Naturalist’s Notebook: September 05 to September 11
Wed 17 Sep 2014 - Filed under: Uncategorized — admin
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* The fifth of September began with bright skies and southwest winds that grew as the day went on. It took a while to get to the whale sightings today, but when the boats got there, there were four mother and calf pairs and over 20 humpback whales in the immediate area. The adults were feeding through bubble nets and bubble clouds, making it a bad day to be a sand eel.
* Finback whales and minke whales were also seen today. One of the vessels reported seeing a minke breacing in the distance. Another of the boats was much closer, reporting beautiful views of the incident.

* The next day, September 06, the southwest winds continued to grow. The seas, of course, followed suit, creating white caps and a bit of a chop. What was reported to be a big minke whale was observed making a linear track at a speed of nearly thirteen knots. Minkes using the nearby waters are thought to be juveniles mostly, being twenty to twenty-five feet. Adult minkes can be nearly thrity or thirty-five feet. Epsom, Salt’s calf, spent some time resting near the surface while its mother and Pele spent a deal of time deep beneath the surface, likely feeding.

* Epsom, Salt’s calf of this year, spent a great deal of September 07 being very curious about the whalewatch vessels. When mom is feeding beneath the surface and the calf has nothing better to do, it has time to check out the new things in its world. Like whalewatch boats. Numerous trips today report that this animal had time to check the boat out. Of course, this is the most exciting way for whalewatchers to get acquainted with a humpback whale. The animal spends time moving back and forth beneath the boat, surfacing on either side and allowing close and detailled looks at the anatomy of a whale.

* Another Kemp’s Ridleys Sea Turtle was seen on September 08. This one was swimming out near the whales and approached very near the Dolphin X for a few minutes. For naturalist, Dennis Minsky, this was a first sighting. Myself, I remain jealous, as I have yet to encounter one of these turtles.
* There was a strong wind from the northeast that put a big chop on the seas. These did not prevent the sighting of a half a dozen humpback whales and a finback whale. Perseid was seen with her calf and so was Echo with hers.

* The wind came around to the southeast and the swell rose to 3 or 4 feet for September 09. Today, however, two to three dozen humpback whales were found feeding among hundreds of shearwaters. Single humpback whales, as well as pairs and triplets, were seen blowing bubble clouds, kick feeding, blowing intricate nets of bubbles, lunging through the surface, and dragging. An exciting day to be a whalewatch naturalist! And a spyhop from Perseid’s calf made the day complete.
PEOP_9-9_RSEID 14 CALF SPYHIMG_6414

* Even though September 10 was windy and bumpy, it was a day for feeding humpback whales. A large group of ten or maybe even twenty were found kickfeeding and lunging near the surface. It was a more-than-memorable event for all of the passengers that were lucky enough to experience it.
* And, as fantastic as the whales were today, what stands out most in the reports is the sighting of a leatherback turtle that was entangled in fishing gear.
ENTANGLED LEATHERBACK_ 9-10_IMG_2400 (2)
* Fortunately, the RV Ibis was already on the water when this turtle was reported to it. Hopefully, they were able to release the animal from the lobster gear it had gotten itself entangled in.

* Humpback whales were the story of the day on September 11. Mother and calf pairs were observed breaching and rolling and flipper-slapping. Adult humpbacks were seen feeding on large schools of small fish just beneath the surface. Between one and two dozen of the animals were seen on today’s adventures. At one point, one of the calves was seen blowing bubbles beneath the surface in much the same way as an adult would when it was feeding.

 


Naturalist’s Notebook: August 29 to September 04
Wed 17 Sep 2014 - Filed under: Uncategorized — admin
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* August 29 was a bit bouncy. In the bay, things were calm, but at sea, the sea swelled to rather large rolling swells that made the trips rather more fun for the hearty. During this kind of adventure, Ventisca and her calf of this year spent time getting close looks at a number of the whalewatch boats, to the great dellight of both crew and passengers. This calf would have been born over the past winter in the warmer waters of the Carribean and, even by now, would have gained considerable weight. A ton to a ton and a half at birth, it has been gaining weight at a rate of nearly a hundred pounds a day, feeding on whale milk. At eight to ten times the fat content of whole milk, whale milk is extremely nourishing, allowing a humpback calf to grow quite quickly. It helps, of course, that the calf is drinking fifty to seventy-five gallons of this milk each day. Think about that for just a moment. How long does a gallon of milk last in your refridgerator? I buy it by the quart. Fifty gallons is a lot. It is three and a half tanks of gas for most vehicles. That’s a lot of milk. It really is no wonder that a humpback whale calf will double its size in the first year.

