Naturalist Notes 8-24-21 to 8-29-21

Whale splashing down after breaching surface.

Whale Watch Sightings 08/24/21 through 08/29/21

Please find the Naturalist Notes for the week of 08-24-21 to 08-29-21 from the onboard team of naturalists for our New England Whale Watching tour in partnership with the New England Aquarium. 

08-24-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

It was so nice to be back on the water after the storm. The tricky thing about being the first trip out after some rough weather is that you’re never quite sure where the whales are going to be and how long it will take to relocate them. This is typically the case any day, but it helps when you have observations and patterns from the day before to work off of. We decided to start near the northwest corner and work our way south which paid off with a brief sighting of a mola mola. It dove down out of sight so we continued until we reached this summer’s hot spot at midbank where we found this summer’s superstars, Dross and her calf. Dross was bounding around and coming up amidst big bubble clouds with an occasional peek at her rostrum. The calf stayed close by until it eventually became uninterested in following mom around and swam away from her. The little one spyhopped briefly and rolled over in the playful manner that calves tend to exhibit. We cruised back to Boston through the shipping lanes, allowing us to pass by the right whale acoustic buoys that are in place to detect right whales alert mariners of their presence in a continued effort to protect and conserve our oceans and the animals that call them home.

Laura L. and David

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the 11am Aurora trip, we headed out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank, happy to get back out on the water after the storm! On our way out, our captain Jeff spotted the flapping dorsal of a mola mola, so we got an up-close and personal look of this large fish! (check out its parasites and parasite scars!). We then made our way to the bank, to find our favorite mom and calf pair of the season, Dross and her 21 calf. Dross was bubble cloud feeding with a few occasional lunges, and Dross’ calf would seem to wonder off on its own during each dive. Every time mom came up to feed, her calf would rush right back to her. At the end of our trip he also began to nurse, and then stuck closer to mom’s side, perhaps tired of playing catch-up to mom all trip!

Cheers,

Laura H. and Madeline

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The afternoon trip headed towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank, curious as to what we would find after a few stormy days stuck on land. We were happy to encounter Dross and her calf still in the same area they have been for the majority of this summer. The calf was quite a distance from mom when we approached, but the two quickly reunited and kept travelling north together. We followed along for a bit, before getting distracted by a fin out of the water! A small blue shark slowly swam at the surface for several moments before diving down deeper. Once again, we continued on towards Dross and calf, however we were again distracted by another shark! This one swam quite close to our pulpits before diving out of sight. Eventually we did catch up to Dross and her calf who seemed to settle down in an area to feed. Dross emerged through several bubble clouds and at one point we could even see her pleats extended under water! We eventually made our way back towards land but not before spotting a minke, a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins, and a few more sharks! In total we ended up with 5 different blue shark sightings, making it an exciting multispecies day!

Bruna & Alexis

 

08-25-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 10am whale watch headed out on the Asteria towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank in search of wildlife. We spotted multiple blows, and first spent our time with the bubble cloud feeding Etch-a-Sketch. Two whales which had been nearby drew closer, and we were able to get some great views of Dyad and Dyad 21 Calf. This pair stayed very close to each other, and we saw multiple bubble clouds from mom. During one surface, Dyad and calf emerged right next to the boat on our port side, and passengers got amazing views of the size difference of this mom and calf pair. Multiple other individuals were also feeding in the area, and we were able to identify one as Scylla. In all of the excitement of humpbacks, we were also able to spot six blue sharks!! The water was so clear today and we were able to get great looks at the multitude of sharks swimming around our vessel.

Kate and Alexis

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

This morning the Sanctuary headed out towards the middle of Stellwagen bank in search of whales, and before we even made it to the bank, we were treated to some looks at two blue sharks! We continued on, and found ourselves on the bank, with multiple blows around the area. We started off with a single adult humpback, who turned out to be Scylla. She was busy bubble cloud feeding, but we decided to move on to find one of the most reliable humpbacks on Stellwagen, Dross! Before we made it to Dross, we found two more blue sharks on the way! Dross was busy bubble feeding as well, while her calf was off in the distance. Eventually, these two joined back together, before we got last looks and had to head home. On our way back, we noticed another two blue sharks! Overall, a very fun, and cartilaginous fish filled day!

