Naturalist Notes 8-30-21 to 09-06-21

Whale Watch: Whale nose coming out of water

Whale Watch Sightings 08-30-21 through 09-06-21

Please find the Naturalist Notes for the week of 8-30-21 to 9-06-21 from the onboard team of naturalists for our New England Whale Watching tour in partnership with the New England Aquarium. 

08-30-21

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

We boarded the Sanctuary for the 10 a.m. whale watch and headed toward the middle of Stellwagen Bank, an area that hasn’t let us down in recent weeks! Here, we encountered Dome and her 2021 calf, who were as asleep as whales could possibly be, lounging at the surface in the waves. They spent ample time up at the surface, allowing us some wonderful looks at the pair. We were surprised to see a blue shark swimming at the surface just off our starboard side! It was certainly one of the largest blue sharks I’ve seen, and we noticed it had quite a few scars, possibly indicating it has lived a long, exciting life. We enjoyed last looks at our pair of humpbacks, before turning and heading back toward Boston.

Flukes up!

– Ashlyn, Sydney, and Madeline

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Asteria, the 11am whale watch headed out towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  As we came into the area, we spotted a few blows as well as some splashing.  These blows turned out to be a group of 4 humpback whales consisting of Dyad, Dyad 21 calf, Conflux, and Etch-a-Sketch!  They were also joined by a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphin!  The dolphins were porpoising and being very active.  Dyad’s calf really stole the show by continuously tail breaching, flipper slapping and lobtailing!  This group of 4 even swam close to the boat several times!  After some great looks at this group, we noticed some splashing off in the distance.  This splashing turned out to be Dross and her 2021 calf.  Dross 2021 Calf was breaching and chin breaching over and over again!  We got some great looks at mom and her playful calf.  After some beautiful fluking dives from mom and baby, and a brief look at the sleepy pair of Dashdot and Crystal, we had to make our way back to Boston.  It was a really fantastic day out on Stellwagen Bank!

– Colin and Kate

 

08-31-21

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

We headed out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary where we found two sleepy whales off on their own. Without flukes being lifted out of the water as per usual diving behavior, it can sometimes be tricky to identify individuals by dorsal fins but it is possible, especially when the shape is rather unique or there are other markings and sometimes can be clued in by a whale’s behavior! Samara is a pretty familiar whale to us, but Glo’s unique scarring on the left side of her mouth tipped me off to who she was- most humpback whales in our area have scarring from feeding along the ocean floor on the right side, but on a handful of the whales the scarring is located on the left.

After spending some time with them as well as three different blue sharks, we had an exciting discovery to make. We found Orbit, who hasn’t been added to our collaborative sightings list yet, but we also discovered that she has a calf with her this year! The majority of the mom-calf pair discoveries happen early in the season so it’s a fun bonus to see a “new” mom on the last day of August. We also watched Dross as she fed while her calf wiggled and twisted nearby. We were working toward making our way out of the area when the calf made its most direct approach (and I not-so-secretly hoped we would be held captive), but the little one turned back away and we were able to safely navigate away from the animals. Three more blue sharks, gannets, great shearwaters, Wilson’s storm petrels, and a single harbor porpoise rounded out the sightings and a fantastic month of whale watching.

– Laura L., Heidi, and Alexis

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Aurora headed out to the mid bank region of Stellwagen Bank on search of whales. After some good looks at a passing ocean sunfish, we spotted some blows! They belonged to four humpback whales. The first two were Dross and her calf. Dross was bubble cloud feeding, while her calf wriggled and snaked playfully at the surface. They were joined by another mom and calf pair, the mother being a female named Orbit. Today was the first day this mom and calf have been seen all season, so that made for a very exciting day on its own. We watched these two mom and calf pairs spending some time together before ultimately splitting up but lingering in the same area. As these whales split, we were also treated to a quick sight of a blue shark at the surface, making for a very diverse group of species today. While Orbit was spending a considerable amount of time beneath the surface, Dross dramatically altered her behavior. She began charging around, trumpeting loudly with her calf close to her side. This went on for about ten minutes, and it is hard to say what prompted such a quick behavioral change. After she settled again, we got to sit with her and her calf and get some great looks at them before we had to head for home. Truly a very memorable day on the water!

Until Next Time!

– David, Bruna & Madeline

 

09-01-21

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 10am headed out on the Sanctuary towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. On the way out, we passed by a harbor seal, a minke whale, a blue shark, and a small pod of harbor porpoises. We kept moving forward in search of bigger wildlife and were happy to find a group of five humpbacks!! We spent our afternoon with Dyad, Dyad 21 Calf, Etch-a-Sketch, Conflux, and Samara. This group of five stayed very close together and it was amazing to watch all these whales interact with each other so close to the boat. With such a large association, it seemed like at any point there was on individual at the surface.

