Sunday, August 16, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Sammy Beynor

Great shearwater.

On today’s whale watching trip we rounded the fingertips of Cape Cod and headed to an area near Peaked Hill Bar. The weather was absolutely beautiful and the seas were calm. On the way we encountered several types of seabirds. Some of these birds were shearwaters. In the Gulf of Maine we have four different types of Shearwater species: Great, Cory’s, Manx, and Sooty. Great Shearwaters are a medium sized brown bird with a white collar around their neck and a black beak. Below is a picture of a Great Shearwater. Cory’s shearwaters are all brown with yellow beaks. Manx are a mix of black/brown and white coloration. And sooty shearwaters are all brown.

Finback Whale.

We began our trip with a sighting of a finback whale. Finbacks, nicknamed the razor back whales, are the second largest animal on the planet. The animal we saw was moving quickly away from the boat, giving support to its clocked speeds of over 20 mph.

Bayou fluking out.

Unknown fluking out.

Shortly after observing this finback whale we found our first set of humpback whales. These medium sized whales were spending a few minutes at the surface and then diving for roughly around 5 minutes. These humpbacks were very different in appearance allowing us to identify one of them. One of the whales, named Bayou, has a severely damaged fluke. Bayou experience a boat strike many years ago, which removed a large portion of the right part of her fluke. Bayou has since healed and appears to be doing fine. Ship strike is a major threat to our large marine mammals, in addition to entanglements. The other whale in this group has a very white dorsal fin with a black ring pattern on its right fluke. We are still working on trying to ID this whale.

Minke whales off Race Point.

We also had a brief encounter with two minke whales. Minke whales are the smallest species of baleen whales in New England and have white strips on their front flippers. These animals were also heading away from our vessel towards Provincetown, however, we did get to see their very hooked dorsal fin.

Calf rolling.

Rapier’s calf blowing a rainbow.

Rapier’s calf lobtailing.

Rapier’s calf surfacing off the bow.

Rapier’s calf doing a spinning head breach.

Finally we concluded our trip with a sighting of a mother/calf pair. This was perhaps the most exciting part of the trip. The mother’s name is Rapier and her calf was born this past winter in the Caribbean. We observed mom surfacing and diving regularly while the calf did some more charismatic behaviors. Right after we arrived, we were able to see a few spinning head breaches from the calf. We also saw lob tailing, inverted lob tailing, rolling, and flipper slapping. We are not sure why humpbacks participate in these behaviors; perhaps it could be a form of play, itching, or aggression. However, this whale definitely showed us his or her repertoire of body movements. The calf also approached our vessel and exhaled creating a rainbow right next to us.

Rapier’s calf flippering on its side.

Image of the calves ventral tail pattern.

Rapier’s very dark ventral tail pattern.

 

Today’s trip was amazing and provided us with great looks at all ages and many species of whales. We also were able to see the effects of ship strike in Bayou and how important it is to conserve and protect our local animals.

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