Archive for the 'whale watches' Category

April 30th 2009
Kicking off 2009

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The good thing about whale watching in April is yay! whale watching season has started again! The tricky thing about whale watching in April is that it is early in the season and there is not as much happening out on Stellwagen Bank as would be later on. Still, thanks to the kindness of a friend, we went out on the New England Aquarium‘s Voyager III.

Being on a Monday with school still in session, the boat was refreshingly not crowded. It was also a little chilly out on the water, but we were mostly prepared for that. There were a few people on the boat in shorts and without jackets, so I think they mostly stayed in one of the cabins.

1ww09a17atSince there was still a very high density of right whales in Cape Cod Bay, the boat headed more to the north end of Stellwagen Bank in order to give the right whales some space. And again, since it was early in the season, there weren’t a lot of other whales around yet. Caught a passing look at a fin whale. Some minkes popped up around us as well. Our best look at a humpback was courtesy of Giraffe. She seemed to be doing some just below the surface feeding as we did get to see a bubble cloud. Got a couple of good looks at the flukes, too. There was another humpback whale in the distance but we didn’t close enough for a solid ID.

As usual, any whale watch where a whale is seen is a good day. But, I am also looking forward to more trips, hopefully, through the season as more humpbacks return to Stellwagen Bank.

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October 13th 2008
Closing out “my” season with #10

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It takes so little to twist my arm for yet one more whale watch… in the week following the last one, I got an email from a friend about wanting to go out sometime. After the trip on the 5th was so good, I couldn’t resist thinking about getting out again this season. That someone else wanted to go as well was all the impetus I needed!

2ww1008jgl8tSo, we met in Gloucester on a sunny and gorgeous day. We did not see an especially large number of whales, not the 15+ from the week before, but with different behaviors. We spent about 45 minutes watching Jabiru flipper slapping. According to the Whale Center naturalists on board, this was a protracted display; they don’t usually carry on for this long. Did make for some nice photography!

We eventually left Jabiru because some breaching could be seen off in the distance, and who doesn’t like to see that? As we got closer, the breaching fell off, but we found ourselves amongst Tornado and Owl and their calves. The moms were apparently doing some feeding while the calves swam around. Owl gave us some good views of the deep scarring on her body, left over from a bad entanglement. It’s testament to the both the resilience of these animals to recover and the dangers they face in their own waters because of human activity.


This was a terrific whale watch to have to end my own season. I didn’t out as much as I had hoped, but did better that I thought I might. In this summer of screamingly high fuel prices, a 2.5 hour drive each way on top of the increased whale watch cost due to fuel makes for a fairly expensive trip. Every single one was worth it, and I already cannot wait for the 2009 season to begin.

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August 21st 2008
Out again, #8

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I had promised my youngest nephew that I would take him whale watching before school started for the year. I didn’t plan to let the school year sneak up on me before we went! So, off we went. The good thing is the memories would be fresh in his mind for sharing with his friends. I am impressed with how he did on the day given the 2.5 hour car ride each way, and another hour each way on the boat with the whales as the highlight event. Not sure if he has the patience to do it again any time soon, but we did get a pretty darn good whale watch out of it.

Again I went to Gloucester to go out with Capt. Bill and Sons. For a youngster’s first whale watch, I really didn’t want to deal with the crowded Aquarium boats even though it is a shorter drive. The trip from Gloucester was certainly well attended but the people density is still a lot better for views than on larger boats, IMNSHO. It was a beautiful day with terrific visibillity; we could see the Boston skyline on our way out.

2ww808hgl1tFirst sighting was a juvenile whale which did a tremendous display of tail breaching. I am not sure the nephew could really appreciate it, being his first time out and all, but I was pretty excited about it! We found a number of other humpback whales as well, and got a good look at a fin whale. The identified humpbacks included Crown and her calf, Etch a Sketch, Percussion and Infinity.

All told, the final count as presented by the naturalists included over a dozen humpback whales, a couple of fin whales, and several minkes. Not surprisingly, the nephew fell asleep on the way home, but he seemed to have a good day. He took his own photos with the disposable cameras I brought for him, got to see the humpback skeleton at the Whale Center of New England, and can now say he has had the same experience as his two older brothers.

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July 21st 2008
Whale Watch #7 of ’08

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If only I lived closer to the coast (I’m on the NH/VT border), then I would get out on even more whale watches! I do pretty well, all told. the trip with the Aquarium was so good for the whales, I didn’t waste any time getting back out. This time it was out of Gloucester on Capt. Bill and Sons. Hadn’t made it out this way since the Earth Day whale watch in May.

