Archive for the 'whale watches' Category

October 8th 2012
Finally Out On The Water Again!

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Well now, this site has gotten a little dusty, eh? I still have photos to post from May, but I have not been out on the water since then, until this past weekend. It was a busy summer, and gas prices kept my travelling rather sparse. It was tough to read updates and see photos on Facebook of friends who were getting out all season. I was afraid I was not going to make it out again.

Luckily, a friend offered to treat me for a trip for my birthday so I have been able to squeeze in one more, possibly last, trip for the 2012 season. This friend and two others joined me for the excursion, a first whale watch for all of them. I was delighted to take them out but I always get a little worried that we won’t have a good trip and it will disappoint the newbies.

I needn’t have thought much about it. We went out from the New England Aquarium because their schedule fit better for events happening later in our day. Sadly, I don’t think I will get to Gloucester once this year, which is just wrong! We had a beautiful day to be out on the water, and lots of other people thought so, too. Once again, we were on a fairly crowded boat but it was mostly ok. Everyone seemed to be able to get to the rail. I do still wish that the company which runs these trips (which, as I understand it, is not the Aquarium itself) didn’t load the boat quite so full.

Took us a while, and a ride pretty much due east from Boston Harbor, to reach any activity out on Stellwagen Bank. We wound up around the northeast corner. The horizon was dotted with some fishing and pleasure boats, but no blows could be seen. And then, suddenly, there was a splashing nearby. Etch-A-Sketch had popped up with some tail breaching and lob tailing. We got a fairly close look at her while she was being active, close enough also to see the satellite tag still on her left side beneath the dorsal (observed in May, too). As she was being active, a couple of other humpbacks moved into the area, Nile and Valley. They were mostly logging and doing shallow dives, but we got some good looks at the dorsals and flukes. As we were preparing to head back into Boston, a third humpback joined Nile’s and Valley’s association, but we were not able to stick around long enough to see its flukes. I can say is it was a smaller humpback, but not much else. Did get a dorsal fin shot.

Got a few photos, which are posted in the gallery. My friends and I had a terrific visit and a nice day on the water. I was also delighted that our naturalist on the trip, Heidi, seemed to be very experienced. I find it to be hit or miss on the Aquarium trips as to whether or not you get someone who really works in and is well versed in the field and animals, so this was a nice bonus.

Maybe I will get lucky and squeeze in one more trip. If not, the winter will be about saving up and planning for many more trips in 2013. Six trips are not nearly enough, especially months apart!

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May 31st 2012
2012 Whale Watching Season Kick Off!

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I am a little late in making this post. I went out on my first trip of the year on May 6, from the New England Aquarium. Rather quiet day that day. Our only sighting was Pisces and her calf, as well as a grey seal.

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, I went out on four trips with the Dolphin Fleet out of Provincetown MA. While 3 of the 4 days were somewhat foggy, it was an incredible weekend all around for surface activity. We pretty much saw everything: open mouth surface feeding, deep feeding, breaching, tail breaching, lob tailing, flipper slapping. I am going to write at more length about the trips in a future post, once I have the 1500+ photos sorted and edited down. But, for now, I am going to share here a video I shot on my iPhone 4, of Sanchal flipper slapping *right* next to the boat on Tuesday, May 29.

This was my first time attempting to do such a thing. I had a tight grip on the phone (mostly held vertically) in my left hand, and was attempting to continue to take photos with my right hand on the DSLR. Hindsight being what it is, I should have held the photo sideways for a more complete frame. But I am still fairly pleased with the quality, all things considered.

Enjoy, and watch for more from this weekend, including photos.

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August 5th 2011
Six Whale Watches, One Update!

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This won’t be as long a post as the title might have you think. While I have indeed been out on 6 trips now, the first four were not terribly newsworthy.

Bayou on Stellwagen Bank, 28 May 2011My season kicked off, as it often does, in Provincetown over Memorial Day Weekend. I did three trips over as many days with the Dolphin Fleet. While whale activity had been pretty good in the month leading up, a big nor’easter off the coast a bit before the weekend seemed to have moved much of the activity quite a ways off shore. We also had a fair bit of fog that weekend which made things a little challenging. Notable sighting of the weekend was Bayou, the 2006 calf of Trident. Bayou now sports a damaged right fluke from a propellor injury, making it an easy fluke to ID. I saw Bayou as a calf but didn’t know until this trip about the injury.

Next trip, July 1, on Yankee Fleet out of Gloucester. We went north to Jeffreys Ledge where there had been reports of a fair amount of activity. We didn’t find any of that on this day, and spent time with some fin whales instead. While they tend to be notoriously hard to watch because they move quickly and don’t ‘do’ as much at the surface, we did get some good looks.

