June 1, 2014

We traveled east of Stellwagen Bank to Tillies Bank and had some great sightings! Our sightings have been fantastic lately, with up to about 15 whales in one area. As we traveled east, there were many patches of bait fish swimming at the surface. This is a neat thing to see, but it made me hopeful for seeing open mouth feeding. We were not disappointed! We found a humpback whale (Hancock) and were quickly treated to amazing looks as he fed repeatedly on the large amount of mackerel in the area. We noticed that the bubble nets he created were near the edge of the schools, rather than right in the middle. At first thought, you might wonder why he wouldn’t swim right in the middle of the fish, but many of these types of behaviors are very calculated. We were thinking that he was trying not to create gaps and break the fish up into smaller groups. Fascinating to think of how much careful planning and thinking goes on with these whales every day!

First of  three in one series of open mouth feeding photos!

First of three in one series of open mouth feeding photos!

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In addition to Hancock, there was also another humpback in the area. This whale did not fluke up, so we haven’t been able to identify it. It was traveling a bit faster and surfacing far, so we stayed near a spot which left us surrounded by fin whales and minke whales! We actually watched a fin whale lunge feed- fin whales use baleen in the same way that humpbacks do, however they do not create bubbles nets or bubble clouds. As we were watching the fin whales, a minke passed by very close to the boat. It swam along the starboard side, dove under for a moment, and slowly passed right next to the port side. We had a great look as it made its way toward a patch of bait.

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A great look at a minke whale, including the ‘minke mittens’- minke pectoral fins are quite a bit smaller than a humpback’s!

We were already feeling spoiled with a great trip when we spotted not one, but two basking sharks on the way home! With the glass calm water we had super looks. Even after seeing all of the large whales, these sharks looked enormous! They were probably close to 25 feet long. We have been especially lucky early in the 2014 season, we really have enjoyed every trip!

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