2ww708ggl16atWe had a spectacular day on the water with loads of great sightings. Mothers and calves were in seeming abundance. Apostrophe and her calf were out and about and “bumped into” Bilbo/Spoon with her calf. Apostrophe’s calf seemed to want to play with the other but there was no mutual interest. I know it’s easy to anthropomorphize these animals, but it was easy to compare the activity to what one might see on any playground with kids who are willing and kids who hide behind their mom’s leg. Apostrophe pulled away and took her calf along, thus ending the “playground encounter”.

Not much later we found Tornado and her calf. They wound up joining another association of 3 adults: Nile, Sundog and Tunguska. There was not a lot of overly demonstrative surface activity but we did get some nice looks at the various flukes in the group.

Another terrific day on the water! The total was 14-16 humpbacks (also seen and ID’d by dorsal was possibly Fern) and half a dozen minkes moving about the area.

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July 14th 2008
Whale Watch #6

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So what do I do after complaining about the crowded boats in Provincetown? I take a trip from Boston with the New England Aquarium.  What can I say? I’m a member and I try to go out on their whale watches each year.  I’m not crazy about the 3 level catamaran’s capacity for hundreds, but there I was.  One of the things that makes me nutty about these cruises is that people tend to be sort of oblivious about things like their trash blowing overboard.  And I don’t think enough is said by the naturalists to make sure people know about the problem.  But, I’m not the one with the microphone (just a wee blog).

We did have a gorgeous day on the water, and a terrific whale watch overall.  Our first treat was a display of lobtailing.  I could easily identify one of the two visible whales as Alphorn.  When I got home to look at photos and compare them to the thumbnails provided by PCCS, I saw that the other one was Hancock.  Because there was so much interest in this display by other boats and we could see more spouts elsewhere, we moved on.

3july08neaq16atNext up we found two adults and a calf.  One of the adults was Banyan, who is easy to ID even without seeing flukes because of the around of scarring around the tail stock from an entanglement.  We also found a juvenile whale who was breaching, though I was not quick enough with the camera to catch it.  Some flipper slapping was also seen, making this trip a great array of surface behaviors.

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June 1st 2008
Memorial Day Weekend 2008

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I have been going to Provincetown, MA over Memorial Day weekend for something like 15 years now.  When I started my regular visit, it was for the LGBT scene.  Now, that scene is secondary and I go for the whales.    I’ll compress the 4 whale watches I did over this weekend into one post because, while it was a good weekend, it was not as good as some Memorial Days past.

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May 29th 2008
First whale watch of 2008

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Yes, it happened a little while ago, May 3 to be exact, but I’ve been busily getting this site set up so have some post-catching up to do!

On to the good stuff. I went out for my first trip of the year from Gloucester, MA on an Earth Day whale watch fundraiser for the Whale Center of New England. The trip was on the Capt. Bill and Sons boat on which I went out several times last year. We wound up with an early spring New England day: overcast, chilly, and with some rain. Still, we were off to see whales! We left the dock at 9 AM and got back in around 4:30. Many of the Whale Center staff were on board, including Mason Weinrich, the exec director who did much of the narration. Mason can ID whales faster than anyone I’ve seen, so it’s always a treat to be out on one of his trips.

The day of watching started like the whales were feeling the weather, too… the first group we came upon as we reached the northern part of Stellwagen Bank were not “doing” much, i.e. not being very surface active. Still, it’s always nice to see whales!

Springboard, breachingBy noon, we had found a much more active whale, identified as Springboard. She thrilled us with a show that included breaching and flipper slapping. We were in the vicinity of the BE Buoy by this time. For me, nothing is more thrilling than seeing a whale breach.

As the day went on, we did find several other clusters of whales. Among the whales ID’d was Zeppelin, most typically see in the Great South Channel. This was the first time she had been seen in the Stellwagen Bank area for several years. Later in the day, in a separate group, a calf of Zeppelin’s, Milkweed, was “cavorting” with some others.

Chin breach from SpringboardNew fact for me on the day – I love that, no matter how many whale watches I’ve been on (I think I am up to 30-40 by now), I always learn something new. Since it is early in the season and the whales are just returning to these feeding grounds, Mason commented that he can tell some of them are looking a little thin after the long fast. And how can he tell? The appearance of a shoulder blade on the side, just behind the blowholes. I managed to catch it on film when Springboard did a chin breach. You should be able to see it in this photo.

All in all, cold and wet but still and always amazing. Named humpbacks that were announced during the trip included: Hancock, Falcon, Rapier, Glo (easy to identify since she is missing much of her left fluke), Photon, Springboard, Reflection, Zeppelin, Crystal (first known calf of Stellwagen Bank’s grand dame, Salt, who I still have yet to see!), Milkweed, Glowstick, Buzzard. There was an announced sighting of a fin whale, but I did not see it.

Gallery to be posted soon. Will make a post when it is up. Plus, I’ve done more whale watches since so will be making new posts on those.

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