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August 16-18, 2009 at the Great South Channel

63 HUMPBACKS, 2 FIN WHALE, 8 MINKE WHALES, 600 ATLANTIC WHITE SIDED DOLPHINS, AND THOUSANDS OF PELAGIC BIRDS

Great South Channel Breaching humpback August 17, 2009

Click here to see other breaching humpbacks

Click here for a gallery of all photos from the 2009 trip

Click here to see a list of all humpbacks from CRESLI trips since 2002


Summer 2009

 Great South Channel  8/16-18 /2009

Cetaceans

Birds

Minke whales (8)

Finback whales (2)

Atlantic white-sided dolphins (600)

Humpback whales (63):  14 UNKNOWNS and 49 KNOWN

  • Algebrao

  • Altair

  • Bramble

  • Calderas and calf

  • Cat Eyes

  • Cava

  • Draco

  • Duo and calf

  • Ember

  • Exclaim

  • Firefly

  • Flyingfish

  • Fragment

  • Freefall

  • Galactic

  • Habanero

  • Hangman

  • Hatpin

  • Hornet

  • Inchworm

  • Infinity

  • Jet

  • Leonid

  • Level

  • Loon

  • Mostaza

  • Parens

  • Phosphorescence

  • Pisces and calf

  • Quercus and calf

  • Rattan and calf

  • Ravine Ravine's 2008 calf

  • Samovar

  • Sirius

  • Strike and calf

  • Stump

  • Thalassa and calf

  • Treasure

  • Ventisca

  • Wave

  • Zodiac


  • Cory's Shearwater 

  • Great Shearwater 

  • Sooty Shearwater

  • Manx Shearwater 

  • Audubon's Shearwater

  • Wilson Storm-Petrel

  • Leach's Storm Petrel

  • Parasitic Jaeger

  • Red-necked Phalaropes

  • Red Phalarope

  • Least Sandpipers

  • Herring Gulls

  • Great Black-backed Gulls

  • Common Terns

  • Arctic Terns

Click here to see a list of all humpbacks from CRESLI trips since 2002


Here's a write-up by Eric Salzman

"From Sunday night until late last night I was on the CRESLI Great South Channel Cruise on the Viking Starship out of Montauk. CRESLI is the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island directed by Professor Artie Kopelman of Dowling College. Every year about this time, CRESLI organizes a 52-hour trip east of Montauk (with a stop at Martha's Vineyard) to this remarkable place off the coast of Cape Cod. The outbound trip was at night (I slept through most of it) and by dawn Monday morning we were on or near this fabled area. The Channel forms the boundary between the famous Georges Bank and the Continental Shelf and, due to various processes of water movement
(tides, upwelling and currents from the Gulf of Maine), it is an area rich in life. The presence of a huge abundance of prey draws the whales from their breeding grounds to the south. They come here with
their calves to spend the summer fattening up. The number of whales here is astounding. On Monday, we saw -- by actual individual count -- over sixty different Humpback Whales, half of which were already known (and named) from previous trips. And these were not just briefly glimpsed off in the distance. We were surrounded by these leviathans -- sometimes individuals, sometimes a mother and a calf, sometimes groups of three, four and even six individuals. Humpback Whales are not shy, retiring creatures. These animals,  up to 50 feet in length and weighing in at up to 80,000 pounds, leap out of the water -- sometimes clearing the surface in what is called a "full-body breach". As they breach, they flip over and land on their back or even on their opposite side. And that's not all. They "spy hop" -- essentially standing up in the water to see what's going on on the surface -- and slap the water with their long white flippers, their heads and their tails. When they dive, they show the underside of the tail; the tail markings (and other marks) on each animal are distinctive, making it possible to identify individuals with confidence!

    All morning and, after a brief intermission, most of the afternoon, we were surrounded by these whales and treated to their performances, often so close to the boat that we were sprayed by their spouting and splashing. It was an amazing day.     There were other cetaceans: two Fin or Fin-back Whales (the second largest of all the whales), perhaps a dozen of the smaller Minke Whales and large numbers of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins which came 'porpoising' past the boat in groups (flocks? pods?) made up of dozens or even hundreds of individuals.

    What about the birds? Most of the birds out here are oceanic or pelagic species that are rarely or never seen near land. By far the greater number -- many thousands -- were Greater Shearwaters, a
bird that nests in the South Atlantic and comes to the North Atlantic as a winter visitor (our summer is their winter). Among them were a few Cory's Shearwater, a similar bird that nests in the Eastern
Atlantic and the Mediterranean and comes over here after breeding. There were also some of the small black-and-white Manx Shearwaters (they nest on both sides of the North Atlantic) and one
Caribbean-based Audubon's Shearwater, distinguished from the Manx by its browner upper parts and longer tail. There were numbers of  Wilson's Storm-Petrel, a small sea bird that appears to walk on the
water. And, best of all, there were also at least two identifiable Leach's Petrels, one of which showed its distinctive rump markings right by the boat in good light (the other was picked out by its distinct mode of flight). All these birds belong to the so-called tubenoses, the large group of oceanic birds that include the albatrosses.

    Both pelagic phalaropes were seen: a group of four Red-necked Phalaropes at the Great South Channel and a single Red Phalarope (a pale buffy bird that was probably a juvenile or a molting male) on the trip home. There was one jaeger, a Parasitic. Other birds seen were a small flock of peeps (almost certainly Least Sandpipers), both Arctic and Common Terns, Double-crested Cormorants (a little surprising to see it out in the Channel), Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls. On the way back, near Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, there were Barn and Bank Swallows hunting over the water. Not a huge number of species but very typical of the North Atlantic in late summer.

    Day 2 dawned clear and full of whales but the fog moved in and by mid-morning we had to leave...."


 

 

For more information on humpback whales, click here.

For links to earlier sighting reports and photos from Great South Channel trips, click here.

 

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