With ample time, we were treated to amazing looks and were able to spot very unique behaviors from each humpback.

Conflux often came to the surface with their rostrum just peeking out – a behavior that this whale is well known for. We also got to see some very lazy flipper slaps! Samara refused to give us a good look at her fluke, but we got some great looks at the unique shaped dorsa. Etch-a-Sketch performed some very interesting fluking dives. She would raise her tail incredibly high – then wave the fluke in a lobtail like pattern – before slowing sinking below the surface. Dyad came to the surface with incredibly expressive exhales…but Dyad’s calf certainly stole the show! We were treated to some adorable rolling and flipper slaps – as well as a tail breach!

With amazing weather conditions this was certainly a spectacular whale watch!

– Kate, Sulmaan, and Laura

 

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 11am whale watch departed towards the southern end of Stellwagen Bank where we quickly encountered a mom and calf humpback whale pair. Dome and her calf were very lazily travelling, with the former resting mostly underwater. Dome’s calf, however, was clearly awake and entertaining itself at the surface. This youngster was very wiggly and vocal, making loud exhalations and even playing with the floating seaweed! We eventually moved on to another group of humpbacks which included Samara, Etch-a-sketch, Conflux, Dyad and her 2021 calf. This rather large group of whales was travelling at a brisk pace, heading right for another two humpbacks in the area. There was quite a bit of trumpeting at the surface when these animals came up, but our attention was mostly drawn to Dyad’s silly calf. This whale often came up with a splash, sometimes even belly up or sideways! We enjoyed watching a few flipper slaps, some lob tails and even a spy hop from this youngster before our time was ultimately up. A brief minke whale sighting and two sunfishes could be spotted throughout our trip, and it made for a really fun afternoon on the water!

– Bruna & Sydney

 

09-04-21

 

1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

This morning the Sanctuary headed out to the middle of Stellwagen bank in search of whales, and for one of the first times this season, did not see any signs of cetaceans! We moved on with our search, travelling south, and quickly found an abundance of marine life! We were surrounded by blows and started our trip with a single humpback who turned out to be Mogul! Mogul was taking short dives, and not spending much time at the surface between, but we still got some great looks at this whale. We saw some large splashes, and went over to investigate, when we found a tetrad of humpbacks. This group was comprised of Dyad and her 2021 Calf, Conflux, and Etch-a-Sketch! These 4 allowed passengers to get some fantastic looks, and also showed off a range of behaviors, from random bubbles beneath the waves, to a slow roll/flipper slap from conflux, and a lobtail from Dyad’s calf. Overall, a lovely morning on Stellwagen bank!

In the afternoon, we set our course for the Southwest corner of Stellwagen,  and were not disappointed as the area was still teeming with life, with multiple groups of humpbacks all around us. We started our trip with a familiar pair of humpbacks, Dross and her 2021 Calf! Dross 21 calf spent a lot of time at the surface, doing a weird almost stretch or snake like motion repeatedly at the surface. Dross surfaced in a few of her classic bubble clouds, allowing us to appreciate the abundance of fish that was likely just beneath us. With lots of recreational boats around we decided to move on to find our tetrad from the morning, consisting of Dyad and her Calf, Conflux and Etch-a-Sketch. At one point, a 5th whale joined the mix, who was likely Mogul. We got our last looks at this group, before we started to make our way home. Overall, another great day on the bank!

– Sydney

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The Asteria headed to the southwestern corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of wildlife. We observed many blows scattered in the area before finding spotting four humpback whales that were a little closer to us. We were then greeted by one of these four, an extremely inquisitive calf, who surfaced right next to us and gave us a look over! This turned out to be Dyad’s calf, just as curious to watch us as we were to watch them. Dyad herself wasn’t far away either, and she was joined by Conflux and Etch-A-Sketch! These fan favorites spent most of our trip close by, taking very short dives and even spy hopping to seemingly get a better look at us. The three adults and calf were cruising along the surface nice and slowly, possibly a little tired after the few days of rough weather we had.  Eventually the curious group of four ended up right under our pulpits, giving us some incredible final looks before we had to start making our way back towards home. As we departed the area, we passed a few other humpback whales, who were very spread out in the area, making for some fantastic bonus sightings on the way home. What an incredible day on the water!

Until Next Time!

