2005 is the Year for Whale Watching!

Quoted from Cape Ann Whale Watch website:

The water temp was 65 degrees and the wind was from the SW at 5 knots. Air temp was just 75 degrees. Best feeding show in years. Sand ells are back. 3 type of whales feeding in the same area. Just 40 minutes from the harbor.

Quoted from Atlantic Yankee Whale Watch website:

Well, this certainly seems to be our year for whale watching! Great whale watching trip followed by great whale watching trip! This week we had more Humpback Whales and Fin Whales in the area North and East of Gloucester called Jeffrey’s Ledge. Humpback Whales sighted included Newton, Flask, Hornbill, Ember and Freckles. We also were lucky enough to observe a few groups of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins this week – with their brand new dolphin calves! We jokingly call the baby dolphins “footballs with dorsal fins” as they are just about that size!

Quoted from 7 Seas Whale Watch website:

Whale sighting continue to be very good. In addition to the whales which have been present on Jeffrey’s Ledge all spring and summer long, a number of whales have moved into the Stellwagen Bank region as well and have been seen feeding at the surface there almost every day. Approximately 8 to 10 HUMPBACK WHALES and the same number of FINBACK WHALES and MINKE WHALES are spotted on an average trip these days. Some of the familiar HUMPBACKS being seen are “Coral”, “Soot”, “Sloop”, “Compass”, “Freckles”, “Hornbill”, and “Flask”. These whales are often seen cooperatively feeding on American Sand Lance which is great to see. Sand Lance are the preferred food source of Humpback especially in this area so the whales should be here for quite while… and if their numbers continue to build it could be a great fall for whales. Interestingly, an unusually large number (6-8 including at least two mother calf pairs)of NORTHERN RIGHT WHALES are also present in the area and have been for about three weeks now. As many of you probably know, there are less than 300 of these whales left in existance and current estimates based on the Right Whale’s population, reproduction rate, calf mortality, and adult mortality lead scientists to think that this species may become extinct in the next 100 or so years without drastic measures being taken to reduce Right Whale deaths. Because of the extreme danger that this species is in, federal law prohibits whale watch boats from approaching within 500 yards of these animals, but it is still something special to see one of the world’s largest and most storied and endagered animals from any distance.

Quoted from Whale Center of New England website (working cooperatively with Captain Bill Whale Watch):

We finally have confirmation that sand lance are present on Stellwagen Bank. Sightings over the past week and a half have included humpback whales identified as Coral, Ember, Grackle, Soot and Tulip & calf as well as numerous adult fin whales and minke whales. In some cases, the number of minke whales seen within a one to two mile radius reached a total of 15-20 individuals! The humpback whales in the area have been resting and feeding on the southern portion of Stellwagen Bank. During the feeding bouts, the humpbacks are utilizing the bubble feeding technique that is common for this area.

We have also seen Coral lobtail feeding. During this feeding technique, humpbacks will slam their tails down on the surface of the water before they dive below their prey. We believe that this technique stuns the prey at the surface, giving the whale more time to feed. Coral has a very specific way of feeding with this method; he will slam his tail at the surface two times before he dives and then you will see just half of his tail break the surface and slash around the prey in a complete circle. He will then complete his dive and return to the surface to feed.

Ember and Tulip also have specific feeding techniques that we have seen over and over again on southern Stellwagen. Ember releases one large bubble below his prey and then surfaces in the center. After taking in a mouthful of fish, he will bend his body in the shape of a ‘W’. We believe this contortion of the body may help push more water out of the baleen plates hanging from the roof of the mouth. Tulip uses a technique known as dragging in order to produce the same outcome. After she releases a series of large bubbles to corral the prey, she surfaces with her mouth wide open (see photo) gulping all of the water and prey. She will then close her mouth and begin to move along the surface with her head held at a 45? angle. The pressure of the water against her throat is most likely helping to push the massive amount of water out of her mouth.

In addition to the various sightings of feeding humpback, fin and minke whales, we have been treated to rare sightings of North Atlantic right whales. We believe that at least 3 different mother/calf pairs have been seen on Stellwagen Bank over the past few days in addition to a number of single individuals. Behaviors include skim feeding as well as incredible looks at breaching and flipper slapping!

During whale watch trips, we watch the right whales from a distance designated by federal law. However, during research trips aboard Silver II, but we have had the opportunity to collect additional photo-identification shots of these whales. We have already identified one of these females as #1303, otherwise known as Slash. Slash’s calf has been photographed on numerous occasions leaping out the water. It was certainly an exciting treat to see one of the newest member of this critically endangered population!