Naturalist Notes 8-16-21 through 08-21-21

Whale Watch Sightings 8-16-21 through 08-21-21

Please find the Naturalist Notes for the week of 8-16-21 to 8-21-21 from the onboard team of naturalists for our New England Whale Watching tour in partnership with the New England Aquarium. 

 

08-16-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

 

Today aboard the Sanctuary, the 10am whale watch headed out towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  We spotted a few blows in the distance, and we settled in on one humpback whale who turned out to be Mogul.  Mogul was taking short dives and spending a lot of time at the surface.  He even came up close to the boat a few times!  We also spotted another humpback whale not too far from Mogul who turned out to be Samara.  This two had an interesting interaction where Samara who seemed to be logging at first tried to join Mogul who was feeding.  Mogul came up with his flipper in the air, and Samara did a quick spy hop right after!  Both proceeded to trumpet blow and then go their separate ways.  It was really interesting watching these two whales interact!  We got some great looks at both of these whales, and after some beautiful fluking dives from both we unfortunately had to head back to Boston.  It was a really awesome day out on the water!

-Colin and Madeline

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

 

We boarded the Aurora for the 11 a.m. whale watch and headed to the southern end of Stellwagen Bank. With beautiful views of the coastline of Provincetown and absolutely beautiful sea conditions, we enjoyed some excellent whale activity on the southwest corner. Our day started off with a kick feeding humpback whale, Samara! Her preferred method involves two high kicks followed by a forceful lunge, and we watched in awe as she inched closer and closer to our vessel to feed! Quite a few other boaters were out enjoying her presence, and those that remained respectful of her space and movements were rewarded with close approaches themselves! A photo I’ve included shows a vessel that appears closer than it should be to Samara, and it’s important to note that these boaters were out of gear during their observation of her (and angles can be deceiving!) and she made the decision to approach the boat to feed. I think the looks of excitement of the folks onboard sum up their shock and awe! It certainly is exciting to enjoy, and we applaud the boaters that were respectful of her space, in spite of the few that were a little less careful. After another beautiful approach from her, we decided to check out another whale in the area, Mogul. He was taking three or so minute dives and blowing deep bubble clouds, maintaining a fairly linear path of travel. As we were making the decision to begin heading home though, almost right on cue, he popped up just underneath our pulpits! One close approach is special enough, but to have two whales approach us in one day is certainly extraordinary! As we moved out of the area, we spotted a few more blows just north of us, and even came across a pod of Atlantic White Sided dolphins on our way home! Another spectacular Monday spent on Stellwagen Bank!

Flukes up!

-Ashlyn, Allie, and Heidi

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 1:30 whale watched headed out on the Asteria towards the Southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales.

We started out with a duo of humpbacks, Warrior and Glo. While this pair started flipper slapping in the distance, once we got closer to this pair, they started to take longer fluking dives. We soon moved to Samara, who began to kick feed! Samara has been exhibiting this behavior over the last few days and it was amazing to watch again today – we even got to see some incredible surface lunges right next to our vessel.

We saw at least four other humpbacks in the immediate vicinity – including two whales breaching nearby!

We then moved a little farther southeast to reports of a deceased humpback. As we approached the deceased whale we saw a flurry of activity – from research vessels, hundreds of birds, and splashes around the carcass. The death of this whale had brought in a multitude of animals – including blue sharks and great whites. We were actively able to see these two shark species attacking and taking chunks out of this whale. With all the shark activity – we were able to witness a team led by Greg Skomal actively tag the great whites. It was an honor to watch such a renowned team in action – and we got to see the sharks at the surface during the tagging process.

While it is incredibly sad to see the passing of such a majestic humpback, it is important to note the incredible impact that the death of this one whale will have on the ecosystem. After birds and sharks take advantage, this animal will eventually fall the sea floor. Besides a variety of scavengers that will utilize this whale, a whale carcass can provide a critical food source and habitat for many unique species. In the deep sea in the middle of the ocean, the bottom of the ocean floor can be low in nutrients. A single whale carcass, or “whale fall” can provide the equivalent of 1000 years of natural nutrient fall. During studies of these whale falls, they have found over 100 specialist species. This means that there are over a hundred unique species that are found only on these whale falls and nowhere else in the world!

