Cape Cod Whale Watching, June 25, 2012
Whale watching has been hot! The first heat have of the 2012 season has come and gone and summer is getting into full swing here on Cape Cod. Recent whale watching trip have yielded sightings of humpback , finback, and Minke whales as well as basking sharks, seals and seabirds. Humpback whales have been seen on every whale watch over the last ten days!
Our warm spring has fueled a continuing explosion of plankton growth that is supporting one of the best seasons for many baitfish species in recent memory. Our three baleen whale species rely on the productivity of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to support whale-sized appetites! Humpback whales have been seen hunting schools of herring, small mackerel, and sand lance.
Humpback whale lunges through a bait ball!
Humpback whales have given a good showing of themselves every day. Adults have been observed bubble feeding using both bubble clouds and bubble nets. These techniques involved the whales blowing bubbles while emitting sound blasts to corral the baitfish. Some of the adults we identified include: Barb, Dory, Centipede, Hancock, Owl, Tulip/calf, Boomerang/calf, Sylla/calf.
Many of the calves have grown substantially. They are now being seen in the company of their mothers and other adult whales practicing feeding techniques. Sometimes they have left their mom's sides to come over and visit the Whale Watcher; giving the boat close approaches and great looks. The calves also tire of mom's routine, and will practice the acrobatic behaviors that humpbacks are famous for!
Typical toddler: Boomerang (mom) decides to take a dive, and the baby chooses to do the opposite!
Finback whales have also returned to the southern end of Stellwagen Bank. These are the second largest animals on earth with adults averaging the size of two school buses lined up end to end! Though they are faster, more streamlined, and more business-like than humpbacks, some recent trips have yielded fantastic feed shows with some individuals lunge feeding at the surface.
Minke whales were also sighted over the past week. Most of these "little piked whales" were seen charging around larger whales that were feeding. Minke whales get that nickname because they usually come up chin first. As a result, one very rarely sees a blow from these whales because the spout gets lost in the water behind the whale as it surfaces. They are a beautiful whale species, and one that is worth keeping an eye out for on any whale watch.
Other marine life in the area has included: striped bass, and gray and harbor seals. A number of pelagic bird species were seen this past week! Wilson’s storm petrels were frequently sighted as well as greater and sooty shearwaters. All three of these are regularly seen in large numbers in our area. Some Leach's storm petrels have been seen in Cape Cod Bay. We have also seen the first Cory’s shearwaters in our area. These ocean dwelling birds are larger than greater shearwaters and have a very distinct yellow beak, and lack the black cap that greater shearwaters have. Manx shearwaters were also seen on many trips. Our list of notable birds rounds out with sightings of parasitic jaegers and northern gannets.