Saturday, August 15, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Krill Carson

Commercial fishing vessel called a dragger.

Race Point Light.

ORV’s on Race Point.

As we headed offshore, we saw a commercial fishing vessel close to Race Point and Race Point Light. Race Point Light is the third lighthouse that leads you out of Provincetown Harbor to offshore waters in Massachusetts Bay. It was great to see so many people enjoying the beach in this area.

Shearwaters resting at the surface.

As we continued offshore, we started to pick up flocks of seabirds, including sooty shearwaters, great shearwaters, and Cory’s shearwaters. These pelagic seabirds feed on the same small schooling fish that whales feed on, so their presence offshore is a good sign.

Porcupine’s calf resting at the surface.

Close-up of Porcupine’s calf.

Our first whale sighting was of a mother and calf pair. We were not able to identify the mom offshore, but the Center for Coastal Studies was able to provide an ID. This was Porcupine and her calf of this year. The calf was resting at the surfacing exhibiting a behavior that we call logging. Here the calf floats effortlessly at the surface, breathing every few minutes.

Porcupine’s calf off the bow.

Porcupine’s calf and a great shearwater.

Porcupine and her calf resting at the surface.

Soon Porcupine surfaced and started resting alongside her calf. This gave us a great opportunity to compare mom’s size to her young calf. Porcupine is close to 50 feet long, which is almost half of the calve’s size. Although mom was significantly larger than her calf, the calf had grown significantly since we first saw  it a few weeks ago.

Porcupine fluking out.

Porcupine surfacing off the bow.

Porcupine and calf.

It was wonderful watching the beautiful interaction between mom and calf. This mom will spend a full year with the calf and will teach the calf everything it needs to know. And Porcupine will provide much of the calve’s nutrition its first year of life. Once mom and calf separate, we don’t often see mom’s and previous calves associating together. But we do expect the calf to return to the same feeding areas that mom introduced it its first year of life.

Porcupine fluking out and diving deep.

Fluke out dive by Porcupine.

Porcupine’s ventral tail pattern.

Porcupine and her calf of this season.

Circuit’s right dorsal fin.

Circuit’s fluke out dive.

Our next sighting was a single whale that we identified as Circuit. Circuit was feeding deep on the southern edge of Stellwagen Bank. Although hard to get a look at, Circuit did surface close to our boat a few times.

Blowholes (nostrils) of humpback whale named JT.

JT and unknown humpback logging (resting) at the surface.

Our last sighting was a pair of humpbacks that were logging (resting) at the surface. We were able to identify only 1 individual in this pair and that was JT. JT was named for the “JT” letters on the animal’s left ventral tail pattern. We never saw the ventral tail pattern of the other humpback, making any ID confirmation difficult. Although this whale has a distinctive dorsal fin (fin on the animal’s back), at this time we are not able to identify the animal using this feature.

JT flippering.

JT fluking out.

As we continued to watch this pair resting at the surface, JT rolled over and flipper slapped a few times. This gave our passengers a great opportunity to see the long white pectoral fins of the animal. Humpback whales have the longest pectoral fins of any whale species and they can be up to 1/3 the length of the animal. Not sure why JT decided to flipper slap at that time, but it was wonderful to see just how beautiful those flippers are. A great day of whale watching offshore. Can’t wait to get back to the whales tomorrow.

Ventral tail pattern of JT.

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