This was certainly a once in a lifetime experience and I would like to extend a huge gratitude to the tagging team for letting us observe! Seeing the death of one animal give life and sustenance to so many others is certainly a humbling and incredible experience.

-Kate and Sydney

 

08-17-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Good Afternoon!

What a beautiful day to visit Stellwagen bank! The Sanctuary headed out towards the middle of Stellwagen bank on calm seas in search of whales. We quickly noticed some splashing ahead of us and found a pair of humpbacks who turned out to be Dross and her 2021 Calf ! I haven’t seen these two in a while, so it was exciting to see that they were doing well, with no signs of their recent potential entanglement. Dross was busy blowing bubble clouds, while her calf was busy at the surface. Dross 21 Calf erupted into multiple tail breaches, lobtails, and rolls! In some of these lobtails, he would do what I would most closely call a whale somersault, rolling all the way onto his belly! He continued these behaviors for over 20 minutes! Meanwhile, Dross continued to bubble feed, and eventually the calf headed towards mom, and began to mirror her movements as she continued to feed. Dross and her calf treated us to multiple close approaches, and with seas as calm as they were today, we could even see Dross below the surface with her pleats expanded! We noticed some other blows in the area, and another pair of humpbacks slowly made their way towards us. We were waiting for Dross and her calf  to resurface, when suddenly a mysterious calf erupted into a breach, right off of the right pulpits, surprising everyone on board! This calf and its mom turned out to be Dyad and her 2021 Calf! These four humpbacks continued to feed and travel around us, we were lucky to get a few more close approaches from Dross and her calf, before we realized we had run out of time, and reluctantly started to make our way back to Boston.

Overall, a wonderful day on Stellwagen Bank!

-Sydney and Alexis

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Aurora made its way to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales. We quickly came across four spouts belonging to Dyad, Dross and their respective calves. Although this group quickly split up as we approached, they never moved very far from one another and kept crossing paths throughout our trip. Another individual, Diablo, also occasionally surfaced near these mom/calf pairs and it was a fantastic day to be surrounded by whales! The calves were the stars of the show, though, Dyad’s youngster was sometimes rolling and at one point even swimming on its back underwater! Dross and her calf made several close approaches, the latter in particular hung out with our boat for a while as mom was busy chasing fish. This calf was in an especially silly mood, sometimes rolling or sticking his rostrum out of the water. Dross would often surface in bubble clouds with water streaming from her baleen, and perhaps the calf was trying to imitate mom as we could see this young baby ‘chomping’ at the water. The calf kept opening and closing his mouth, sometimes even resembling a skimming right whale! After a few fantastic last looks at these animals we made our way back towards the city.

-Bruna & Maddie

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today we journeyed out on the Asteria to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in the hunt for whales! We scouted across the water in search of animals and soon came across Dross and her calf. The pair appeared to be logging and Dross gave us several lovely fluking dives. We left the snoozing whales to continue in our quest to the south. As we continued to look for humpbacks, we found a cute pair of harbor porpoises. We then saw a blow in the distance which turned out to belong to Freckles. While Freckles went down on a dive, we were joined by an adorable Mola mola. While we were watching the mola, Freckles breached! After that, she raised her pectorals into the air but didn’t slap them down. Unfortunately, we were due back in Boston so we left Freckles waving us goodbye.

It was yet another great day out on the waves and we cannot wait to return!

Cheers!

-Mira and Allie

 

8-18-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 10:00 am headed out on the Sanctuary towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank in search of marine wildlife. We quickly spotted multiple blows in the area and spent our time first with Dyad and Dyad 21 Calf. This calf is one of my favorites on the bank this season. Both mom and calf have white tails with two distinct black lines, and we were able to see this cute matching pair during their synchronous fluking dives. We then turned our attention to another mom and calf pair, Dross and Dross 21 Calf. Dross’s calf is looking huge, and it seemed to be closely following mom while she blew numerous bubble clouds. While we were watching this very surface-active pair, we were brought to the attention of not only a shark but a mola mola! As Dross was actively feeding and lunging right next to the boat, we got some amazing looks at the giant ocean sunfish as it slowly swam around the Sanctuary. We also got to see some cuteness from Dross’s calf – including some lazy rolling!

