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Naturalist’s Notebook: May 9 to May 15

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* It was Tongs and her calf that were the highlight of the adventures on May 9. In the morning, it was the mother and calf that allowed the Dolphin IX some wonderful views. In the afternoon, they were joined by a third humpback that was not identified, but also allowed the vessel to get close to it. There were also looks at a group of three finback whales and a small pod of atlantic white-sided dolphins.



* There were nearly a dozen finback whales spotted on the afternoon of May 10, many of them in pairs that appeared to be more of a social nature than something generated by the presence of food. They shared the attention of the passengers with a pod of about a dozen common dolphins and Nile and her 2014 calf.

* Mother’s Day, May 11, was a day shared with numerous mother and calf pairs. Tongs, Nile, Echo, and Glostick were all seen feeding while their calves generally lulled about at the surface, occassionally lifting their flippers into the air and slapping the surface with them. A couple of the calves were also observed breaching, jumping clear of the water.

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* In addition to the humpback whales, there were also a number of feeding finback whales and atlantic white-sided dolphins rounded out the trips.

* May 12, began with fantastic views of three humpback whales feeding at the surface. Measles and Aswan were easily identifed by their flukes, but the third still remains a mystery. And, into the afternoon, the humpbacks continues to blow spirals of bubbles columns to condense the schooling fish into tighter balls. But, on this day, it was the finback whales that provided the excitement. In the early afternoon, the Dolphin IX was attracted from its course by huge splashes. When we got to the area where the disturbance had been, we found a pair of finback whales. They were moving in circles and lunging just beneath the surface, sending up immense splashes. At one point, the picked up speed and arched their backs, heading in different directions. The passengers and crew alike watched in anticitpation. And all of a sudden, there was this five foot wall of water heading toward the bow of our boat. It was a flat calm day and suddenly there was this five foot wave moving toward the bowsprit. Beneath the water, there were two finback whales lunging through a school of fish. I would love to be able to show you photographs of the event. Unfortunately, I was so stunned by what I saw that the camera just remained in my hand doing nothing until just the last second when I was able to snap off a quick, but very out of focus, shot of the very tip of a flipper and the very tip of a fluke as they broke briefly through the surface less than fifteen feet from the bowsprit of the boat. Very rarely in my professional career have I been so in awe by what I was seeing that I was unable to take a few photos. This was one of those times!

* Sea conditions kept the Dolphin IX a little closer to home on May 13. Down the backside of the Cape, stretching from Race Point to Peaked Hill Bars, there were a number of both finback whales and minke whales. Parasitic Jaegers were seen harassing Common Terns until they dropped their lunches. Even the laughing gulls were terrifying the terns into letting go of their fishes, one nearly dropping its sand eel on the bow of the Dolphin IX. Throughout the day, very nice looks were had at both of the species of baleen whales seen on the day’s adventures.


* More feeding finback whales on May14.


* Also, a vistit was had with Echo and her calf. The calf appeared to be keeping itself occupied while Echo spent her time kick feeding with spirals of columns of bubbles to corral the fish into tighter balls.


* May 15 was all about feeeding. The extra e is for eating. The morning started with both finback whales and minke whales lunging along the surface of the water. Fantastic looks were enjoyed of both species as they made their living on sand launce that was so thick that it turned the water of the bay brown. A large basking shark was also seen, swimming forward with its mouth open to collect copepods and other zooplankters out of the water with its gill-rakers. On the southern end of Stellwagen Bank, between fifteen and twenty humpback whales were also feeding on the small fish. These whales were moving about quite a bit and changing groupings at random. At one point, though, ELEVEN humpback whales emerged from one spiral of bubble columns with their mouths wide open.