Naturalist Notes 8-02-21 to 08-08-21

Whale Watch: People taking photos of a whale

Whale Watch Sightings 08-02-21 through 08-08-21

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. 

8-02-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

What a beautiful day on the water! The 10am whale watch headed out on the Asteria in search of marine wildlife on Stellwagen Bank. We were first notified not of a whale, but of a leatherback turtle! We were able to see this large, dark body moving under the water right near our boat. This gigantic turtle then surfaced a few times around our vessel. Seeing a leatherback turtle is rare on the bank and is definitely a treat to watch. In my two years working aboard these whale watching boats, I have never seen a sea turtle, let alone a leatherback.

We then traveled towards two large humpbacks and found ourselves with Nile and Scylla, two large and famous humpbacks on the bank. These two females were traveling very close to each other, and we even got to see a bout of flipper slapping from Scylla!

We heard word of even more wildlife in the area and traveled to an area with more blows. We spent time with Freckles, who was taking very short dives. Freckles was busy feeding right on the edge of the bank, expelling a bubble cloud in almost every surface. She was feeding in over 250 feet of water – right next to the bank’s edge of around 80 feet. Freckles also took advantage of the boat to feed, likely using the edge of our vessel to corral fish. It was really cool to see such great examples of feeding – and we were rewarded by some amazing looks as she continuously surfaced right next to the boat.

At least two other humpback blows were spotted as well as two minke whales! With gorgeous sea conditions, we reluctantly turned back to Boston – what a lovely day!

– Kate

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Sanctuary set out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales today, and we were delighted by the gorgeous sea conditions! The water was bright green today, clearly full of phytoplankton, showing off to passengers just how productive these waters are. We quickly spotted a few blows spread out throughout mid-bank and started out our trip with a pair of humpbacks who turned out to be Nile and Scylla! These two well know adult females were blowing bubble clouds, and even lunged once with their pleats expanded, showing off that they were busy feeding below the waves. We moved on to another pair of blows, but on our way, we were surprised by another humpback, 15BH29, better known by their nickname, Chunk! Chunk quickly went down on a dive, and we moved on to the other two humpbacks who turned out to be Dross and her 2021 Calf. Dross was busy doing her usual bubble clouds with the calf in tow, but these two surprised us, turning towards our boat and greeting us with a close approach on the left side, before they slowly travelled under our pulpits and graced us with another close approach on the right side! They gave us one more close approach before we ran out of time, and we reluctantly started to make our way home to Boston.

What a wonderful day on the bank!

-Sydney and Madeline

 

8-03-21

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

We boarded the Aurora for the 1:30 p.m. whale watch and headed for the middle of Stellwagen Bank. We spotted a single blow just west of the bank, but as this whale immediately dove, we continued on. Eventually, we met up with another single humpback whale, Wizard! She was moving slowly at the surface, likely after a bout of subsurface feeding, which was proven when she defecated during her fluking dive! Not only is it a good sign that she’s filling her belly, but it signifies that the farmers of the sea are hard at work providing key nutrients to the water column. Shortly after, a pair of humpback whales surfaced slowly just ahead of us. We met up with Pitcher and Music, who were logging at the surface and allowing us some fantastic looks at their length. Their short dives and extended surface time turned out to be a treat, and with one last beautiful fluking dive from the pair, we said goodbye and made our way back west. It was another truly glorious day to be at sea!

Flukes up!

– Ashlyn

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

This morning’s 10:00 trip departed to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank atop glassy seas in search of wildlife and gee, were we successful! The first sighting of the day was of a small harbor seal, but the next was my favorite of the day honestly, as we had some phenomenal looks at a beautiful blue shark! It cruised around slowly, sometimes dipping out of sight, but reappeared three or four times. Something suddenly caught its attention and it made a sharp turn and zipped to the north (see photo) before slowing down once more allowing us to grab a final look.

The whales were pretty great, too, and we watched Nile and Freckles as they milled about in search of lunch. Another humpback, likely 15BH29 (Chunk) was taking significantly longer dives but afforded us a couple of quick glances. Eventually we started to head for Boston, but the wildlife viewing was nowhere near over. To the west of the bank we spotted another whale moving rapidly to the north which was identified by David as Ebony, and then shortly after we came upon Music and Pitcher logging but aiming in the same direction. Is there a shift coming in whale distribution in the coming days? Lastly we spotted another small shark and enjoyed scattered sightings of gannets, shearwaters, storm petrels, and phalaropes before entering the harbor. All of these various sightings away from the shallow water of the feeding ground illustrates the importance of protecting the larger habitat and I consider ourselves lucky to have the larger area of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts waters.

