknown adult were acting very predictable at the surface, logging and taking consistent 6-minute dives. These whales did not travel very far, and we were able to get some amazing looks at these large adults traveling very close together. Chunk even pooped right off our starboard side – a great reminder of how important these large animals are to our ecosystems.

We decided to head out to Stellwagen Bank after spending time with ours whales in search of more wildlife. While we did not see any more whales, some eagle-eyes passengers saw a mola mola on our way back from the bank!

A beautiful day on the water!

-Kate

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 11am whale watch did not have to travel very far before we encountered our first whale sighting of the day. Two humpback whales were lazily swimming right off Nahant and just outside Boston Harbor. It was special to see this duo so close to land, and their predictable dive times and slow travel allowed us to get great looks at these animals! We eventually did make our way to the middle of Stellwagen Bank where we encountered Dross and her calf zigzagging around. Dross was moving quickly and surfacing very often, most likely chasing and feeding on small fish underwater. Her calf tried his best to keep up but would sometimes drift away before zooming back towards mom.  We made our way back towards the city after a fun afternoon out at sea!

-Bruna & Maddie

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 1:30pm Whale watch headed out to the middle of Stellwagen bank in search of whales and other marine life. We quickly found two humpbacks, who turned out to be Dross and her 2021 Calf! Dross was clearly busy feeding, with her usual bubble clouds providing evidence of her subsurface behavior. The calf was sticking close to mom this afternoon, going on dives right by her side, but not quite fluking. Dross and her calf surprised us by surfacing right off the pulpits and treated passengers to a couple close approaches before we had to start heading home.

We were heading back to Boston when we were surprised by two whales just outside the Hypocrite Channel! Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop and try to ID these two, but it was a nice surprise, and some passengers got some bonus looks at these two off our Stern.

Overall, a great day on Stellwagen Bank!

-Sydney and Laura L.

 

7-29-21

10:00 Whale Watch Sightings

We enjoyed a nice ride into the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary where we found Dross and her calf directly in the middle of a large tuna fleet. Luckily by the time we inched forward they had made their way into quieter waters and we enjoyed some great looks as Dross surfaced in every direction amidst large bubble clouds. A highlight of the trip was the moment she surfaced a mere few feet off the side of the vessel! A mola mola was spotted on the way home and we watched as he swam and surfed in the building waves.

-Laura L. and Sulmaan

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Aurora, the 11am Whale Watch headed out towards the middle 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.  The calf was the real star of the trip today.  The calf breached many times right near the boat!  The calf was also flipper slapping, rolling around, tail breaching and lobtailing!  Dross was also blowing bubble clouds, and she even lunged up a few times through them!  Both mom and calf also did some beautiful fluking dives, as was requested I included one in the photos.  After some final looks at the active mom and calf we had to head back to Boston.  It was a really amazing day out on Stellwagen!

-Colin

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today we boarded the Cetacea hoping to make it out to whales. Unfortunately, upon leaving the lee of the south shore and making our way to open water, the sea conditions proved to be rough and building, and we unfortunately had to turn around.

Until next time!

-Linnea

 

7-30-21

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Asteria headed out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales, and we first came across a familiar pair of Humpbacks, Dross and her 2021 Calf! These two were moving west at a fast pace, when they suddenly stopped travelling, and Dross began her typical bubble clouds, evidence that she was feeding below the surface. We saw two more blows in the East and decided to check them out. We found ourselves in the presence of another humpback named Freckles! Freckles was also busy feeding, with her own bubble clouds to prove it. There was another individual in the same area as Freckles, but this whale was not spending a lot of time at the surface and hanging out very close to some fishing boats in the area. We started to head home but stopped for last looks at Dross and Calf, where these two gave us a beautiful fluking dive goodbye, and we headed back to Boston.
Overall, a great day on the bank!

-Sydney and Sulmaan

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 11am whale watch headed out on the Aurora towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank in search of marine wildlife.

We quickly found Freckles, who was taking very short dives around our vessel. It seemed like this humpback was using the side of our boat to corral fish, often surfacing very close to our vessel after subsurface feeding. The water looked incredibly green today, and we got some great looks at this whale’s long pectoral flippers under the water. We then traveled a short distance to Dross and Dross 21 Calf. Dross was deploying a different feeding mechanism, blowing bubble nets and then surfacing rostrum first – likely with a mouth full of fish. The calf was staying pretty close to mom, and we were able to see a very cute tiny fluking dive from this growing whale.