– David

 

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

Today aboard the Aurora, the 11am whale watch made its way out towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  We spotted several blows once we got to the area.  We spent a little bit of time with Dross and her 2021 calf before heading over to a group of four humpbacks consisting of Dyad, her 2021 calf, Conflux, and Etch-a-Sketch.  These four were spending a lot of time at the surface so we were able to get some great looks at them!  After some beautiful fluking dives, we spotted some splashing in the distance.  This turned out to be Bounce and Glo the humpbacks.  Bounce was flipper slapping up a storm!  She flipper slapped almost nonstop for over 5 minutes!  Once she calmed down, we got some great looks at both before we had to head back to Boston.

The 330pm whale watch headed out towards the same area in hopes of similar luck to the first trip.  We were in luck, when we first got in the area we got some really fantastic looks at a Mola mola!  We got a brief look at Crown the humpback before spending some quality time with Dross, her 2021 calf, and Bounce.  Bounce was once again flipper slapping.  Bounce stopped her surface activity and went down on a longer dive, so we decided to go for a little ride.  We came across the group of Etch-a-Sketch, Dyad, her 2021 calf, and Conflux again!  This group was spending a lot of time at the surface, and this group even popped up next to our boat a few times! After some more beautiful fluking dives from this group, we got some final looks at Bounce and Dross 21 calf before heading back to Boston.  It was a really fantastic day out on Stellwagen Bank!

– Colin and Anna

 

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

The 2:30pm whale watch went towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank where we found a multitude of marine wildlife. We arrived to find multiple splashes from Dyad’s rambunctious calf, this youngster was lobtailing for several minutes before DyadEtch-a-Sketch and Conflux surfaced. Several other spouts dotted the area and at first these whales were all scattered, however they soon all started heading towards the same spot. We followed our group of 4 for a bit and before we knew it all the whales seemed to have converged around us! Dross and her calf surfaced with bubble clouds, Bounce dove under our pulpits, and Mogul was also spotted with bubble clouds of his own. Unfortunately, many boats also converged in this area, and we left this crowd to check out a splash a bit further away. We arrived to find Crown lobtailing in between bouts of flipper slapping! Crown was joined by Glo, and an unnamed whale referred to as GOM-1562. At some point all three of these whales were simultaneously flipper slapping! A mola mola and a blue shark were also spotted near this group, making for a really exciting multispecies day!

– Bruna & David

09-05-21

 

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

This morning’s 9:00 whale watch traveled out to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank where we found a few humpback whales milling around. We first spent a bit of time with Mogul who displayed his predictable behavior of coming up near a bubble cloud then swim in semi-circle until diving down for another bite. Nearby, Dyad and her calf were spotted swimming toward the north. We enjoyed some great looks at the pair and admired the size difference between the two.

For the 1:30, we headed farther to the north and travelled through the shipping lanes to the middle of the bank but yet again we found Dyad and her calf! They were moving quite rapidly and taking longer dives until their behavior switched up a bit and the calf became more active. After a bit of rolling around and a headstand, the calf began to nurse after the pair sidled up close to the side of our boat! We also spotted a minke whale in the distance after watching what appeared to be a mola mola breaching sideways clear out of the ocean. What an awesome day we’ve had!

– Laura L.

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today we boarded the Asteria and headed up to the Northwest Corner in search of whales! We quickly found Dross and her calf who appeared to be logging. We spent a lot of time with these surface happy whales. After over an hour of quality time with these cetaceans, it was time to head back to Boston. It is wonderful to see how big this calf is getting and to watch it start to figure out how to feed and forage on its own.

Cheers!

– Mira and Ashlyn

 

2:30 pm Whale Watch Sightings

We boarded the Asteria for the 2:30 p.m. whale watch and headed for the middle of Stellwagen Bank. Upon arriving, we were met with a pair of large Mola molas! These two fish were lazily moving at the surface, not too far away from each other. After some time with these fish, we headed toward a pair of blows, where we encountered Dyad and her 2021 calf! The calf spent more time at the surface than mom, emerging forcefully and moving its tailstock in such a way that suggested it might be practicing some feeding techniques. We even witnessed some lunges at the surface, it wasn’t obvious if this young one had any fish in its’ grasp, but a good sign that it’s learning! About three minke whales circled the area, and our pair of sunfish made their way back into the area, at the same time as a blue shark! As we turned back toward the west, we encountered a pod of Atlantic White Sided dolphins porpoising through the area. It was an incredible multi species day, and as the wind picked up ever so slightly, we began to make our way back to Boston.

Flukes up!

