Friday, July 5, 2013

Whales on the 4th!

We hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th. Bar Harbor was quite busy with 4th of July festivities.
The whale watch had two successful and exciting trips.  Passengers enjoyed a break from the heat as well as the opportunity to see a great deal of wildlife!

Both the morning and afternoon trips had a number of whales and other marine life. The 8:30 trip had numerous puffin sightings. Offshore they found four fin whales!

On the 1:30 trip the boat spotted three to four fin whales and two humpbacks! The humpbacks were identified as "Triton" and "Whistler". These whales were first sighted and documented for scientific research in 1981 and 1976! Other marine mammal sightings included harbor porpoise, grey seals and harbors seals.

The day wrapped up with our fireworks bay cruise and a spectacular firework show!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Whale watching June 10th-30th.

Well, we have certainly had a wonderful start to our season this year. Our travels offshore continue to be fantastic and full of marine life. Over the last few weeks we have sighted three large whale species: fin, humpback, and minke. Other sightings include: harbor and grey seals, harbor porpoise, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, and basking sharks!

Humpbacks sighted and identified in the last few weeks:

Spar and 2013 calf

The whale watch continues to see fin whale in groups of 2-4 feeding deep in the water column.  However, considering that fin whale can be an elusive species, we've continued to get amazing looks. Sometimes the whales have surfaced near the boat or moved in for a close approach. When watching whales we operate under guidelines established by NOAA fisheries. Our company is a participant of the Whale Sense program.  This way we observe whales safely and do not pose a threat. Each year our naturalists and captains undergo training so we can help promote responsible whale watching practices and ocean stewardship.

Here is a video from one of our trips a couple of weeks ago:


Our company continues to work with Allied Whale. We carry research assistants so Allied Whale can continue to photograph fin and humpback whales for photo-identification purposes. Fin whales, unlike humpbacks, are little more difficult to identify in the field. The data helps scientists to learn more about whales. This way we can help protect them and learn more about the health of their habitat-the Gulf of Maine.

The boat went out today, July 3rd, after several days of staying docked due to rough and foggy offshore conditions.  We will continue to keep you posted and hope you can join us on a trip!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 1st - June 10th Whale Watches

WOW this season has been off to a fantastic start so far! Our first trips were dominated by some great sightings of fin whales (see previous blog post). On June 1st, we also had some great sightings of a friendly fin whale. Although fin whales can be difficult to watch, because they are so fast and can stay underwater on dives for 20+ minutes, absolutely nothing compares to seeing a fin whale up close. Their chevron (the white, swirling pattern visible on the right side of animals) is just beautiful, and seeing them close makes you really appreciate just how BIG these animals can be!

We then had a few days of bad weather (lots of rain, fog, and high seas). The next day that we got out was June 4th. And oh what a day it was! This was most certainly one of our best early season whale watches EVER. I know that it was the most whales that I have ever seen out here. And the 4th had another surprise as well -- humpbacks!!! In total we saw eight humpbacks, five fin whales, two minkes, and one unknown whale (just saw the blow a few times). The humpbacks were all feeding, and most of them were traveling in pairs. We saw Zorro and Ditto traveling together, as well as Vee and Viper. The other humpbacks we could not identify, as they did not show their flukes. We got some fantastic looks at bubble cloud and open mouth surface feeding. This is by far my favorite behavior to see. Something about seeing a whale come up with its mouth wide open and straining out 1,000 gallons of water is really, really cool.

Zorro (on his side) and Ditto coming up in a bubble cloud.
June 5th brought more feeding! Passengers were treated to views of 2-3 fin whales, and also one humpback whale, identified as Platform, feeding using bubble clouds. In addition, we got some quick looks at a minke whale lunge feeding at the surface! We hardly ever see this, so it was really neat! The next day, June 6th, brought about an abrupt change. Where before we had been seeing lots of Northern gannets and great and sooty shearwaters, on this day we saw hundreds of Wilson's storm petrels. There were also large schools of fish that continually broke the surface of the water, making for a really cool sight. We had a harder time finding whales, but did eventually find a fin whale. The fin whale passed right next to our boat at the beginning of the sighting. Additionally, the whale displayed some lunge feeding behavior close to the boat. After that, we had trouble keeping up with it. Eventually, we moved on to try to find some other marine life. Although we did not find any more whales, we did find a basking shark! These awesome fish can grow to be 40 feet long, and feed exclusively on plankton. We got amazing looks at this huge, prehistoric animal, which you could see almost perfectly underwater.

Large schools of fish at the surface of the water.

Basking shark. The picture does not display how clearly we could see the animal.  The light green patch by the bottom of the picture is the shark's open mouth!