Sydney and Bruna

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Wow, there are a lot of animals on Stellwagen Bank right now! We found ourselves just north of midbank today and spent most of our time with Dross and her calf. At first, Dross was moving around quite a bit and taking short dives but then her behavior changed and the calf rejoined after being a bit spaced out from mom. They swam along together in the direction of a number of other whales, most of them in pairs. While following Dross and her calf, we spotted a blue shark and a number of Wilson’s storm petrels, as well as a flipper slapping humpback in the distance. After a while it was time to return to Boston, but we paused to watch a nursery pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins with numerous calves shortly after spotting a few harbor porpoise. There were also several minke whales out and about in addition to gulls and shearwaters, and one passenger told me that they spotted another shark and a turtle. It was a gorgeous day to be offshore and I can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow.

Laura L. and Sulmaan

 

08-26-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today we beat the heat and headed off shore to Stellwagen Bank aboard the Asteria. We first stopped to explore the northwest corner, where we found a very elusive logging juvenile humpback. We observed it also stretching its flipper in the distance. With some calm seas we were also able to spot several diving gannets, harbor porpoises, and a distant blue shark. We then made our way to the middle of Stellwagen, where we found 6-8 scattered humpbacks. We spent the rest of our afternoon with Dross and calf. Mom was busy bubble cloud feeding, while her calf practiced some bubbles around our boat! On our way home we also spotted a few minke whales.

Sincerely,

Laura H. and Sulmaan

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today was a great day to be in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary with lots of wildlife to find and observe. Dross was bubble feeding on the outskirts of a cluster of boats big and small, so we watched her as she came up with mouthfuls of fish over and over. Her calf was missing from the picture, however, until she began swimming toward the other whales we could see in the area. One of the blows was noticeably smaller than the others and sure enough, it belonged to her calf and the two rejoined and swam side by side for the remainder of our time with them. A fin broke the surface as we watched a blue shark swim straight toward the boat, however we were quickly dismayed to learn that this beautiful fish had a serious entanglement around its neck (see photo). Here is yet another plea to opt for more sustainable and responsibly caught seafood- the issue of entanglement will never be solved completely until rope is removed from the oceans, however we can all do better with our purchases as consumers.

We had a few quick looks at Etch-A-Sketch, who wasn’t spending a whole lot of time at the surface, and then watched Dyad and her calf as they swam with Conflux. Passengers on the bow began pointing downward and another blue shark had been spotted swimming by, remaining subsurface. Several other whales dotted the horizon and plenty of birds were found until we headed back toward Boston, spotting yet another blue shark on the ride in! The Pride of Baltimore II bookended our trip with beautiful looks at this topsail schooner.

Laura L. and Colin

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Another day seeking relief from the sweltering heat on Stellwagen Bank. And what a day it was! Soon after arriving on the Bank we found ourselves in the company of Nile and Scylla! This pair was taking long dives, but surfaced like clockwork every 12 minutes. They would rest as if suspended at the surface for several minutes before diving back into the deep.

After several incredible looks at these beautiful cetaceans, we moved on toward a cluster of blows nearby. We spent some time between our first pair and the nearby blows, making sure to navigate carefully while in the whales were hidden below the surface. Before we knew it, Nile and Etch-A-Sketch made surprise appearances on our port side, followed by a quick appearance of Crystal! Moments later off our starboard beam! Shortly after, a fourth whale surfaced nearby and turning its rostrum directly at us! After a couple of breaths this mystery whale dove directly beneath us offering us spectacular final looks before sneaking back to Boston.

A beautiful day offshore with some mystical mysticetes!