– Laura L. and David

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Sanctuary made its way towards Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary while passengers enjoyed the beautiful calm seas. We quickly found Freckles and Nile together on the Northwest Corner. These two humpbacks surfaced together once in the middle of a bubble cloud, before they quickly parted ways. We stuck by Nile, who surprised passengers with multiple close approaches to our vessel!  We could still see freckles close by who was continuing to bubble feed. We bounced back and forth between Nile and Freckles, when a small group of birds caught our attention. We made our way over and found two gray seals! These birds were likely trying to steal the seal’s lunch! One of these seals resurfaced and started to blow bubbles from its giant nostrils right alongside of the boat, which was a really fun behavior to witness from this funky looking seal. We got some last looks at Nile, before we unfortunately had to head home to Boston. Overall, a great day on Stellwagen Bank!

– Sydney and Allie

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The afternoon trip embarked towards the middle of Stellwagen with perfect sea conditions. The glassy seas allowed us to spot anything that broke the surface, and our first sighting of the day was of a quick moving harbor porpoise! Once we reached the sanctuary it was easy to spot Dross and her calf slowly travelling around. Small bubbles would occasionally pop up in a perfect spiral, often indicating where Dross was busy feeding. Her calf was sticking close to her side at first, but eventually drifted away. We hung out with the calf for a bit, he lazily swam next to our boat and even did a version of a whale stretch. We noticed Dross was almost a mile away and the calf eventually started making his way towards mom. The calf was perhaps taking too long to make his way back, though, as Dross erupted from the water in a huge spinning breach! The next time she surfaced the calf was very close to her side and we waved goodbye to this reunited pair before making our way back towards the city.

– Bruna & Alexis

 

8-04-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

We’ve been really fortunate lately with great sea conditions and even better wildlife spotting, and our luck continued today as we embarked on glassy seas towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank. Our sightings started with great looks at a small pod of harbor porpoises, one of which even breached out of the water! A mola mola was our next encounter, and this very large fish calmly swam alongside us for several moments before we moved on to even larger marine creatures. Once on the sanctuary we started with a pair of humpbacks that quickly split up as we approached them. Music went one way and we stayed with Nile for a bit, as she travelled in a predictable and linear path south. Eventually we moved on to check out a few of the other spouts in the area and found Dome and calf! This young, small calf was adorable as it stuck close to mom’s side and tried to keep up with her random travels. Several splashes nearby caught our attention, and we made our way over to our last sighting of the day. Shuffleboard was busy feeding, and the splashes we had noticed were of her kick-feeding! This feeding method is unique to our population of whales, and a behavior I haven’t seen in quite some time. Shuffleboard mixed up her feeding strategies, sometimes coming up with a lunge among bubble nets or slapping her tail down in effort to stun the fish underneath. Overall, it was a great day on the water with a multitude of wildlife around!

Unfortunately, we did not just see marine wildlife today, but also balloons shaped like marine animals! The crew collected 5 balloons from the water, including a lobster shaped balloon (see photo). Balloons are often released in celebration; however, these floating plastic inflatables eventually land in bodies of water where they could be mistakenly eaten by a real marine creature.

– Bruna & Sydney

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Aurora headed out on the 11am whale watch and found beautiful, glassy seas on Stellwagen Bank.

With such flat waters, we were able to spot an abundance of wildlife in the area! We first spent our time with Wizard 

and Music. Both whales were moving very slow, and we were able to get some great views of Music’s distinct dorsal while she logged right next to the boat. This slow-moving behavior was interrupted by a bout of rolling and lazy flipper slaps from Music.

We then traveled on and found ourselves with a few single adult humpbacks in the area. We were able to identify Shuffleboard and Freckles, who were both taking short fluking dives. Besides these large humpbacks, we were able to find two other cetacean species out on the bank. We were treated to a very small pod of 3-5 harbor porpoises and slightly larger pod of 10-15 Atlantic White Sided dolphins. 

A great day on the water!

