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Naturalist’s Notebook: May 30 to June 05

* Large numbers of feeding humpback whales thrilled the passengers on all three of the trips on May 30. On many occasions, intricate nets of bubbles were seen rising to the surface before groups of whales, sometimes as large as five, rose through the disturbed area of the water with their mouths open. Many time this took place within a boatlength of the vessels, allowing the passengers fantastic looks at the baleen hanging from the upper jaw. Several times, views were offered of the schooling fish inside the cup-shaped lower jaw.

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* But the calves of Echo and Tongs were not to be overlooked in favor of the feeding adults. Tongs’ calf spent some time stealing the attention of the students on the 9:30 trip by lobtailling repeatedly beside the boat, delighting all aboard. And it was Echo’s calf that executed a single, perfect breach while being viewed by the passengers of the Dolphin 8.


* One. One breaching humpback calf! Two. Two breaching humpback calves! Three. Three breaching humpback calves! That was the story of the afternoon trip of the Dolphin 8 on May 31. Tongs, Echo, and Tornado were the proud mothers of these active little whales. All of the activity brought the southern edge of Stellwagen to life with splashing that attracted huge numbers of gulls like they were coming to the site of a feeding group. There were also a number of adults around and some of them were feeding. But, today was definately about active calves.


* In addition to the humpback whales, the passengers were also able to view minke and finback whales. And a shark. A very big shark. A basking shark.


* Both the feeding of the adults and the breaching of the calves continued on June 01. Glostick and her 2014 calf were among the first of the humpbacks seen in the morning. Glostick spent much of the Dolphin 8’s visit emerging from bubble nets, while her calf spent that time flippering and breaching. The calf appears to be in good practice, launching head first and nearly completely out of the water as it spins nearly one-hundred-eighty degrees. Echo’s calf was also breaching today. Rounding out the roster of mother and calf pairs were Wizard and Milkweed and thier calves of this year.


* The best looks at feeding whales would have to be the views of Rocker and Grackle feeding together. Utilizing the chin-kicking technique that Echo is known for, one of them would give a little chin-breach and then slap his flukes on the surface of the water. By the time he did, the bubble net would already be on its way to the surface.

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* And then, it’s all over but the lunging.


* June 2 was a beautiful, warm day with a pleasant swell from the southeast. The feeding of the humpback whales continued throughout the day. At various points, six or seven would rise simultaneously through the spirals of bubble columns with their mouths still open. This activity attracted large numbers of gulls, which were spending the time darting and dipping into the surface, hoping to snatch away one or two of the schooling fish the whales were working so hard to corral.

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* Again, on June 3, more than a dozen feeding humpback whales were seen from the whalewatch boats of the Dolphin Fleet. They included some favorites of passengers and crewmembers alike. Can you identify these?




* By early afternoon, the smaller feeding groups had started to come together, forming groups of as many as six individuals. At one point, Geometry, Daffodil, Pepper, Osprey, Yoohoo, and Cajun were all coming up through huge bubble nets.


* June 4 began with fog. Escaping the fog and avoiding the wind as much as possible, the Dolphin 8 went to the east, toward Peaked Hill. Several lunging finbacks were spotted, though the lunges were fast and not particularly close. Then came the feeding humpback whales. Tongs and Dome were kick-feeding, while Tongs’ calf rolled around in the bubble nets. After a short while, Tongs and her calf were joined by Milkweed and her calf. Milkweed’s youngster kept rolling on its side and opening its mouth. The trip ended with Tornado, Yoohoo, Rocker, Daffodil, and Nile feeding through bubble nets and rising high above the surface with their huge mouths open.



* June 5 started as a gray, rainy day. That did not hinder the whales from making their living, however. Again, near Peaked Hill to the east, the feeding continued. Today, there were minke whales, finback whales, humpback whales, and striped bass crashing through the huge mats of sand eels. Echo’s calf spent the time it was waiting for its mother by rolling around through her bubble clouds and Nile’s calf spent some of its time displaying curiousity about the Dolphin 8. But, as afternoon continued on, the fog grew thicker.