Though cold, windy weather has cancelled some recent trips, Cape Cod whale watching has been red hot! We are currently offering whale watch adventures Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Check out our full schedule at: http://whales.net/calendar/full_calendar.html
. Here's what was going on out there on Saturday, April 20. Though we can only watch them in the distance, right whale sightings have been incredible. They may only be around for a bit more, before making their exodus. So here's what Joanne noted:
The rain stopped just in time for us to board our passengers for our 11 AM whale watch. We had only traveled a couple of miles into Cape Cod Bay when we had our first sighting of North Atlantic right whales, the most endangered large whale in the world. We could see the whale’s high black fluke being raised out of the water as the whale dove. We recorded the position and time to report in to the Sightings Advisory System
which would send an alert to mariners.
|A North Atlantic right whale fluking up|
near Sandy Neck
We continued through Cape Cod Bay and spotted several more right whales to our west. As we headed north, following the 10 knot speed restriction which is in place to protect right whales from vessel strikes, we noticed from a distance a right whale behaving slightly differently. Even from 2 miles away, we could see it was high skim feeding, holding its head out of the water as it skimmed the surface feeding on planktonic animals called copepods
. The whale was zigzagging through a patch of plankton, which was evident by a slick in the water. We noticed this particular whale had a scar near the tip of its rostrum, we used binoculars to confirm it was a scar and not an entangling line, as right whales second biggest threat is entanglements in fishing gear. Once confirmed, we continued north.
|High skimming right whale. Note white scar from previous|
entanglement with fishing gear.
Just past Race Point Lighthouse, we could see blows of a different form, those made by humpbacks. We had our first humpback sightings of the season. There were about a dozen spread out of a two mile radius. We stopped on a single and a pair. The pair included a mature male named Tunguska. Tunguska was born in 1997 to Leukos and has been seen every year since his birth. Tunguska has a nearly all white fluke with black lines along the leading edges and a large, pointed dorsal fin. He was named for the comet that exploded in the atmosphere above Siberia in 1908 above Tunguska. Although it did not make contact with the earth, it estimated 60 million trees were knocked down by the blast.
|Humpback whale: Tunguska|
Our first humpback of the season!
Traveling in association with Tunguska was a whale named Eruption. Both whales were traveling just below the surface, never raising their flukes. They moved very slow, taking periodic breaths. Occasionally, we could see their long white flippers glowing green through the plankton and algae rich waters. Humpback whales have just started returning to the high latitude, cold water feeding grounds after spending several months in the low latitude, warm water breeding and calving grounds.
|The dorsal fin shaped dorsal fin of|
humpback whale: Eruption. A regular off Cape Cod.
We returned to Cape Cod Bay, passing through the ‘rip’ at Race Point and saw a grey seal and found a few harbor porpoises milling about. The smallest of the toothed whales in our area, they travel in small pods or family units. Back in the bay, we saw a minke whale in the distance and as we came back south, we noticed more and more right whales high skim feeding. Something had changed and we could see heads and whales echelon (in line) feeding for quite a distant. We saw a line of 5, including two pairs, and then another group of 3-5. Just two miles outside of Barnstable Harbor, we still saw right whales high skim feeding in the distance.- Joanne Jarzobski
|Two right whales echelon feeding in the distance.|
Saturday's birds were awesome, as we had gone out a bit further toward the sanctuary, and included: common & red-throated loons, common eider, all three scoters, razorbill, common, and thick-billed murre, northern gannet, common goldeneye, oldsquaw, double-crested cormorants northern gannets, red-necked phalaropes (interestingly, foraging at the edge of the right whales' "funny water"!) Bonaparte's, ring-billed, laughing, herring, and greater black-backed gulls, and parasitic jaeger