February

5 February 2013: With light snow flurries swirling around the plane we began our aerial survey of Cape Cod Bay by flying north along the eastern outer shore. The seas were just kissed with white caps and visibility was slightly obscured by low ceiling and snow showers. The first sighting came quickly with a fin whale close to the plane as the pilots were establishing communications with Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. We speak with them at the top and bottom (00:00 and 00:30) of every hour that we are flying to relay our position and flight status. The Center has several protocols with many different entities monitoring the plane to make sure that it comes home safe. The remainder of the morning was less than exciting with a pod of dolphins seen just north of the bay and no other marine mammal life on the upper bay transect lines. As we reached mid bay our luck began to change with the spotting of a single right whale which then proceeded to dive and not come back up while we stayed circling. We can’t wait forever so continued on survey without any photos of this individual. On our next line we encountered two groups of right whales milling about the area. After documenting their position, behavior, and getting identification photographs we moved on to find our only feeding whale of the day. This young whale, EGNO 3951, was subsurface feeding in the center of south bay. This individual has already been seen twice in the bay this season and was also in the area last year. 3951 is the 2009 calf of EGNO1151 also named Mavynne (after the environmental activist MaVynee Betsch whos huge hair is reminiscent of this whale’s peaky callosity). As we continued along on survey another single individual was sighted and then a mixing SAG of five whales. Others whales of note today were Polyphemos, Ergo, Legato, and Lou.

23 February 2013: Today we completed a survey of Cape Cod Bay working from a south to north direction. Few whales were seen and those that we sighted were nothing short of elusive. The first sighting was a little to the west of Jeremy Point, a single individual – right whale #3705. This young female was our only whale sighted on our previous flight. She was sighted slowly swimming at the surface before disappearing with a fluking dive. A little to the north our next sighting was of another single individual who dove immediately after being spotted. After a few circles we picked up another whale in the vicinity, this third whale is right whale #3951 who has been sighted multiple times both this and last season in the bay. We stayed in the area but never relocated the second whale to get identification photographs and never resighted 3951, leaving the observers to assume that these whales were staying down on long dives, possibly feeding near the bottom.