During all the excitement, suddenly Dyad and Calf came back into the area, and we had both mom and calf pairs surrounding the boat! At one point, Dross’s calf joined Dyad’s calf while Dross fed – and there seemed to be a bit of social behavior between the two calves – almost like a little whale playdate. Both mom’s continued to bubble feed, and we focused our attention back on Dross as she forcefully fed around the boat.

A single humpback which had been spotted in the area throughout the trip paid us a visit, and we were happy to identify another female – Diablo. She also was bubble cloud feeding – and it was spectacular to see five whales in such close proximity. No matter where you looked you got to see some awesome behavior from a humpback! As we were leaving, we saw also a small blue shark swim by our boat!!

What a lovely day on the water!

-Kate and Alexis

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Aurora ventured out towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank this morning, and quickly found many blows in front of us. We started our trip with a familiar pair of humpbacks, Dross and her 2021 calf! Dross was busy bubble cloud feeding, and her calf was following closely and mirroring her movements, often surfacing right behind her in her bubble clouds. This pair blew many bubble clouds right next to the boat, greeting passengers with plenty of close approaches throughout the trip! We saw another individual a little behind these two that was also bubble feeding, and this humpback turned out to be Diablo! After all of the activity, Dross’s calf seemed a little sleepy, and started to nap at the surface. We continued to watch Dross blow her bubble clouds and lunge, while her calf slowly drifted away while he slept. We noticed a new humpback had entered the area and watched as this whale also left behind large patches of bubbles. Suddenly, we noticed an additional calf that was charging through the area, heading straight for the new whale, likely rushing to rejoin its mother! This additional mom and calf pair turned out to be Dyad and her 2021 Calf! We got some last looks at both mom and calf pairs who had each reunited with each other as we headed home for Boston. Overall, a great day on the bank!

-Sydney and Sulmaan

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

We boarded the Asteria for the 1:30 p.m. whale watch and headed toward the middle of Stellwagen Bank. We were greeted by a kick feeding humpback whale, who turned out to be Etch-a-Sketch! Between kicks and surface lunges, we also noted at least two other whales in the area. After sometime in this area, we decided to move north in search of other wildlife, and were met with at least four more humpback whales! We settled on a trio consisting of Dyad, Dyad 21 Calf, and Diablo! The three whales were logging, allowing us awesome looks at all of them, the calf even taking part in some cute snaking motions. After the adults took beautiful fluking dives, we made our way home after another great afternoon on the water.

Flukes up!

-Ashlyn

 

8-19-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today we boarded the Sanctuary and headed out towards Stellwagen Bank. At the shipping channel, we were greeted by Freckles who immediately began tail breaching! This went on for several minutes. Freckles then went down on several feeding dives. We watched bubble clouds rise to the surface. Also rising to the surface was Etch-a-Sketch! We stayed with Etch for a while until Dyad and her calf joined us! Everyone seemed to have a marvelous time dining on little whale cuisine. At the end of a successful trip we happily returned to Boston!

Cheers!

-Mira

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Aurora, the 11am whale watch made its way out towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  We got in the area and spotted several blows.  We spent a little time with a humpback named Freckles, before we noticed some splashing in the distance.  This splashing came from none other than Dross 21 Calf who was tail breaching and lobtailing!  We watched this little one be active for several minutes, while mom was off feeding.  Dross was blowing bubble clouds and even lunged up through them a few times!  After some beautiful fluking dives from Dross and her 2021 calf, and a brief look at Dyad and her 2021 calf, we had to head back to Boston.  Even with the rain, it was a really great day out on Stellwagen Bank!

-Colin

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today we boarded a small group of soggy passengers onto the Asteria and made our way out to Stellwagen Bank. On sheer force of will we made it to Midbank and almost immediately spotted a couple of blows; no easy feat considering the number of white caps and fog from the storm. It took a few looks, but we were able to identify Dross and her calf as our cetacean companions, and what a show! Dross and her calf took turns breaching, tail lobbing, and flipper slapping and they did not stop! Dross surprised us by breaching 15 feet off the stern,  baby close behind! After nearly a 45 minute display of impressive athleticism, we reluctantly made our way back to Boston. But not before the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and illuminated our magnificent mysticetes.

Endlessly grateful for this awe-inspiring day with a spectacular group of passengers!

Until next time!

