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Naturalist Notebook – September 21 to September 27

*     The southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank was the place to be on September 21. Minke whales were everywhere.  It’s been an odd year with regards to minke whales.  Most of the time, because of their size, whalewatch boats just kind of blow by minke whales like they are fish.  This year, however, with the larger cetaceans being more spread out, minke whales have gotten more of a notice.  This naturalist has read of places where they accumulate in numbers around a food source, but this year had shown him that Stellwagen is not just that for humpback and finback whales but also for the minkes.  Nearly two dozen were observed feeding on baitfish deep beneath the surface today.  They came to the surface at nearly all of the clockpoints making it look like the Dolphin VIII was surrounded by minke whales.

*     On September 22, Mark  reported that there were “lots of minkes with good close looks all around the boat and ‘that’s all folks.'”  He, like others, has apparently forgotten that minke whales are only small in comparison to other baleen whales.   They are very large animals compared to more than sixty species of toothed whales and everything found on land.

*    In addition, as whalewatchers in Iceland and Norway have known for many years, minke whales breach and get curious just like humpback whales.  This season has been very interesting in that the passengers and crews alike have witnessed just how fantastic watching minke whales can be.

*     September 23 began a breezy day with twenty mile per hour winds from the north that raised a chop of six feet or so.  It is not so easy to find minke whales in seas with this kind of chop, but the crew of the Dolphin X were up to the challenge.   Three sightings of a minke whale were recorded, though this naturalist could not say for certain whether or not they were all the same individual or three different ones.

*     The wind and the seas calmed over the course of the morning and the sky opened up to a beautiful blue.  The Dolphin VIII reports that in addition to nearly a dozen minke whales, an ocean sunfish and a blue shark were spotted.  The passengers were treated to close looks at all of these animals.

*     The morning of September 24 began with a clear, crisp sky and a bit of bounce beneath the deck.  A humpback whale named Abrasion spent most of the day feeding to the east of the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank.  She had apparently found a large school of fish deep beneath the surface.   Bubble clouds followed her to the surface when she came to the top.  She is the 1997 calf of Liner and the mother of one.

*     A little more to the east, a number of minke whales were spotted darting around.  There were nearly a dozen of them viewed by the passengers of all three Dolphin Fleet vessels sailing today.

*     The minke whales had moved into the bay on September 25.  Seven minke whales were spotted between the Race and Wood End.  There were others around as well, ranging in size from one that was reported to be very large to several that were thought to be small enough to be yearlings.  The passengers of the Dolphin IX were again today treated to very close looks at some of these baleen whales.

*     Only one trip departed Provincetown harbor on September 26. The passengers aboard the Dolphin IX were again treated to very close looks at a number of minke whales.  Close enough looks that the rostrum-first surfacing style was easily identified and the epaulettes (or mittens) across the tops of their pectoral flippers were easily seen by the passengers, a fact that made it much easier for them to be able to anticipate the locations of their surfacings.

*     On September 27, out on the southwest corner of Stellwagen, there were good looks at minke whales right alongside the boat, displaying their falcate dorsal fins, their pointed snouts, their blowholes, and the white patches on their flippers.