* The other thing to note about the events of August 29 is that, while most people in their small boats are respectful about the safety of the animals they are looking at, some of them are just well complete morons. Alas, the name of the vessel was not included in the report sent to me (and that is not meant to mean that the name of that vessel has not been sent to the authorities). In any event, this small craft completely disregarded the safety of the endangered species they were viewing. I would like to take just a moment to remind the boaters of the east coast that the whalewatching industry operates within guidelines based on both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Violation of these laws could result in the loss of your boat, a huge fine, and, if it is prosecuted right, jail time. I am not, in any way, saying that you should not feel free to go look at whales in your boat. If you do, I would only ask that you look into what the guidelines are and try your best to follow them. With small boats, it is not just about the safety of the whales, but also about damage to your craft. If you hit a whale, it is not just going to hurt the whale. Just something to keep in mind.

* Ventisca’s calf was also the big news of August 30. Several trips reported, not just close views of the calf, but views where the calf was curious about the vessel, spyhopping and rolling alongside the boat. One vessel even reported multiple breaches by this animal. Numerous types of breaches were seen. Tail breaches, where the flukes are thrown out of the water; chin breaches, where the the whale lifts and, then, slaps its chin on the water; and full breaches, where the animal launches its body out of the water completely. Examples of each follow.
TAIL BREACH SEAL
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* August 31 was mostly about feeding whales. Humpbacks, like Rune, were seen repeatedly blowing nets of bubbles and lunging through them, mouths open, to take in huge numbers of small fish. This is how they make their living, feeding on huge numbers of small fish. The highlight of the day was probably the breaching minke whale. Humpback whales are far more prone to breach, but when a minke breaches, it looks very much like a missile that is fired from a submarine and just runs out of fuel, falling back to the surface.
MINKE BREACH
MINKE BREACH

* The fog was thick on the morning of September 01. As it lifted, throughout the day, three species of baleen whale were spotted. Long-diving finback whales where waited on. Realistically, when whales are referred to as long-diving, it generally means they spend ten or more minutes beneath the surface. However, with whales like finbacks, dives of more than forty minutes have been recorded. And with sperm whales, dives of over 2 hours are not uncommon.

* As the day turned from fog to haze in the afternoon, Venom and her calf, and Nile and hers, became the highlights of the day. Close looks at both of these mother and calf pairs made the afternoon an incredibly pleasant and educational experience for the passengers of numerous Dolphin Fleet trips, allowing wonderful looks at the shape and size and proportions of humpback whale calves.

* It was foggy again on September 02, but, today, the fog lifted early, allowing views of several humpback whales, including 2 mother and calf pairs. While Ganesh appeared to be feeding deep beneath the surface, her calf was seen tail-breaching. Nile’s calf was also seen tail-breaching and, in the afternoon, her mother joined her for a splendid display of humpback grace and strength.

* September 03 was an absolutely beautiful day with light winds from the northwest and clear skies. Great looks at as many as four finback whales were enjoyed as they circle fed beneath the surface at Peaked Hill Bars. Salt and her 2014 calf, Epsom, were also spotted. As were nearly 2000 shearwaters of all four of the species common here at this time. In addition, there was the first influx of the autumn gannets. Minke whales were also seen in numbers.