Until next time!

Linnea & Heidi

 

08-27-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the 10am whale watch, the Asteria made its way out towards Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life. After a little searching, we found Dross and her 2021 calf! Dross was blowing bubble clouds and lunging up through them. The calf was intently watching its mother feeding the first few times, but then the calf proceeded to roll around and drift a little way from its mother. The pair proceeded to pop up next to the boat a few times too! After some beautiful fluking dives from Dross and her calf, we started back towards Boston. Before we left the bank, we got a brief look at a very large gray seal! After the seal dove, we made our way back to Boston. It was a really awesome day out on Stellwagen!

Colin and Kate

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Wow! What a day! The 11am trip headed towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank with perfectly calm seas. Our trip started with great looks at a large, scattered pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins. We were even able to see a few small calves circling around our pulpits! We made our way to the bank where we encountered our favorite mom/calf pair of the season, Dross and her 2021 calf. These two were travelling quickly when we approached but soon settled down to feed. Dross made perfect bubble spirals near our boat and even treated us to a few close approaches! The calf stuck close to mom at first but eventually this curious youngster began to wander away and we left these two to check out another spout in the area. We found Crystal taking a snooze just under the surface of the water, and we were enjoying great looks at this stationary whale when a second individual suddenly, and forcefully appeared! Crown made quite an appearance with multiple, powerful and loud chin breaches close to our boat! Surface active whales are always exciting to witness, but I have personally never seen such a powerful show of strength. The upper half of this animal would come straight out of the water before slamming down with a deafening noise. With all the commotion Crystal seemed to wake up and treated us to a lazy tail breach and a few flipper slaps before drifting away, perhaps to continue his nap elsewhere. Unfortunately, we were out of time and had to head back towards land, but not before encountering a minke whale mom and calf pair! Minkes can be elusive and often hard to get a good look at, but we enjoyed great looks at these two, even spotting the calf’s little baby minke mittens! Certainly a trip I won’t soon forget!

Bruna & Sulmaan

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

This afternoon the Sanctuary headed out towards the middle of Stellwagen bank in search of whales, and we were almost overwhelmed by the amount of life on the bank today! We started our trip with a pod of Atlantic White Sided dolphins, we estimated this first pod to be about 40-50 individuals! We quickly noticed that these were not the only dolphins around, with several other pods in the distance! We estimated that we likely saw over 200 Atlantic White Sided Dolphins within a 2 mile radius of us! We slowly crept around this sea of dolphins to find some larger cetaceans and found a pair of very sleepy humpbacks! This pair never even showed us their dorsal fins, let alone their flukes, however we were able to ID Crown by a large scar on her back, but her companions ID remains a mystery for now. We noticed a larger group of slightly less sleepy humpbacks and moved on to find a group of 5 individuals! This group consisted of Dyad and her 2021 Calf, Etch-A-Sketch, Glo, and Conflux! We watched as these whales travelled forcefully around the area, likely feeding on the plentiful fish below the waves. We were surprised by another whale, who surfaced and lobtailed just in front of our pulpits! This individual turned out to be Crystal. The next time the large group of humpbacks surfaced, one individual did a lazy roll, showing off their massive flippers! We were also treated to a few more looks at 2 separate blue sharks right next to our vessel in between looks at our large group, as well as multiple pods of playful dolphins in the distance. We got some bonus looks at this group of 5 off our stern, as we reluctantly made our way back to Boston.

Overall, an absolutely wonderful multi-species day out on Stellwagen!

Sydney and Anna

 

08-29-21

10:00am & 1:30 Whale Watch Sightings

We boarded the Sanctuary for the 10 a.m. whale watch and headed for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in search of whales. Upon reaching midbank, we came across Dross and her 2021 calf! Dross was busy blowing her usual bubble clouds, while the calf milled about at the surface, taking some time to come check us out! After a while, the calf began to swim toward other boats, at one point creating a large amount of space between himself and Dross! We hung out with Dross and continued to watch her feed, until eventually the calf rejoined, looking for some food of his own. The pair slowed down at the surface so he could nurse, and with one last fluking dive from the pair, we turned back toward Boston, spotting a blue shark in the process!