– Ashlyn and Mira

 

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

The 11:00 whale watch headed out on the Aurora towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in search of marine wildlife. We spotted two blows from two separate adult humpbacks and spent our time between Mogul and Etch-a-Sketch. Mogul was going on longer fluking dives, but Etch-a-Sketch certainly stole the show with a variety of feeding behaviors! During the beginning, Etch-a-Sketch was blowing large bubble clouds around the boat, but suddenly shifted towards kick feeding! It was cool to see a sudden change of behavior and a variety of feeding techniques.

The 3:30 whale watch headed towards the midbank region to try out a different part of the bank. We quickly found Dyad and Dyad 21 Calf, who were going on some adorable double fluking dives. It’s been really cute watching this calf the last few weeks and watch it learn how to be an adult humpback! During our time with Dyad and calf, we were treated to two minke whales, who spent a significant amount of time swimming around our vessel. Despite darkening clouds, we had amazing visibility and were also able to spot three blue sharks and two mola molas. One of the mola molas was massive – and gave us some great looks around our boat! What an awesome multi-species trip!

– Kate

09-06-21

 

10:00am Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Asteria, the 10am trip headed north to Jeffrey’s Ledge. The fall is always a great time to spot migrating birds, and even in the harbor we had nice sightings of 3 ospreys. On the way out we spotted two large pods of harbor porpoise against the backdrop of the Thacher’s Island light houses. As we arrived to Jeffrey’s, we spotted a group of blows that turned out to be four female humpbacks. Our first glimpse showed us the flukes of Valley, Tripod, Decimal, and Diablo. However after that first fluking dive, this group headily steadily to the south at a slow pace, with minimal diving (perhaps doing some slow resting travel). A great day on the water!

Cheers,

– Laura H. & Sulmaan

11:00am Whale Watch Sightings

The 11:00am whale watch headed out on the Aurora towards Stellwagen Bank in search of marine wildlife. After a bit of searching on glassy seas, we spotted multiple blows between two groups of two humpbacks. We spent the majority of our time with two unnamed whales – 16BH149and 15BH29 (Which we have nicknamed Chunk). I have seen Chunk multiple times this season all over the bank – and this whale has certainly become a naturalist favorite due to their unique dorsal scarring from an orca attack. These whales at first were taking very short dives and we got great looks at these whales on such flat seas.

Towards the end of our trip, our pair joined up with the other group and we were able identify the newcomers as Orbit and Orbit 21 Calf. I have not seen this calf yet this season – and it was cool to see a new calf so late in the season!

We were also able to spot four mola molas during our trip – one of which was up almost the entire time we were on Chunk and 16BH149!

– Kate

9:00am  &1:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

Today aboard the Sanctuary, the 9am whale watch made its way out towards the southern part of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales and other marine life.  On the way out we encountered at least 5 different Mola molas!  We got some great looks at a few before making it to Stellwagen.  Here we found two different humpback whales who turned out to be 15BH29, also known as “Chunk”, and GOM 1553.  These two were spending a lot of time at the surface so we got some great looks at them.  At one point, GOM 1553 raised its rostrum, which was covered in seaweed, out of the water!  After some great looks at these two individuals, we had to make our way back to Boston.

The 130pm whale watch went towards the southwest corner hoping for similar luck with the first trip.  When we got into the area, we saw several scattered blows.  We decided to head towards one which turned out to be Glo who ended up flipper slapping!  She continued to flipper slap for a few minutes which allowed for some great looks.  Glo ended up joining another whale which turned out to be Crown.  These two lovely ladies were doing a lot of traveling but we ended up seeing some beautiful fluking dives from both before heading back to Boston.  It was a really fantastic day out on Stellwagen Bank!

– Colin and Madeline

2:30pm Whale Watch Sightings

We boarded the Asteria for the 2:30 p.m. whale watch and headed for the southern end of Stellwagen Bank. On the southwest corner, we came across Crown and Glo, the latter engaging in some flipper slapping! After some time witnessing this behavior, we watched as they shifted into rest mode, beginning to log at the surface. Leaving them to recharge, we moved on and encountered 15BH29 and another whale taking short dives and foraging beneath the surface. We also encountered Orbit and her 2021 calf, moving slowly at the surface. Another single humpback sped through the area, and diving gannets could be seen in every direction! After some time with this wildlife bonanza, we headed back toward Boston. We always say the whale watch isn’t over until you’re at the dock, and that proved true today when we encountered a breaching mola mola! It repeated this behavior a handful of times, and satisfied with our multi species day, we continued west, soaking in another beautiful day on the water.

Flukes up!

– Ashlyn and Sulmaan