Wednesday, August 12, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Carly Hepburn

A-plus kick feeding.

We headed towards Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary with calm seas and partly cloud skies and were able to see 8-10 humpback whales and my first ever sighting of a sea turtle offshore!

We began our trip with a single humpback whale named A-Plus, who was blowing bubbles and slapping his fluke against the surface of the water.  Both of these behaviors are techniques that humpback whales use to feed.  You can think of these bubbles as a huge underwater blizzard, and a humpback whale will use it as a way to scare and confuse baitfish so that the school will move tightly together.  This allows the humpbacks to get a higher concentration of baitfish when they take in a huge gulp of their prey and salt water. We were fortunate enough to get incredible looks of A-Plus completing his gulp of prey food and salt water as he surfaced, which is a behavior known as lunge feeding.

A-Plus kick feeding.

Surface lunging.

Lunging through the bubble cloud.

We see humpbacks using bubbles in many different ways sometimes they will circle around the baitfish creating a bubble net, trapping the fish inside.  Other times they will release bubbles from their blowhole while traveling straight creating a bubble wall.  Our humpback was releasing a single bubble, known as a bubble cloud.

Another surface lunge with mouth full of water and fish.

Ventral tail pattern of Eruption.

Eruption and Sprinkler.

As we continued to watch this humpback whale feed we had another sighting on the right hand side of the boat as three humpback whales moved into the area.  We were able to identify two of those humpback whales as Eruption and Sprinkler.

After looking through our photos we were able to see that there was a split in our group of three as Sprinkler left the group to joined a single humpback whale.  Associations between baleen whales like humpback whales are not long term and usually they last anywhere from a single minute to a couple of weeks.  We don’t typically see associations last any longer than that, except for a mother and calf pair where the calf will stay with mom from about a year.

Sprinker’s ventral tail pattern.

All too soon we had to leave the area and head back to the Provincetown Harbor.  As we made our way back we picked up two humpback whales and were able to watch them for a single surfacing before we had to continue our way back home.

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