– Kate, Maddie, and Alexis

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

It was a great day to be on the water and the sightings for the day definitely did not disappoint. We barely even touched the western edge of Stellwagen Bank and there were lots of whales to be found, starting with a small pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins who were keeping up a pattern of swimming in a tight circle. Not long after stopping to watch them, humpbacks Ebony and Pitcher emerged and we watched the two species intermingle throughout our time with them. We rounded out our time on Stellwagen with Freckles as she darted around before taking off in a straight path toward the northwest.

Another bonus sighting of the day was a great blue heron, which kept up pace with the boat as we neared Boston Harbor. Though not quite a stork, perhaps a bit of a sign that good news was on the way, and we send our congrats and good wishes to a friend and colleague on the water on the arrival of her nephew, a future ocean lover for sure!

– Laura L. and Sulmaan

 

8-06-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Asteria, the 10am whale watch made its way out towards Jeffreys Ledge in search of whales and other marine life.  We spotted a few blows in the distance.  We started on a pair of humpbacks who turned out to be Tripod and Pixar.  This pair was lazily traveling at the surface, but we got some beautiful fluking dives from them.  We then moved on to a single humpback whale who turned out to be Jawa,  This individual was cruising around, most likely feeding beneath the surface.  We got one great fluking dive from Jawa before we spotted another pair of blows in the distance.  This pair turned out to be Spoon and Chromosome, both of whom seemed to be logging at the surface.  After some brief looks at them, we had to make our way back to Boston.  It was a really awesome day out on Jeffreys Ledge!

– Colin and Sulmaan

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Good Afternoon!

What a beautiful day to be out on Stellwagen! The Aurora headed out on smooth seas to the Middle of Stellwagen Bank and quickly found Dross and her 2021 Calf. These two familiar humpbacks were taking short dives of only about 2-3 min, allowing passengers many opportunities to get some great looks at these two. Both of these whales treated us to multiple close approaches, and with calm seas we were able to see the entirety of both individuals, allowing us to fully appreciate the size of these massive mammals. Dross was busy feeding and demonstrated this with frequent bubble nets and bubble clouds, surfacing with her usual shallow lunge, with her pleats expanded below the surface. However, for one of these lunges she surfaced on her side, showing off these expanded pleats, and we even saw some fish jumping at the surface! While Dross was busy feeding, her calf was following closely, frequently surfacing very forcefully beside her amidst her bubbles. We saw a brief round of nursing, before Dross sped up away from the calf. The calf was trumpeting, maybe a sign of a mini temper tantrum over Dross not allowing him to nurse, maybe she is hoping to wean him soon!  We were starting to watch the clock, when these two gave us one final, fantastic look, Dross and her calf surfaced off our right pulpit, and the calf rolled over, giving a lazy flipper slap and showing off his pleats, before they both dove beneath the waves, and we unfortunately had to head back to Boston.

Overall, a wonderful day on the bank!

Sydney and Anna

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The afternoon trip arrived at the middle of Stellwagen Bank where we quickly encountered Mogul. This humpback whale was taking short dives and feeding with bubble clouds, and we enjoyed several great looks at this individual before moving on to another set of spouts in the area. Dross and calf were up to their predictable antics; the former often surfacing in bubble clouds and at times even doing a slow-motion sideways lunge at the surface! At first her calf was quite a distance away, but we were happy to see these two make a beeline for each other and reunite next to our boat. After that the calf stayed close to mom’s side, several times he attempted to dive under Dross’ tail, likely in an attempt to nurse. Interestingly, throughout our trip Mogul and Dross kept inching closer and closer together and by the end we had all three whales surrounding the boat! At one point Mogul surfaced where Dross had last been, and I was not the only one confused by this switch up as we saw the calf briefly surface with Mogul before making a dash back towards Dross’ side. We made our way back towards the city after spending a gorgeous afternoon out at sea!

– Bruna S.

 

8-07-21

9:00am & 1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

This morning the sanctuary headed out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank bright and early, and quickly found a familiar pair of humpbacks, Dross and her 2021 Calf! This morning, these whales were a little sleepy, resting close to the surface and taking lazy fluking dives. We got the opportunity to get some great looks at these two as the treated us to a couple close approaches as they slowly travelled around us. We moved on to find a third sleep humpback, who turned out to be Scylla! While she never fluked, her distinct dorsal allowed us to ID her, and she also gave passengers to get some fantastic looks as she linearly travelled in front of us. We found a few more blows in the area but ran out of time and had to head home.

