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Naturalist’s Notebook: May 23 to May 29

* May 23 was an excellent day to visit the SouthWest Corner of Stellwagen Bank. Most of the afternoon was spent with two mother and calf pairs, Echo and calf and Tornado and calf. Passengers were dazzled by Echo’s calf repeatedly breaching. That was followed by wonderful looks at finwhales charging through the water, lunge feeding side-by-side.

* May 24 was marked again by the various feeding behaviors of humpback whales on Stellwagen Bank. Old favorites, like Echo, were seen utilizing their unique styles of kick feeding (in the case of Echo, slamming the chin on the surface before slapping the flukes). And they were joined by such young animals as Samara (the 2008 calf of Scylla) and Aswan (the 2000 calf of Nile). All told, as many as thirty humpback whales may have been using the SouthWest Corner of the Bank as a restaurant today.

* And humpbacks were not the only thing making their living today. A basking shark was seen off of Race Point with its mouth open.





* There is apparently a huge amount of food on the southern end of Stellwagen Bank. May 25 is evidence of that. Throughout the day, a dozen or more humpback whales were sighted taking advantage of the plenty. The color of the water and the brief shiny glimmers again suggest sand eels. And while their mothers were busy eating, the calves of the year had time to goof off. One calf gave the DOLPHIN VIII a brief inspection and a second spent a good half hour performing spinning head breaches and chin breaches. At one point, Echo’s calf of the season breached numerous times within a couple boatlenths of the DOLPHIN IX.

* May 26 was a day of insane feeding on the SouthWest Corner of Stellwagen with groups of 6 to 9 humpback whales utilizing a spiral of bubble columns to corral the sand eels into a tighter ball before lunging through the disturbances with their mouths open. Old friends and new were seen in the melee, including Aswan, Samara, Orbit, Tongs, Measles, Geometry, Springboard, Milkweed, and Pepper. And, as the day went on, more humpback whales showed up. Finwhales and minkes were also seen taking advantage of the food source today.

* The weather turned for May 27. It became rough and cold with fog in the morning. That weather did not deter or interfere with the mates today. Even the fog was not able to conceil the groups of eight more humpbacks that were feeding together on the southern edge of the bank. Nor could it hide the breaching of the younger whales. At one point, fivwe calves and an adult were breaching!!!!!

* That rougher weather continues through May 28. The strong winds and high seas kept even the fearless crews of the Dolphin Fleet ashore.

* It was a gorgeous day on May 29. As one naturalist put it, “The southern end of Stellwagen was jumping with feeding humpback whales.” Several mother and calf pairs were observed, the calves just kind of lolling about while their mothers fed amidst a swarm of other adults. At times, as many as four humpback whales were seen lunging to the surface through huge spirals of bubble columns.

* Just a note from the naturalist writing this blog. If you have been waiting for things to get to their best before coming on your whalewatch adventure, STOP. There really is no telling when the supply of sand eels will disperse or when another school will build to larger numbers. In my twenty years of whalewatching on the Dolphin Fleet, it has never looked as good as now. But from my twenty years whalewatching, I know that it can change at any moment. If you are going to have only one chance to come and see whales, come anytime. There are almost always whales around. But if you have been whalewatching before and you are looking for the big bang, now is the time.