Awesome view of a fin whale's blow holes as it passes right next to the boat.
The humpbacks were back on June 7th. Our first whale of the day was a fin whale that came up once before disappearing. We then spotted another blow in the distance, and headed out to see that whale. It was Platform again. This time he was traveling, but came up very close to the boat several times, and gave everyone on board fantastic views of his flukes. Also while traveling, we saw at least one minke whale. The passengers were really on the ball with spotting; they spotted the minke, seals, and harbor porpoise. It was another beautiful day on the water!

A good look at Platform's blowholes. You can even see the tubercles on his head!
The weekend brought about lots of rain, fog and rough seas again. Trips were canceled Saturday and Sunday, but we got back out on the water Monday June 10th. I know that I've said this about every trip so far, but it was fantastic! There were lots and lots of whales in the area. We saw at least five humpback whales and six fin whales. In addition, we saw a whole bunch of seals and porpoise, all feeding on the plentiful bait in the area. The humpbacks put on quite a show. We saw Tab and Zorro traveling together with an unknown whale. They surfaced near the boat a few times and gave everyone fantastic views. We also got some good looks at fin whales.
Finback whale jaw. Photo copyright of Stealth Vader Photography.

Humpback whale Tab. Photo copyright of Stealth Vader Photography.
The birds have also been fantastic. We have been stopping at Petit Manan Island at the beginning of each trip to see the puffins and other nesting seabirds. Some of you may have read in the news about how puffins are washing up dead throughout their range. Luckily, we are still seeing a lot at the island. We have also seen numbers of common and Arctic terns, razorbills, common murres and eider ducks. Additionally, there have been TONS of Wilson's storm petrels, large numbers of both great and sooty shearwaters, many Northern gannets, and several Northern fulmars.

Atlantic puffin. Photo courtesy of Stealth Vader Photography.

Arctic tern. Photo courtesy of Stealth Vader Photography.

Northern fulmar
All in all, it has been a fantastic start to the season! We have a couple of bad weather days ahead of us, but hope to be back out on the water soon. We hope to see you soon!! Keep checking back here for updates as our season progresses.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Whale Season 2013 off to a great start!

Happy 2013 Whale Season from Bar Harbor Whale Watch! We have been so excited to get this summer kicked off, and now that all is underway, we have some great news to share. After a weekend of rough weather, our first puffin and whale watching trip went out this past Monday the 27th. It was a huge success!

 We had a beautiful day on the water as we headed offshore on the Bay King III, one of our three jet-powered catamarans. On our way out, we got some beautiful views of the islands around Frenchman Bay and of Schoodic Peninsula. We then arrived at Petit Manan Island for our first 2013 puffin visit. The island was full of life, and we saw tons of puffins! All looked very sharp in their breeding season colors, sporting famously bright orange bills. It was easy to see why these little birds are often called sea parrots. In addition to the puffins, there were several other species of seabirds present in really impressive numbers. We saw many common terns and razorbills on and around the island. It was great to check out Petit Manan's lighthouse, Maine's second tallest, and see the set-ups bird researchers on the island use to study these animals. We're looking forward to checking in with these researchers throughout the season to hear realtime updates about the nesting populations of puffins and other birds. 

After we left Petit Manan, we headed out to an offshore area called the Ballpark. The Ballpark is generally a great area for larger whales to feed, so it's the perfect place to look for them. Since this was our first trip of the season, though, we couldn't be sure where whales would be. We spent some time cruising the Ballpark, scanning as we traveled, until some passengers on the second deck spotted the first blow of the season! We stopped the boat and quickly all aboard saw the huge animal less than 200 yards from the Bay King III - a fin whale! We stayed with the whale for a while, watching it hang at the surface and dive down. As it went on deeper dives and lifted more of its body out of the water, our Allied Whale researcher on board, Jesse, was able to get photographs that may be used to identify this whale. Perhaps this finback has visited with us before! It was a truly beautiful animal. Though all fin whales have white coloring on the right sides of their bodies, this animal seemed lighter than usual on its left as well. This meant we could see it really clearly when it was hanging right beneath the surface- an amazing sight! Last year the fin whales in our area seemed to arrive later than usual and in lower numbers, so it was so great to see one of these guys on our very first trip out. It was a fantastic day!

Our second trip of the season on Tuesday the 28th was just as successful as the first. The Bay King III went out and had another great visit with puffins, terns, razorbills and more at Petit Manan. Again, we headed out to the Ballpark in search of whales and found a beautiful fin whale! The whale went on longer dives, but kept coming up right near the boat. On our last looks, it swam right across the bow, giving all aboard amazing views. Our Allied Whale researcher for Tuesday, Teressa, got more great pictures to use for photo identification. Some of our crew suspect that this is the same individual we saw on Monday, so hopefully Allied Whale can analyze the pictures from both trips and figure out if this is the same friendly animal. Either way, it was a gorgeous whale to watch! 

We are so happy the season has gotten off to such a great start. We can't wait to keep getting offshore and seeing more seabirds and marine mammals. Our first two trips bode for a great summer and fall full of incredible sea life!

-Below are photos from the 5/28/13 whale watch-