On August 8th we sailed out beyond Stellwagen Bank with bright skies, light wind and calm seas. The first whale spotted by the Portuguese Princess was a finback at Race Point, however, the Princess carried on to the Triangle to find a number of humpback whales. Within a few minutes of arriving at the Triangle the Princess encountered a pair of juvenile male humpbacks that became curious of the boat for 20 minutes. As the pair remained in close proximity to the boat, one humpback began flipper slapping. Meanwhile, there was another humpback whale breaching not too far away. Once the humpbacks lost their curiosity, the Princess observed three logging humpbacks, one of which was Terrace. In the early afternoon, the Dolphin VI observed several feeding humpback whales. Venom, Hancock and Rune were all open mouth feeding. Several of the humpbacks used kick feeds and bubble clouds to catch their prey. In the late afternoon the Princess observed 20 humpback whales including Canopy, Lupine and Pivot. Several of the humpback whales became curious of the boat, while others will breaching and going on fluking dives.
Close Boat Approach
We sailed out to Highland Light on August 9th with ideal whale watching conditions—bright skies, light wind and calm seas. In the morning the Dolphin VI observed 16 humpback whales and 4 finback whales. Many of the encountered whales appeared to be sub-surface feeding as they were traveling randomly and going on fluking dives. Canopy, Freefall and Infinity were displaying active behaviors including chin breaching and flipper slapping. In the afternoon the Dolphin VI observed 12-14 humpback whales including Basalt, Bolide & calf, Canopy, Eruption, Freefall, Lupine, Milkweed, Pele, Percussion, Ravine, Rune, and Whisk. To our surprise the whales continued displaying active behaviors including flipper slapping, tail breaching and spiral breaching.
August 10th was another great day for whale watching, with bright skies, light wind and calm seas. While sailing towards the Triangle, the Portuguese Princess observed 15 humpback whales and 1 finback whale, including Canopy, Bolide & calf, Eruption, Freefall, Lupine, Milkweed, Pele, Percussion, Ravine, Soot and Whiskers. Several of the humpbacks were traveling randomly, perhaps in search of food, while others were displaying active behaviors including breaching and flipper slapping. A few hours later the Dolphin VI encountered many of the same humpbacks who appeared to be bottom feeding as they were going on high fluking dives and were surfacing randomly. Perhaps the highlight of the day was when Compass’s 2008 calf (not yet named) became curious of the Portuguese Princess. For almost 20 minutes the whales swam around the boat, popping up on either side.
We had optimal whale watching conditions on August 11th with bright skies, no wind and glassy-calm seas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our sightings were excellent as well with over 18 humpbacks, 2 finbacks and 2 minke whales. In the morning the Dolphin VI observed Bolide & calf, Canopy, Eruption, Freefall, Lupine, Milkweed and Percussion who appeared to be traveling randomly, perhaps in search of food. The VI also observed 1 logging humpback and 3 active humpbacks that were flipper slapping. Shortly after, the Portuguese Princess found a curious humpback that gave a close boat approach and later observed many of the same humpbacks that were sub-surface feeding. In the afternoon, the Dolphin VI watched as Ivory and Freefall repetitively tail breached. Meanwhile, the Portuguese Princess had traveled further north of the Triangle and observed several feeding humpbacks, finbacks and minkes. Eruption, Geometry, Percussion, Terrace and Walrus were all surface feeding with kick feeds, bubble nets and bubble clouds. In some instances the prey must have been so thickly concentrated towards the surface because Eruption would sporadically lunge feed. While watching the whales feast on sand lance, it became apparent that short-term associations were occurring, whereby whales would pair up to make bubble nets. The cooperative feeding, however, was very dynamic. Once the whales had worked one area they would quickly disband and charge ahead to a new location were feeding would soon commence. The sporadic nature of the associations reinforced researchers belief that humpbacks prefer solitude and thus only show occasional interest in social activities–mainly for feeding purposes. The day ended with the Dolphin VI observing several active behaviors, including flipper slapping from Division and Geometry and breaching from an unknown whale.