Things finally got exciting on July 16. I did two trips out of Gloucester that day, the first on Cape Ann Whale Watch (with naturalists from Ocean Alliance) thanks to a Groupon and the second on Capt Bill and Sons (naturalists from the Whale Center of New England). The big action is down off Provincetown right now, so that’s where both trips went. True to form for whale watching, each trip was quite different while also being quite good.

In the morning on Cape Ann WW, we spent most of our trip with a couple of  juvenile humpbacks who pretty much mugged the boat. We were unable to move for about 45 minutes because they were hanging out right under the back end of the boat. Not that we minded – we were getting great looks! Got my first close up photo of a whale’s eye (too bad the eye was closed) and Greenbean, one of the juvies, made a point of splashing the boat with its flukes from only about 20-30 feet away, if that.

Later that same day on Captain Bill’s, we returned to the SE corner of Stellwagen. Didn’t see any of the same whales from the morning, but we did have some active adults, including Echo and Tectonic traveling togeher. They seem to be one of Stellwagen’s great enduring ‘friendships’, coming together often over the years like Salt and Cardhu are known to do. Leah, the naturalist, reported that National Geographic had worked with the Whale Center to attach a critter cam to Echo and the resulting footage showed her and Tectonic (a male) working very well together under water in their hunt for food. Echo treated us to a breach too, which I managed to catch (even if distantly).  Other whales we found on this trip included Pele, Alphorn, Jabiru and Sloop.

Photos coming soon, I promise, as well as another post about a trip on 3 August.

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October 8th 2009
Wherefore Art Thou, Whales?

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Eager whale watchers, reflect in the boat's wake.After a nearly 3 month gap since my last whale watch, I was downright itching to go out again and finally made it on Oct. 5. Following the Whale Center and Capt Bill and Sons on Twitter all summer, with numerous updates about spectacular whale watching, just whetted the appetite all the more.

So with reports of great end of season whale watching, I took my mom and two family friends out for their first whale watch, and a friend out for his second. And we got a lesson in the reality that we are indeed entering the natural, wild habitat of the whales and nothing is ever a sure thing. We DID see some whales, specifically Evolution, Ravine, and Lavalier and her calf. But aside from the calf’s giving us one playful belly roll, all were basically just travelling along and not being very surface-active. Just proves that each trip is different, and one never knows what will be seen. We travelled fairly far south along Stellwagen Bank, and the visibility was so spectacular that we could see Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument on the horizon. We just didn’t find a lot of whale activity.

Ravine going down for a dive.Any day on the water is a good day. Any day with whales is even better! I’ve been spoiled by several spectacular whale watches this season so this was a little bit of a let down, especially as a first trip for some of my group. I am hoping to get out at least one more time before the season wraps up, and hopefully there will be some more activity to see. If not, I will just anxiously wait for next year!

Check out the photos – there are not many, but it was a beautiful day for shooting!

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July 12th 2009
“This is how it’s done…”

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When I signed up for Twitter a few months ago (username whalegeek, surprise surprise), I had no idea how useful it would be.  I get web design links, news links, whale/ocean/environmental links and more.  And then I started to follow the Whale Center.  And they post about the whale watching trips every day.  Since my last trip out was mostly about the fog, the reports of multiple sightings and multiple forms of activity since that trip was just too much… Makes it tough to live 2-2.5 hours from various points of departure for whale watching.

And so I went off to take whale watch #7.  Was happy to be joined by a friend who had never been out before, and the weather report was really very favorable.  And it was, above the water.  The water itself was quite choppy, making for an interesting ride out (better than a carnival ride).  This time, though, no fog, so the visibility was much better.  The other “hitch” to the day was that most of the activity happening on Stellwagen Bank was happening to the south, so off we went for a 2 hour ride down (usually it’s just about 1 hour from Gloucester to find activity), far enough that Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument could be clearly seen on the horizon.

2ww09g1Our first whale encounter of the day turned out to be a mother and calf pair, Nile with her 4th calf.  In the distance, we could see them breaching in turn, but once we got closer, they had settled down a bit.  The activity had become more of  what was possibly a teaching moment, with Nile demonstrating how to tail slap and lob tail.  We were close enough to really get a sense of how large Nile, as an adult humpback, is.  It’s hard in photos to appreciate their size, but with one’s own eyes, it takes on a whole new dimension.  After a few minutes of this activity, both whales settled and the calf started nursing.   Continue Reading »

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June 27th 2009
Marco! Polo! (or, Where Are You, Whales?)