The 1:30 pm trip headed back to the middle of the bank in the afternoon and showed up to an entirely different environment as the number of whales in the area had greatly increased, with blows in all directions! We started off with Nile, a fan favorite humpback who greeted us with some close approaches. We barely moved, but quickly found ourselves surrounded, with humpbacks on all sides and blows in any direction, near and far! We were also surrounded by sea birds, including Wilsons’s storm petrels and Gannets, who were diving into the water at all sides!  We were able to ID Scylla, Dyad and her 2021 calf, Dross and her 2021 calf, and Freckles who surprised us surfacing between our pulpits! We estimated between 14-16 humpbacks in the area! These whales were all busy feeding, with bubble clouds popping up all around us. We wrapped up our trip with Dross and calf, while two surface active humpbacks in the distance breached and lobtailed, a great end to the day.

– Sydney and Sulmaan

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Asteria, the 10am whale watch headed out towards Jeffrey’s Ledge in search of whales and other marine life.  We spotted several blows and some splashing in the distance.  The splashing was coming Quill the humpback who was being surface in the distance.  We got brief looks at this humpback before heading on to another single humpback who turned out to be Quote!  She gave some beautiful fluking dives before joining up with a pair consisting of Sword and Valley.  These whales spent a lot of time at the surface allowing us to get some great looks at them!  We got some great fluking dives from all three before we had to head back to Boston.  It was a really awesome morning out on the water!

– Colin and Bruna

 

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

It was a wonderful day for whale watching and we embarked on the m/v Asteria for the 2:30pm trip on route to the middle of Stellwagen Bank. We were happily surprised to find a multitude of whales scattered around! Everywhere we looked we could see spouts dotting the surface of the water. Our trip started with a splash when Dome tail breached several times in front of our boat! Her calf responded with a few smaller tail breaches of its own before both settled down and we made our way to a few other whales in the area. Dross and calf were briefly seen, and we spent some time with Pitcher and Music who created a few splashes of their own before going on a slightly longer dive. We spent some time with Nile and Scylla, an association we frequently see together, and these two ladies were travelling side by side but would occasionally trumpet at each other and we even witnessed some rolling and lobtailing from Nile. Freckles made a brief, but close approach at our boat before charging on by us. Lastly, we spent time with Mogul, who surprised us all by surfacing so close to our boat that the lower deck may have gotten a face full of whale breath. Several other whales, gannets and even large tuna could be spotted throughout our trip, all in the search of small schooling fish. It was a fantastic day with an overabundance of marine wildlife!

– Bruna & Colin

11:00am & 3:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 11am headed out aboard the Aurora towards Stellwagen Bank in search of wildlife. We spotted two blows before we even made it to the bank, and they ended up being two humpback whales. Upon closer inspection, we realized they were two fan favorite humpbacks, Nile and Wizard! These two were resting at the surface for a few minutes between dives, giving us some great opportunities to check them out. We pressed on further and made it to the bank. There, we found quite a few humpback whales in the area. As we got there, we found ourselves among some familiar faces (or flukes, I should say), in the company of Dross and her calf, as well as Scylla. We also got to see another mom and calf pair, a first for me this season, Dyad and her calf! We found ourselves with whales all around the boat, making for great sights no matter where you looked! These whales were feeding and taking short dives, with Dross and her calf making some close approaches a few times. It made for a great start to the day!

The 3:30pm whale watch headed into the same area and started the trip with some great looks at a passing fin whale before moving along to other whales in the area. We came across two other humpbacks, Music and Pitcher. These two hung out next to us for a few minutes, with Music even lifting her rostrum up a bit, appearing to check us out! Once these two settled into some deeper feeding, we made our way back towards other whales, and caught back up with Dross and her calf. We got to watch Dross surface through her bubble clouds, mouth full of fish. The calf even practiced his bubble blowing while we were there! As we were preparing to make our way home, the wind was picking up, and we saw a few breaches around us. We got to watch a few distant breaches from a whale named Shuffleboard, who treated us to some nice fluking dives as we passed. With time running low, we had to make our way home. It was a fantastic Saturday on the bank!

Until Next Time!