-Linnea

 

08-20-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Sanctuary headed out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales, and as the fog began to clear we quickly found ourselves in the presence of two adult humpbacks, Bounce and Wyoming! These whales were logging, and as we approached began to stir and wake up, trumpeting loudly. We got a couple quick looks at these two but decided to move on to let them continue their nap as they seemed a little unhappy with being woken up. We then found Dross 21 Calf, who was charging randomly throughout the area. This young humpback seemed to be looking for its mom, and a few short minutes later, managed to find her, and we watched as these two headed straight for one another. We watched Dross and her calf join together, and Dross proceeded to blow bubble nets and clouds, doing her usual slow lunges at the surface. Dross’s calf joined her on many of her bouts of feeding, but then seemed to be tired out from keeping up with mom, and instead began to explore a patch of seaweed,  before settling in for a nap. We continued to watch Dross as her calf napped and got some last looks at Dross before making our way home. On our way back, we happened upon a large pod of Atlantic White Sided Dolphins! These Dolphins gave some fantastic viewing opportunities for passengers, closely approaching the bow and circling around the area, and we also saw some calves with this pod. Overall, truly a wonderful surprise on the way home, and a great day on the bank.

-Sydney and Sulmaan

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 11am headed out on the Aurora towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank in search of wildlife. On our way out to the bank we were surprised by two separate blows from humpbacks! While the identity of these whales remains a mystery, it was cool to see two large whales before even reaching the bank.

We made our way a little farther and were excited to spot multiple blows in the area. We first spent our time with logging Dross 21 Calf. The water was so calm and clear today that we could see the entirety of this whale under the water! Dross then made her appearance, and we were able to see her forcefully charge towards the calf as the pair eventually reunited. Dross then went on an incredible feeding display. Blowing multiple bubble nets (distinct from bubble clouds) she surrounded our vessel with lunges and bubble nets. We then made our way over to the pair of Bounce and Warrior, who were also lazily swimming throughout the area. With whales on all sides, the two groups suddenly joined up! We got some absolutely amazing close looks when all four whales approached us and swam right in front of vessel (See photos, vessel not under power and whales actively approached boat).

This group of four displayed a variety of social behavior while Dross and Bounce bubble net fed! When the four were feeding close together, there was a lot of trumpeting exchanged between adults – it seemed like Wyoming may have been stealing food without his share of work! Dross’s calf seemed like it may have been doing some of feeding of its own, and we got some great looks at this calf emerging in the middle of the bubble nets with mom. With such clear water we got some great looks – like clear views of the scrapes on Bounce’s rostrum and barnacles covering Dross’ calf face.

On the way back, we were surprised when we found ourselves in the middle of giant pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins. This pod easily numbered over one hundred, and we were surrounded on all sides by these graceful acrobats!

What a fabulous day on the bank!

-Kate and Anna

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Asteria, the 130pm whale watch made its way out towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  As we approached the area, we noticed several scattered blows.  We first spent a little time with a humpback named Bounce, before we made our way over to three other humpbacks who turned out to be Etch-a-Sketch, Dross, and Dross 21 Calf!  Etch-a-Sketch was darting through the area, and she was blowing bubble clouds.  Dross was taking short dives and the calf was rolling around on the surface so we were able to get some really great looks at them as well.  The highlight of the trip was when Bounce popped up right next to our boat!  She gave us a few close approaches before doing a very beautiful fluking dive.  After a close approach by Etch-a-Sketch, and some final great looks at Dross and her calf, we had to head back to Boston.  On the way home we had two brief looks at some blue sharks!  It was a really great day out on Stellwagen Bank.

-Colin

 

8-21-21

 

9:00am Whale Watch Sightings

What a lovely day out on the water before the storm hits Boston tomorrow!

The 9am whale watch headed aboard the Sanctuary towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank. We spent our time with the ever-reliable Dross and Dross 21 Calf. These two were moving a little fast the surface, but we got some great looks at this mom and big baby in the very calm water. These whales slowed their linear travel as Dross began to a blow a bubble net around the Sanctuary! She blew bubbles in a perfect circle right around the boat – starting on the port, then around the bow, then along the starboard side. It seemed like yet again Dross was using the side of the boat to corral fish. We got to see Dross lunge at the surface – with fish flying (see photos)! It seemed like the calf had been blowing bubbles at the same time as mom. Right as Dross’s perfect circle appeared, the calf emerged in its own little bubble stream. It’s been very cute watching this calf grow up this summer and begin to learn feeding techniques of its own!

