Whale Watcher Sightings: May 5-15, 2013
Tuesday, May 21 2013 07:22 AM | Cape Cod, finback whales, humpback whales, North Atlantic right whale, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, whale watch, whale watchers, whale watching, whalewatchers
Our whale watches this couple of weeks week were punctuated by the abrupt, if timely, departure of many of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales from Cape Cod Bay. When food resources are diminished, these massive plankton eaters seek greener pastures offshore in places like the Great South Channel near George's Bank. Some have remained in the area and the 10 knot vessel speed restriction remained in effect until May 15, to ensure their safe passage. At this point, with the speed restriction lifted, you might say we are up and running!
|Humpback-Underline gives us our first full, spinning breach of the season!|
|The two to four foot tall dorsal of the finback whale second largest animal on earth|
|A group of humpback whales heading down for another feeding attempt|
|Atlantic white-sided dolphins delight passengers off the pulpit!|
With light winds and calm seas, we headed out across Cape Cod Bay, bound to the location we had whales the day prior. One of the ways we find whales is to go to the area they were last seen, often working together with other boats, all while following the whale watching guidelines and federal speed restriction in place through May 15 to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Just south of the spot where we had whales the day prior, we could see white water and spouts (the misty foggy area created when a whale exhales). We came upon a group of 7 humpback whales associated with each other traveling with a pod of Atlantic White Sided Dolphins. Several whales from the day prior were still together in this group, which included: Falcon, Perseid, Jabiru, Jupiter, Hazard, Aerospace, and Eruption.
|An associated group of unrelated humpback whales feeds together|
near Stellwagen Bank.
The group was circling in the same area, coming up all around the boat as we sat drifting. Crossing off our stern and under our bow, we could see the entire bodies below the surface of the calm water. The pod of dolphins would often ‘indicate’ when the whales were surfacing, as their behavior increased at the surface just as the larger whales came back up. Bright green patches would glow as the humpbacks long white flippers reflected through the algae and plankton in the water. A third of the body length, flippers are made of the same bones as our hand and arms, just in different proportions.
|On its back, a humpback whale displays its|
white pectoral flipper which look green under the water.
While we waited for this group to surface, we got a quick glimpse of another humpback passing through the area. Etch-a-sketch, the granddaughter of Salt, and easy to identify from her distinct dorsal and the divot left by a tag as part of a study conducted in the area by researchers the two years prior. Etch-a-sketch has been seen by researchers in the West Indies during the winter months/calving season, as has her famous grandmother Salt. She continued north without even raising her flukes out of the water.
As we drifted with 7 humpbacks and 40-50 dolphins circling around the boat, we could see another pair of humpbacks coming in to the area and even more spouts spread about the southern edge of the bank. As we watched the whales, you could see it is the start of the feeding season, as many look thin after a winter on the breeding and calving ground eating little to no food and relying solely on their fat reserves. Now is the time to build the reserves back up and this seemed to be what our group was doing, feeding deeper and in the exact same spot. We even got a few loud trumpet exhales, showing some excitement or perhaps agitation.
|An hungry humpback whale sets up for a sounding dive, note the flippers|
are perpendicular to the body; the big-winged New Englander!
Whale of the Day Profiles: Perseid, a mature female, was born in 1998 to Palette (born in 1989). She is the granddaughter of Compass (first cataloged in 1984). Perseid has all black flukes with just a dash of white on the left leading edge. Her fluke darkened dramatically after her calf year, causing her to be renamed after she was resighted in 1999. Fortunately, the error was caught and she reverted back to her original name. When Perseid had her first calf, it became the first fourth generation whale in the Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Catalog.
|Humpback whale- Perseid|
It was another amazing day of whale watching with the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises!
-Joanne M Jarzobski