* The sky of September 04 was clear, beautiful, and blue. Good looks were had at nearly a dozen minke whales, half a dozen finners, and almost a dozen humpback whales. The highlight of the day would have to have been the sighting of a Kemps Ridleys Sea Turtle. John, the naturalist reporting the presence of the turtle, has been on more than 7500 trips from Provincetown and this is the first time he has seen one of these very vell adapted reptiles. You can imagine his enthusiasm as he wrote his report. I, myself, have never seen one and am quite jealous.
SMALL KEMPS RIDLEY_IMG_2322

 


Naturalist’s Notebook: August 22 to August 28
Fri 12 Sep 2014 - Filed under: Uncategorized — admin
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* The finback whales continued surface feeding into the morning of August 22, lunging along the surface of the water with their huge, streamlined bodies sending water and small fish flying through the air. Their open mouths do slow them down a bit you would never have known that this morning. The feeding activity was fast and, with nearly a dozen whales participating, furious.
* And while the finners were eating, what were the humpback calves doing? Breaching. And some of the moms too. The passengers on the Dolphin VII saw Nile and her calf breaching together, repeatedly coming nearly all the way up out of the water. And those on the Dolphin IX watched as Mudskipper’s little one flipperslapped and tailbreached. Mudskipper, herself, joined in with a few minutes of lobtailling.
MUDSKIPPER CALF TB_8-26_IMG_5834 GANESH CALF FLIPPERING_7-10-14_IMG_6456

* And, if starting the day that way was not enough, the day ended with several humpback whales making use of bubble clouds or nets to corral fish into a tighter ball so they could lunge through it. And lunge they did, big open mouths breaking the surface and thrilling the passengers of many afternoon trips.

* August 23 was all about the finbacks. Nearly two dozen finners were spotted throughout the day. The fast movements of yesterday were, in many instances, replaced with slower travel that allowed the passengers of the Dolphin X, at least, a beautiful view of the shape and proportions of the body of one of these animals, as well as a look at the assymetric pigmentation that the species is known for. And in this instance, sadly, the long band of propellar scars that ran down its left side. When they are moving fast, finners are exciting because of their great speed, but when they are slower, they are truly impressive animals.
* In addition to the finback whales, there were also sightings of ocean sunfish
mola mola

* And even a harbor seal
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* August 24 was, again, a day filled with sightings. Numerous finback whales and minke whales were spotted. The highlight of the day, according to passengers and naturalists, alike, was the activity of the humpback calves. calf flippering_7-7_IMG_9475rapier calf lobtailglostick calf breach 5-7 14 IMG_3421

* It was a very high energy day for Mudskipper’s calf and for the calf of another whale that might have been Ebony. The calves were not the only humpback’s to indulge in these behaviors, though. Mogul was also seen breaching and flippering.

* With calves, the activities are as likely as not, play behavior. But for adults, they have far more important meanings. Both are thought to be a way the whales communicate with each other and ways that they groom themselves.

* The surface of the sea was calm, flat and almost silky, on August 25. Such conditions allow for some of the best viewing of slowly moving whales because their entire bodies can be seen beneath the surface, as can their movements. Such was indeed true of this day. These terrific looks were had at four species of whales; the humpback whales and minke whales and finback whales that have been seen commonly over the season, and also a small pod of common dolphins. A little more than a dozen were encountered inside Cape Cod Bay, travelling in a tight bunch that included several young ones. The young ones included both the calves that were born earlier this season and those born last year. It is fairly common for common dolphin calves to spend more than a year with their mothers.
Common dolphinscommon dolphins

* By all accounts, August 26 was a beautiful day. The sky was clear and bright. The sea was calm. Nearly every trip reported seeing a breaching humpback whale. Many trips reported seeing two. All of them reported seeing finback whales and more than half reported sightings of minkes, too. Just about half of the trips today reported findings of dolphins. Some trips reported the sightings of common dolphins while others reported finding atlantic white-sided dolphins.
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*And just a few humpback photos from today.

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* Breaching, Breaching, and more Breaching. Most of the whalewatch trips of August 27 report rough seas but they also report breaching humpback whales. Nile’s 2014 calf, Mudskipper and her 2014 calf, Pele, Eruption, and Jabiru were all seen launching themselves above the surface. And it wasn’t just the humpback whales. No, two of the trips reported seeing minke whales breaching, too.

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* It was another day of surface activity on August 28. Mudskipper and her calf spent much of the morning flippering and tail-breaching. Jabiru also spent time lob-tailling. Rapier was only seen to tail-breach once, but what a breach!! And Ventisca and her calf became curious about the Dolphin VIII. And the Dolphin IX, as well. Numerous minke whales and finbacks were seen, as well. And, in the late afternoon, Mudskipper’s calf was seen nursing.