On the way to and from Stellwagen we were able to see a gray seal and a harbor seal and small pods of harbor porpoises Atlantic White-sided dolphins – a great show of the many species taking advantage of our productive waters!

-Kate and Sulmaan

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Asteria headed out for the 10am whale watch and headed for the mid-bank region of Stellwagen Bank. We were greeted by some blows out ahead and found ourselves among some humpback whales! It was Dross and her calf, with Dross doing some bubble net feeding while her calf rested at the surface. Dross was repeatedly blowing her bubble nets around the front of our boat, with the highlight of the trip being a close bubble net that Dross emerged through upside down, her throat pleats fully extended (see photo sequence). After this, her calf woke up and they continued along their way. We started to head further south, and after some brief looks at a minke whale, we found another mom and calf humpback. It was Dyad and her calf! They were travelling leisurely at the surface, showing us their beautiful tail fluke markings. While we were watching them, a passenger spotted a fin next to our boat. It was a blue shark! We got a few quick looks at the shark before it disappeared from sight, and we turned our attention back to the whales. We did not want to leave, but we had to head back to Boston, excited to see what the afternoon brought!

-David & Anna

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 several blows when we arrived to the area.  We spent most of the time with a humpback whale mom and calf pair consisting of Dross and her 2021 calf.  Dross was continuously blowing bubble rings, and she even lunged up through them several times!  She even did this right next to the boat a few times too!  The calf was spending a lot of time at the surface so were able to get some great looks at it too.  After some really great looks at this pair, we wandered over to another set of blows in the area.  This turned out to be Dyad and her 2021 calf.  Dyad was taking long dives, but the calf was spending a lot of time at the surface which allowed us to get some great looks at it!  After a pair of beautiful fluking dives from Dyad and her calf we had to head back to Boston.

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 1:30 whale watched headed out towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank and were quickly rewarded with multiple blows. We spent our time again with Dross and Dross 21 Calf. This calf was much more surface active in the afternoon, and we got to see some amazing activity from this “little whale” – including rolling, lobtails, flipper slaps, and a full breach! I kept describing Dross’s calf today as “silly,” as it was continuously doing a variety of some cute surface behavior.  All this activity brought a second mom and calf pair in, Dyad and Dyad 21 Calf. These two mom and calf pairs have been hanging around each other these last few days and it’s been interesting to watch this relationship change and evolve! Today it seemed like these moms were feeding very close together – leaving the calves to lazily float at the surface. Dross and Dyad were blowing multiple bubble clouds around the boat, and we got some great looks at the calves as they continuously surfaced right next to our vessel. We watched multiple trumpeting exchanges from Dross’s calf, and it was so cool seeing four whales in the area feed and surface.

We were also able to a single humpback bubble cloud feed in the distance as well as a continuously surfacing minke whale circle the area.

What a great day!

-Kate and Sulmaan

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 2:30 whale watch headed back out and we briefly encountered a mola mola before reuniting with Dross, Dyad and their calves! We were treated to all four of our whales all around our boat! Dross and Dyad were bubble feeding, with their respective calves in tow. There were even a few instances where the calves surfaced together while their mothers were on a dive. We then watched the calves play around at the surface, with Dross’s calf even rolling upside down, lifting its flippers out of the water! Their mothers were never all that far behind, surfacing through clouds of fish and bubbles. As the sun began to set and time began to wind down, we headed back towards home, even encountering a small pod of harbor porpoises on our way! It was such a beautiful day on the water, especially since it looks like we will be staying inside for the next couple of days.

Until Next Time and Stay Safe!

 

 

3:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 330pm whale watch headed out towards the same area in hopes of similar sightings.  We came into the area and found Dross and her 2021 calf still being awesome!  Dross was still blowing bubbles and lunging up through them.  The calf was watching intently, probably trying to learn how to feed like mom.  After some beautiful fluking dives from Dross and her calf we started heading back towards Boston.  On our way back, we spotted some splashing in the distance.  It turned out to be a fairly large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  We hung out with this pod for a little while getting some great looks at these playful dolphins before we had to head back to Boston.  It was a really great day out on Stellwagen!

-Colin

 

 

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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.
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Boston Harbor City Cruises proudly contributes its data to the GOM Humpback Whale Catalog curated by Center for Coastal Studies.