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Naturalist’s Notebook: October 17 – October 23

* What a day of feeding on the southwest corner!! October 17 was filled with fantastic views of bubble clouds being broken by the huge, open mouths of humpback whales and by some of those same humpbacks lifting their flukes above the surface to slam them down, corraling the schooling fish into a tighter ball. And the calves! Taking advantage of their brief spell of freedom, while the moms were feeding, took quite an interest in the Dolphin 10. And when the time came to return to the harbor, the Dolphin 10 was escorted part of the way by a pod of common dolphins.
bubble-clouds-sept_30_img_1400open-mouth-with-fish21-may-ganesh-kick-feed-cam1-21-img_9145Common dolphinsCommon dolphins
* Among the more than half dozen humpback whales seen on October 18 was a female named Buckshot. It’s always good to see whales that you have seen in the past and know a little about. But today was not just a visit with an old friend. See, today it was noticed that Buckshot has a new wound behind her blowholes.
buckshot wound _IMG_3802
* One of the possible causes of this wound is a boatstrike. Nearly forty percent of the whales in the study population show signs of being struck by vessels. It remains, along with entanglement in fishing gear, one of the leading human induced causes of mortality in the western atlantic. If you operate a vessel, please be careful.
* October 19 was windy and rough. The Dolphin Fleet, in consideration of the safety and comfort of its passengers decided to cancel the trips so that the passengers could reschedule for a more mild day.
* “An ecosystem in action.” That was the way naturalist, Dennis Minsky, described the trips of October 20. The air was cold and the seas were beginning to subside from yesterday’s winds. The humpback whales were, once more, making their living on the southern end of Stellwagen Bank, employing both the blowing of bubbles and the kicking of their flukes to scare and confuse the small fish closer together. One of these whales was a female named Palette.
* Adding to the spectacle of the feeding humpbacks were the hundreds of northern gannets. From the juveniles with their gray-brown plummage to the adults with their striking white and black coloration, these birds were also taking advantage of the vast food source.
Northern GannetGANNETNorthern Gannet
* Unfortunately, the rest of the week was windy and rough, forcing the Dolphin Fleet to cancel all trips on October 21, 22, and 23.