For the 1:30 p.m. trip, we once again headed toward the middle of Stellwagen Bank, but not before encountering a mola mola! This fish was swimming vertically in the water column, rather than basking as they are when we normally see them. We were able to watch it travel for quite a while before it finally dove just a bit too deep. Continuing on toward midbank, we ended up just a little further south from our morning trip. Here, we encountered a group of five humpback whales! We watched as Conflux, Dyad, Dyad 2021 calf, Etch-A-Sketch, and Samara all traveled slowly at the surface, and with little wave action we were able to have some amazing underwater views. They spent ample time at the surface, only taking about 3 minute dives, and moving at a leisurely pace. Soon after, Conflux gained a little bit of energy, rolling over and flipper slapping! It seemed as though the calf was attempting to learn, as soon it was also rolling and flipper slapping! Conflux even spyhopped a few times, with the calf mimicking these behaviors as well! Spyhopping is certainly one of my favorite behaviors to witness; it’s rare to see and suggest that just maybe, these whales are just as curious about us as we are about them. Another blue shark was spotted, leading to a fantastic multi species day! After an incredible approach from our group of five, in which they each slowly approached and swam under the vessel, we started to make our way back to Boston, having enjoyed another fantastic day on the water!

Flukes up!
Ashlyn and Heidi

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today we journeyed to the middle of Stellwagen Bank where we searched for our favorite cetaceans. After a bit of looking, we found a lovely foursome, comprising of Dyad, her calf, Etch a Sketch, and Conflux! Both Conflux and Dyad’s calf showed off their elegant long pectoral fins and slapped them happily against the water. The whales dove under the Aurora and then circled around our bow. It felt like they were herding us! After a lovely afternoon with some very curious critters, we joyously returned to Boston.

Another great day on the water!

Mira

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 2:30 whale watch headed out on the Asteria towards the midbank region of Stellwagen Bank in search of wildlife. We were ecstatic to see multiple humpbacks in the area – during our entire trip we counted at least 10 individuals! We first spent our time with a group of four – Dyad, Dyad 21 Calf, Conflux, and Etch-a-Sketch. This group of four gave us incredible looks as they fed and flipper-slapped around the boat. This group of four stayed very close together, and it was very cute to see the difference of size in flipper slaps between the calf and the adult Conflux.

As we watched this group of four, a short distance away we were also able to watch Samara kickfeed! Every time I have seen Samara this season, she has been kickfeeding – this whale has never failed to impress during her incredible powerful and forceful feeding!

Our attention was then grabbed an incredible double breach a mile away. We tentatively made our way over and were not disappointed as we got to see a series of tail breaches and even more flipper slapping! We watched the pair Crystal and Dashdot trade flipper slaps – and even got to hear some noisy trumpeting from Dashdot.

With all the surface activity it’s interesting to think about the potential communication between these difference groups!

Best,

Kate and Maddie

3:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Yesterday’s 3:30 trip was fantastic from start to finish, with plenty of whale sightings, a handful of birds, and a few of those blue sharks mixed in throughout! We started the afternoon with Dyad and her calf in a group with Etch-A-Sketch and Conflux who were joined by Samara as we turned the boat to take a better look at a nearby blue shark. We then watched the group of five for a bit before drifting to the south to visit Music, Pitcher, and Glo. Twice Music and Pitcher rolled to the side and began flipper slapping while Glo jung nearby and blew a small puff of bubbles and we wondered what the whales were thinking and might be saying to each other. Their alignment as a row of three was adjusted and then they drifted off for a nap, at which point we decided to round out our day with viewings of Dross and her calf along with several others milling about the area.

Laura L. and Mira
 
 
 
 

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.