An absolutely beautiful day on the water!

-Kate

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Sanctuary, the 130pm whale watch made its way out towards Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  We started in the mid-bank area and found Dross and her 2021 calf!  These two were doing a lot of traveling at the surface so we got some great looks at them.  The rain started coming in so we decided to go for a bit of a ride to the south to avoid it.  After a little bit of searching, we stumbled upon a trio of humpback whales, two of which were identified as Quote and Ebony.  These three popped up right next to our boat a few times!  Quote gave these very high, beautiful fluking dives.  After some great looks at this trio, we had to head back to Boston.  It was a really fantastic day out on Stellwagen Bank!

-Colin and Anna

 

7-31-21

9:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Sanctuary, the 9am whale watch made its way out towards Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  We started on the southern end of Stellwagen.  Unfortunately, the whale sightings down south were thin, so we decided to head further north in search of whales.  After searching for a little while, we spotted a blow in the distance.  It turned out to be Freckles the humpback!  Freckles was taking short dives, and she was not traveling far so we were able to get some really great looks at her.  After a beautiful fluking dive, we had to head back to Boston.

-Colin and Sulmaan

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Asteria headed out on the 10 am whale watch to the middle of Stellwagen Bank. We quickly came across a blow and decided to investigate. Upon further inspection, we found out it was a humpback whale named Freckles. She was taking some deeper dives, but we got some nice looks at her before we spotted some more blows out ahead. We found two other humpbacks, Dross and her 2021 calf! Dross was busy feeding, blowing some bubble clouds and her calf was sticking close by. We were able to get some great looks before we had to make our way back home. A great start!

-David and Anna

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

It was a gorgeous day to be on the water, and the 11am trip enjoyed perfect weather and great visibility as we made our way to the middle of Stellwagen. We quickly encountered a blow belonging to Freckles the humpback whale. At first this whale was being predictable, with short dives and large bubble clouds. However, she eventually started traveling more and her dive times started getting longer and longer so we moved on to another set of blows in the area. Dross and calf were being their typical hungry selves, with the former often surfacing in large patches of bubbles and the latter occasionally diving under mom’s tail and most likely nursing. The calf has grown quite a bit in the several weeks we’ve been watching him and it’s reassuring to see these animals so well fed. We made our way back towards the city after some fantastic looks at this duo!

 

-Bruna, Kate & Alexis

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 130pm trip headed out towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales.  We spotted Freckles again, and we got some brief but amazing looks at her.  We then headed over to a pair of humpbacks who turned out to be Dross and her 2021 calf!  Dross was doing her usual blowing bubble clouds and lunging up through some of them.  The pair gave us several close approaches too!  After some beautiful fluking dives from Dross and her calf we had to head back to Boston.  It ended up being a really great day out on Stellwagen!

-Colin and Sulmaan

 

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 2:30pm whale watch decided to switch it up and we headed north to Jeffreys Ledge. We found a large pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins, with two large whales in the middle! We got great looks at this pod of dolphins, as well as two humpback whales named Spoon and Chromosome! Spoon continues to live up to her sleepy reputation and was resting at the surface, giving us great looks at her enormous size! Chromosome was right alongside, but he decided to lobtail a few times, much to our delight (see photo- the small boat pictured behind them was stopped and navigating safely around the whales as well!) After these two slowed down even more, we checked out a couple other humpback whales, Valley and Mogul! They treated us to a few good looks before we had to turn for home. As we left, we also got to see a gray seal and an adorable little warbler that was hanging out on the third deck with us! It all made for a great weekend adventure on the water!

-David and Anna

3:30 Whale Watch Sightings

The Aurora headed towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank on the 3:30 whale-watch in search of marine wildlife.

We found Dross and Dross 21 Calf, who were traveling quickly at the surface. These two were a little difficult to spot in the sun’s glare, but we did notice the two gradually getting farther and farther apart from each other. Just as were leaving this pair, we were startled by a tail breach of our stern. Thankfully this got the attention of many passengers as we then got to see a full body breach from the calf.

It seemed like mom had gotten a little too far for the calf’s liking, and the calf began to become surface active to get mom’s attention.

Dross’s calf went on an incredible burst of activity, launching into several tail breaches. It even threw in a very cute chin breach and some trumpeting, a great display of a variety of communication tactics!

All this surface activity seemed to work, as mom and calf soon reunited. The behaviors of the calf looked like the equivalent of a little whale temper tantrum. After joining together, the calf attempted to nurse – but Dross soon grew tired and began to feed using bubble clouds.