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Went out for whale watch #6 today from Gloucester, on Capt. Bill and Sons with the Whale Center of New England. The weather here in New England has been decidedly unexciting lately, with more rain than anything else. On shore today, though, it was beautiful with sunny skies and some clouds – but not those of the threatening variety – and it was looking like we would have a nice trip. I had organized a group of friends and friends of friends from Camp Camp, and was really hoping to get a good trip in. Continue Reading »


May 26th 2009
“I’m Ready for My Close Up, Mr. DeMille”

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As my time on the Cape was drawing to a close for this Provincetown visit, I could not resist going out on one more whale watch.  At 10 AM, I boarded the Dolphin 8.  It was another gorgeously sunny day, but a little breezier than the day before so the waters were a little choppy again.  Being the day after the long weekend, the boat was also not terribly crowded.  Shaping up to be another grand day on the water.

Fin whale expert John Conlon was our naturalist today.  One of the best things about whale watching from Provincetown is that all of the naturalists have many seasons behind them and are very familiar with the terrain, the ecosystems, and the animals within them.  It makes a big difference, IMNSHO, to have that experience couching the experience of the whale watch.

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May 26th 2009
It’s All About the Food

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Today I went out on whale watch #3 for the weekend. Again, I found myself on the Dolphin Fleet‘s Portuguese Princess, which was just fine. It was a beautiful day: sunny, little breeze, almost no clouds in the sky. So, everyone else seemed to want to go out, too, and the boat was fairly crowded.

Luckily, this was another one of those “I don’t know where to look!” watches where there was activity happening in virtually every direction. Our first “stop” was with some whales which were swimming somewhat casually. There were very few deeper dives so few looks at any flukes. The exception to this was one whale which kept rolling over and flipper slapping. Because of the bright sunlight, visibility was a little deeper into the water column than previously this weekend, so we could see a lot more just below the surface. Even though there were two other whales associated with the flipper slapper, that one was the only one really doing much more than just swimming. In the general vicinity there were other blows, so all told we had about 6 whales in the area. One was quickly identified as being Ventiska, thanks to her distinct dorsal.

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May 24th 2009
Whales and Whales and Whales, Oh My!

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That pretty much sums up today’s whale watch. Went out again from Provincetown on the Dolphin Fleet‘s Portuguese Princess. Weather was a little nicer. Still cool with a breeze but the sun came out while we were on Stellwagen Bank, no rain! Better weather also meant a more crowded boat. According to the naturalist, Mark Gilmore, there were around 200 people on board a 350-capacity boat. That was plenty crowded for me!

Our trip today took us a little farther away from shore as Race Point was out of sight. But once we found whales, it was rather like hitting the jackpot! We found Ventiska again, hanging out with a mother and calf. We got good looks at them, and could see several other spouts in the vicinity, though the whales at this spot were not being especially active at the surface.

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May 23rd 2009
Fantastic Whale Watch!

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I am in Provincetown, MA for my annual Memorial Day Weekend getaway. When here, I squeeze in as many whale watches as I can manage, and I kicked that off today. Went on the Dolphin Fleet‘s Portuguese Princess at 10 AM. Because it was cool and overcast, the boat was not very crowded which is a very nice treat. It still got a little competitive at the rails, but not nearly as much as it could have been were it a sunny and warm day.

The peril of a first in the day whale watch is the challenge of finding where the whales went overnight. We did not have any problem finding whales today. In fact, we found them so quickly that we were not even far off the Cape. The buildings at Race Point Light were easily visible throughout the trip. Our first sighting opportunity landed us amidst 10-12 humpback whales, including at least 2 cow/calf pairs, doing very active surface feeding. We saw some kick feeding and some great open mouth lunge feeding with wide open looks. Not yet eating solid food, we saw some breaching from one of the calves, too. They seem to know how to entertain themselves while mom is busy feeding. After this tremendous “show” for about half an hour, the bait fish seemed to have dispersed because the whales quieted right down. We could still see numerous spouts around, but the dramatic surface activity was much less.

We searched for some more whales and got quick looks at a few. Much to my delight, one of these whales was Salt! She may be the grande dame of Stellwagen Bank, but in my 50+ trips out, this is the very first time I had seen her. She was travelling with Cardhu but again they were being sort of quiet, just hanging out at the surface. We never even got a look at Salt’s flukes (good thing she has that distinctive dorsal fin!).

All told, we had about 19-21 humpback whales today and one distant look at a fin whale travelling through. Named whales ID’d during the trip included Salt, Cardhu, Lavaliere, Ventiska, and Ganesh. I am already eagerly looking forward to my next trip out. Since I am still shooting film, I won’t have photos to put up for a couple of days, but will do so as soon as I have them.

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