On July 12th we sailed out to familiar grounds, just east of Stellwagen Bank and north of Peaked Hill (the Triangle). The conditions were fair with gray skies, moderate wind and seas. The sightings were great with over 12 humpbacks, 1 finback and 1 minke whale. In the morning the whales were traveling randomly and going on fluking dives. As the whales dove into the water and lifted their tails into the air we were able to see their unique pigmentation pattern that spanned a near 15 feet across. We identified several of these fluking humpbacks, including Bolide & calf, Eruption, Lupine, Pele and Whisk. As the morning progressed, several humpback became curious of both the Portuguese Princess and the Dolphin VI. In the afternoon the Portuguese Princess observed several different humpbacks including Echo, Tectonic, Terrace and Trident. Like the previous group, these whales were traveling randomly and were going on long-fluking dives.Although bird sightings were limited, a Manx Shearwater was seen skimming the surface of the water. Manx Shearwaters are medium-sized black and white birds that are found on Stellwagen Bank in the summer time for feeding purposes. While on the bank, the birds feed on small fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and surface offal. They often are seen foraging individually or in small flocks and exploit schools of fish that are brought up to the surface by marine mammals (such as humpback whales). Toward the end of the trip the Princess observed several active behaviors including, spinning breaches, chin breaches and close boat approaches. The acrobatics continued into the late afternoon as Bolide & calf, Condensation, Eruption and Northstar took turns flipper slapping, and breaching!
We sailed out to the Southwest Corner of Stellwagen Bank on August 13th with gray skies, moderate wind and seas. We observed 15 humpbacks, 2 finbacks and 1 minke whale. Several of the observed humpbacks were well-known individuals allowing us to identify the following: Banyon, Pipette, Pivot, Pixar, Music, Nile & calf, Northstar and Tongs. In the morning Pivot became curious of the Portuguese Princess as s/he swam around the boat for nearly a half hour. In the early afternoon, the Dolphin VI observed several active humpbacks that were flipper slapping and breaching. The flipper slapping whale was an unknown humpback (09330), which means that this may be the first time it has ever come to Stellwagen Bank. This year it appears as though we have had a large number of unknown humpbacks, mostly young whales. It will be interesting to see if they return next year, hopefully allowing researchers to collect additional data—genetics, gender, age, etc. Later that afternoon, the Princess observed Pixar surface feeding. Pixar was employing standard surface feeding strategies as s/he was kick feeding and making bubble clouds. The highlight of the day, however, was later that afternoon when Pivot and Northstar displayed several active behaviors including flipper slapping and tail breaching.
Nile and Calf
We left Provincetown Harbor on August 14th with optimal conditions—bright skies, light wind and calm seas. Our sightings included 13 humpbacks, 2 finbacks and 2 minke whales. Several of the observed humpbacks were also seen the day before, including: Music, Northsthar, Pivot, Pixar, Tongs. New sightings included: Anvile, Backgammon, Canopy, Division & calf, Echo, Eruption, Lillium, Lupine, Milkweed, Pele, Spirit, Tectonic and Zap. In the morning the Dolphin VI observed 6 different humpback whales that were all going on fluking dives and traveling randomly. These combined behaviors may suggest that the whales were searching for prey. Interestingly, two of the previously observed humpbacks (Tongs and Music) were seen surface feeding by the Portuguese Princess. The whales were making bubble clouds and then surfacing through the clouds with open mouths. The princess also received a close boat approach by Zap towards the end of the trip. In the afternoon the Dolphin VI and Portuguese Princess observed a myriad of behaviors including active and feeding behaviors from multiple humpbacks. The active behaviors included full-spinning breaches, flipper slapping and close boat approaches and the feeding behaviors mostly consisted of bubble clouds, bubble nets and kick feeds.
Surface Feeding Near Dolphin VIII