Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Seabird and Whales Tales part one

On a glorious sunny, blue sky Sunday, I bordered one of Capt. John's boats at Plymouth Harbor for the annual spring New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance.  "Sea Bird and Whale Tales" cruise.  This cruise is held twice a year in June and September, and goes out usually to the Gerry E. StudDiveds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary areas to find seabirds and whales.  Normally accrues from Plymouth to style wagon bank takes approximately one hour.  This year on the day of the cruise, the whales apparently had moved down from Stellwagon bank to off the coast of Chatham Massachusetts.  In order to get to the location where all the birds and animals were required 3 hours of cruising.  On the way there were some interesting findings.  But the actual fun and activity began when we reached the area where the whales were.  As far as your eye could see.  There were pods of whales feeding in and among a number of boats that were tuna fishing.
Bubble Cloud
Bubble Cloud
One of the ways that humpback whales feed is to make bubble clouds, which helps trap the sand lances, which the humpbacks utilize for food,in the middle of it, and then the whales come up, open their mouth and swallow a large amount of seawater with the sand lances.  Humpback whales then raise their head out of the water and squeeze their throats to force the water through their mouths and then  trap the sand lances and another animals that they use as food in their baleen which acts as a sieve. 

Humback Whales feeding
Humpback Whales Feeding in Bubble Cloud
Humpback Whale  feeding
Baleen is visiable
Humpback Whale with Mouth open
Humpback Forcing water out of its Mouth

During the feeding process a number of sand lances are stunned or injured and are left in the water and then the gulls and shearwaters in large numbers make their way over to feed on the remains.
Sea Birds and Whale Tail
Sooty Shearwaters and Gulls flying to obtain food
Normally humpback whales are solitary creatures, however, today saw the whales working in pods of 4 to 6, all actively feeding.  Humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine are named and cataloged. Marine mammalologists and crew on board the vessel identified at least 40 of the whales, six could not be  identified and there were four calves present with their mothers.
It was also estimated there was another 40 whales in the vicinity that we did not get close enough to identify.
Because marine mammals are protected by federal law, you cannot approached to at least 100 yards from reading mammals, and if so whale approaches you, the entrant must be placed in neutral to allow the whale to pass.  The commercial will watching vessels have a long history of experience with the whales and are very careful to follow the rules.
Humpback Whale  feeding
We were stopped while these Whales were feeding  along side
This boat kept moving right along the whale

 _D8C4407 June 10, 2012 NIKON D800

The whales were feeding in an area where small boats were tuna fishing,   I had noticed one boat  that was towing a tuna rig .  The people running the boat  approached right up and alongside a whale that was on the surface and kept moving and did not follow the government regulations.