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Naturalist Notebook – April 20 to April 26

The afternoon of April 20 was breezy, but the chop didn’t deter eager whale watchers as they lined the rails of the Dolphin IX during the steam through Cape Cod Bay, catching glimpses of harbor porpoises and skim feeding right whales.  Past Race Point, several humpback whales were sighted, raising their broad flukes as they dove.

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Among the individual humpbacks identified were Snare, A-Plus, and Eruption.  Snare, born to Anchor in 2007, was seen raising his or her flukes alongside an as-yet unidentified humpback whale before disappearing from view.  Many seabirds were spotted, including cormorants, eiders, scoters, razorbills, mergansers, loons, and herring and blackback gulls.  April 21 was chilly but calm, and many right whales were again spotted and viewed from a safe distance (Federal regulations prohibit approaches within 500 yards) as they fed in deep water near shore.

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A few humpbacks were spotted among the right whales, feeding nearby.  Nile, a 27-year-old female born to Mars in 1987, was seen along with Measles, a whale of unknown sex first seen in 2002.


The winds picked back up on April 22, but right whales were spotted in the distance among the waves.  Nile and Measles were again among four feeding humpbacks spotted, their mouths full of water and food as gulls and northern gannets dove into the water around them.


The winds were too strong for whale watching on April 23 and 24, but April 25 proved to be an exciting day, with an average of 30 right whales seen on each trip.  However, the most unusual sightings were of  a pair of sei whales, baleen whales that look much like fin or minke whales, but feed on zooplankton much as right whales do.  Sei whales are relatively rare visitors to Cape Cod Bay, where they were spotted during the afternoon trip, along with a small pod of common dolphins.


By the afternoon of April 26, the feeding frenzy in Cape Cod Bay had abated somewhat, and many of the right whales appeared to be moving north out of the Bay, one of which was seen breaching in the distance.

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A lone fin whale was spotted charging along at the water’s surface, perhaps in pursuit of deeper prey.