– David, Anna & Alexis

 

 

8-08-21

9:00am & 1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

08-08-21 9am and 130pm Whale Sightings

We boarded the Sanctuary for the 9 a.m. whale watch and headed for the middle of Stellwagen Bank, but before reaching the bank we came across a pod of harbor porpoises! This group of about 30 porpoises was circling the area, likely looking for food, and we caught a few calves in the mix! After some time with this group, we continued on our way, arriving at Midbank and stopping to look at Shuffleboard! She was taking brief dives but darting around the area, and once while waiting for her to reemerge, we caught a look at blue shark! We were able to glimpse it between the waves, watching it circle the area, picking up speed here and there! Soon enough, this shark returned to the depths, and so we continued on to grab looks at Freckles! She blew a few bubble clouds, and took a quick nap, and we spent our last few moments with her before we had to return to Boston, eager to return for our second trip.

For the 1:30 p.m. trip, we headed back to the middle Stellwagen Bank, happening upon Dross and her 2021 calf, who were traveling with Nile! They were moving slowly, likely resting at the surface. A few other boats were taking in looks at this trio, so we continued on to another group of whales, but not before happening upon another blue shark! We continued on, and eventually met up with Music and Pitcher! These two were napping at the surface, Music occasionally snaking and sticking her rostrum out of the surface. There were several trumpets from the pair, and after some time we moved onto another pair, Dyad and her 2021 calf! We watched Dyad blow some bubble clouds, while the calf tagged along, and rounded out our trip with a beautiful look at a double fluking dive. Another truly fantastic day on the water!

Flukes up!

– Ashlyn

 

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

The Asteria headed out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank and found scattered blows all over the place! We briefly saw a humpback whale named Ebony, who dove just in front of some interesting splashing. We made our way over to this disturbance and found a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins, with two humpback whales in the middle. It ended up being Dross and her calf, two favorites this year on the bank! We were delighted to see these two species together, travelling along the surface consistently. We noticed the whales were in the middle of the dolphin pod, and that the calf was behaving oddly at the surface. We realized that the calf had become entangled in monofilament fishing gear. We followed our responsible whale watch practices, spending time with the duo and dolphins until another boat could make its way over to take over watching them. The large whale disentanglement team was notified before our arrival and headed out to try and free the calf. We are very hopeful that they were successful and will continue to watch for these two whales in the coming days to check their condition! With time winding down, we headed for home.

The 2:30pm headed out to the same place, and we found some different humpback whales. We got to spend the trip with two other well-known individuals, Pitcher and Music. These two spent our time with them resting next to the boat. Music and Pitcher are one of the numerous repeat associations of individual humpbacks we have been observing so far this summer, so it is always nice to catch up with these two. As time was winding down, these two treated us to some beautiful fluking dives, possibly headed down to resume feeding. We tip-toed out of the area, with many other blows in the distance, a glimpse of a blue shark, and even an adorable little group of harbor porpoises on the way out! It was an incredible day on the bank!

Until Next Time!

– David & Allie

 

10:00am & 3:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

If there was an animal you were hoping to see on a whale watch, this morning’s trip was the one to be on! We first found a mola mola before continuing on to observe 6-7 humpbacks scattered around the area to the west of Stellwagen Bank. Nile and Scylla were traveling to the east while two other individuals moved in toward the southwest. A harbor seal and a blue shark added to the list of bonus sightings, and conversations with passengers indicated that there may have been either a sea turtle or another seal spotted.

We spent much of this trip with Dross and her calf, neither of whom ever fluked once even though they were doing a good bit of travel. This behavior alone is not concerning, but later on I heard of the calf potentially being entangled, and even a slight change in behavior can be an indication that something is not quite right. We did not observe any gear on the little whale but it was also difficult to maneuver the boat enough to get close looks around the smaller rec boats, so time will tell and hopefully the pair is observed tomorrow. The calf is also looking a bit beat up from previous injuries but has continued to grow and seemingly thrive throughout the adversity.

The afternoon found us slightly farther to the east and in the shallower waters of the bank, where we watched Mogul (who is also sporting fresh wounds from a recent entanglement event), Freckles, 15BH29/Chunk, and a couple of others milling about while foraging for fish. Mogul and Freckles seemed to be blowing bubble clouds on the same school of fish at the beginning of the trip, then separated for a bit before seeming to come back together about a half hour later. We spotted another seal and had a peek at a fin on our way home for the evening after a gorgeous afternoon.

– Laura L. 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.

 

Whale Sense Logo
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.