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    March 2011 -- Right Whale Field Notes

     

     


     

     

    23 March.We took off from Chatham early Wednesday morning in hopes of beating the snow storm that was forecast for late afternoon. We headed toward the outermost track line, along the back side of the Cape, which eventually led us into the Bay. Here we saw our first two right whales of the survey, skim feeding, in echelon. We saw four other right whales in the area, one was subsurface feeding. Along the western half of the Bay, we came across eight right whales, three of which were in a SAG (Surface Active Group), which quickly broke-up. One individual was seen subsurface feeding, while the others were traveling in the area. The majority of the whales observed throughout the survey were along the eastern half and middle portions of the Bay. These whales were observed skim and subsurface feeding in unassociated feeding aggregations. In the end, we photographed forty-seven individual right whales in the area, and observed four fin whales and one humpback whale.

    23 March. Cruise sighting conditions began in over-cast skies, calm seas, and variable winds. The conditions deteriorated throughout the day to rough seas, 10+ knot winds, and light snow conditions. The goal of the cruise was to document oceanographic and nutrient conditions throughout Cape Cod Bay, as part of the on-going monitoring project conducted by Dr. Amy Costa. The zooplankton collections and whale observations were made opportunistically; hence a full description of the resource condition, and whale abundance and behavior, is not possible. During the cruise 11-13 right whales were sighted, with behaviors ranging from feeding to undetermined. The majority of whales observed were seen in the eastern quadrant of the bay.

    20 March. The PCCS Right Whale Research Program conducted an aerial survey of Cape Cod Bay. We took off from Chatham and headed west to pick up trackline 15 and conducted our survey in a south to north direction. The first whale we came across during the survey was a fin whale that was traveling in the water. We would see one more fin whale before the survey was completed. The first right whales that we saw were in a group of five and all subsurface feeding. Shortly after leaving this group, we spotted another group behaving in very much a similar fashion. This group was made up of four individuals. During our survey we saw 12 right whales in total.

    17 March. We took off from Chatham on a beautiful Thursday morning, heading toward the track line along the backside of the Cape that would lead us into the Bay. Within a few minutes, we saw a humpback whale going down a dive -- the first humpback sighting for the aerial team this year. As we rounded Race Point, we saw another blow, this time from a right whale. As we moved along we saw more and more right whales -- one was breaching, a few were in a SAG (Surface Active Group), while the majority of the whales were either skim feeding or subsurface feeding.

    17 March. The cruise was conducted in excellent conditions and moderate temperatures. Three of nine regular zooplankton stations were sampled as were seven special stations including one surface sampling transect and two vertical pump sampling casts with a CTD. Special stations were focused upon determining the characteristics of the zooplankton food resource in the vicinity of skim and subsurface feeding whales. The PCCS aerial surveillance team flew the regular survey tracks in the Bay to document marine mammal distribution and collect photographs of right whales for analysis of the demographic character of the local population.

    15 March. On Tuesday the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies right whale research team conducted a survey of our eastern track lines. We took of from Chatham airport early in the morning and headed out to conduct our survey in a north to south direction. It did not take long for us to spot a whale on our first track line. As the day progressed we continued to have success finding whales. In all, we saw approximately 20 right whales all subsurface feeding. In addition, we saw two minke whales, around 30 unknown dolphins, and two fin whales towards the end of our survey.

    13 March. We took off from Chatham early Sunday morning and started our survey in the southern part of Cape Cod Bay and made our way north.  Despite a bit of fog in the morning, the visibility was decent, although it turned out to be quite overcast and hazy throughout the rest of the survey.  It wasn't long until we saw our first right whale, subsurface feeding.  As we circled this individual, we began to realize there were about seven right whales in that particular area, feeding beneath the surface. We collected adequate data and photographs to identify all the individuals and continued along on our track lines.  Within a few minutes, we saw more whales subsurface feeding, and three whales in a SAG (Surface Active Group).  As we made our way north, the weather began to deteriorate.  We ended our survey with 13 right whales and one fin whale.

    08 March. The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies right whale research team conducted an aerial survey of Cape Cod Bay in a north to south direction.  The first whale we came across was observed subsurface feeding, north of Cape Cod. A total of approximately 18 right whales were sighted throughout the survey.  The whales were subsurface traveling and milling.  No other marine mammals were seen during this survey. 

     

    04 March. The PCCS Right Whale Research Program conducted a survey of Cape Cod Bay and two of the eastern survey tracklines. The original flight plan for the day was to conduct a survey of the eastern tracklines.  We took off from the Provincetown airport and headed east of the Bay.  After surveying the first two tracklines, it was determined the sea state was not conducive to a proper survey. This decision, lead us to terminate the eastern survey and conduct a survey of Cape Cod Bay.  The Bay was surveyed in a north to south direction, tracklines 1-14.  Trackline 15 was not surveyed due to low tide.   During this survey, two right whales were observed.  One whale was observed logging on trackline 1.  The second was observed further south in the Bay, mostly subsurface.

     

     

     

    Right whale images taken under NOAA Fisheries permit 633-1763, under the authority of

    the U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts - please request PCCS permission for use.

     


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