It was an amazing day to see such good examples of communication. When passengers ask about breaching, I often use this exact situation to example why breaching occurs. The sound of a multi-ton animal hitting the water creates a loud noise- and certainly got mom’s attention today!

Overall, an absolutely gorgeous day on the water with two fabulous whales!

-Kate

 

8-1-21

9:00am Whale Watch Sightings

 

The 9:00 whale watch cruises over glassy waters to the middle of Stellwagen Bank. The fin of a mola mola caught our attention and it was as we were trying to catch a good look at it that we spotted humpbacks Scylla and Nile swimming nearby. The pair was up and down on dives in short succession and Nile surprised us with a few surface lunges. Dross was also enjoying a Sunday brunch with her calf bobbing around her, the calf growing noticeably large since our first sightings earlier in the summer.

-Laura L.

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

This morning the Aurora headed towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales, but our first sighting was one of my personal favorites, a Mola Mola/Ocean Sunfish! We hung out with this large fish before moving on and quickly encountering Nile and Scylla! These two humpbacks were lazily napping at the surface, and slowly cruising around the area, travelling perpendicular to our boat! We were ready to see who else was around when some eagle-eyed passengers saw 2 fins in the water, which belonged to a blue shark! This shark travelled close to the surface for some time and seemed to be chasing fish around the area. We eventually moved on to two familiar humpbacks, Dross and her 2021 Calf! Dross was busy with her usual bubble cloud feeding, and her calf was mimicking mom’s behavior, blowing bubbles, and surfacing in the middle! We reluctantly said goodbye to these guys and headed home.

-Sydney and Allie

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

We boarded the Asteria for the 11 a.m. whale watch and headed for the middle of Stellwagen Bank. Upon arriving, we spotted Dross and her 2021 calf, the former doing her traditional bubble feeding behavior! We spent some time with this pair before moving on to Nile and Scylla, who were moving slowly at the surface. With the almost glassy sea conditions, we were able to get some great looks at this pair subsurface. Freckles made a quick pass through, and we also spotted another single humpback whale foraging around the area! Our seemingly never-ending range of visibility allowed us to glimpse a few more blows ahead of us, as well as the sights of Cape Cod and Cape Ann! We enjoyed a beautiful ride back home, eager to return on our next trip.

-Ashlyn and Madeline

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The afternoon was a bit breezier but offered crisper visibility and once again we found ourselves with Dross and her calf. They circled round and round our boat, mom blowing bubble nets and lunging with watery mouthfuls of fish while the calf swam around, swishing and flicking its fluke. We were gifted such amazing looks at these two today! Nearby, we rounded out the afternoon with a brief look at Music and Pitcher as they took synchronized dives after Music rolled with a lazy raise of her flipper. An absolutely spectacular way to begin the month of August!

-Laura L.

 

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

For the afternoon, we headed back to the middle of the bank, and quickly found Pitcher and Music! These two humpbacks were taking long dives, so we moved on to find a third humpback who turned out to be Wizard! Wizard was also taking long dives and travelling very far between surfacing but led us to Dross 21 Calf! The calf was hanging out at the surface before quickly changing up behavior and launching into a bought of surface activity! The calf breached, and tail breached, likely to attract mom’s attention, as Dross, in the company of Wizard, showed up a few minutes later! We watched Dross and Wizard fluke one last time before we made our way home to Boston.

Overall, a fantastic day on Stellwagen Bank!

 

-Sydney and Allie

 

3:30pm Whale Sightings

We loaded up the Asteria once more for our 3:30 p.m. trip, and once again found Dross and calf at midbank! This time, the pair displayed some mild curiosity in between bouts of feeding and nursing, wowing passengers with some amazing views of the pair. As time passed, the wind began to kick up, and two other humpback whales moved into the area. We were expecting this surprise appearance to be a wonderful conclusion to our trip, but we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by tail breaching whales! All four whales began to engage in some seriously energetic surface activity, Dross 21 calf with some glorious spinning breaches, Dross with some upside-down tail lobbing and tail breaches, and the other two with double flipper slapping! Everywhere we looked, some part of a whale was in the air, truly a magnificent finale to our beautiful day at sea. Reluctantly, we began to make our way back to Boston, continuing to watch these whales off our stern until they were out of our sight.

Flukes up!

-Ashlyn and Madeline

Center for Coastal Studies Logo
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.