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Provincetown :: Saturday, April 19th 2014

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They’re Back!

Spring Whale-Watching Returns to Provincetown


March 28th, 2013

Love whales? Come on down and marvel at these creatures with us!

Right whales are generally seen in these waters until mid-May, while humpback whales can be viewed from late spring into the fall.

Here at the edge of Cape Cod, one of our most-anticipated rites of spring is the return of whales to the waters of our coast. This season, the critically endangered right whales were spotted in the Bay on December 13, 2012, which is the earliest sighting on record. Scientists are unsure why they are returning so early, though they think it may be due to the warming waters of the Atlantic.

In the last several weeks, groups of right whales have been seen feeding in the center of Cape Cod Bay. These 45-foot long, 70-ton leviathans are making a modest comeback, according to a March 17th article in the Boston Globe, with their number standing at about 500, and annual population growth of about 2.5%.

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According to Catherine Macort, a spokesperson for the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS), right whales are generally seen in these waters until mid-May, while humpback whales can be viewed from late spring into the fall. “So far airplane and boat-based research teams have identified about 60 individuals, which is a spot-on number for this time of year.”

On Monday the 18th, PCCS teams located 15 right whales in Cape Cod Bay with three off North Truro, two of which were skim and subsurface feeding. Also spotted were five fin whales and four minke whales. On the afternoon of March 21st, residents posted to Provincetown Community Space that a small group of 7-8 right whales were close to shore, traveling from Herring Cove to Race Point. They were in a surface active group, which basically means they were socializing.

If you’re planning for an April Whale Watch trip, you’ll want to check out Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch and Provincetown Whale Watch for information and tickets. There are also private whale watches available from companies such as Sea Salt Charters and Alpha Whale Watch.
While boat tours begin in mid-April, you can still enjoy the spectacle from shore with a good pair of binoculars, a zoom lens on your camera, and sharp ears. When the creatures move closer to shore, you’ll be delighted to hear the chuffing exhale of air leaving their blowholes, accompanied by a telltale spout of spray.

Now, with the parade of these marine mammals beginning, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies has scheduled their very first Whale Walk on March 29th, beginning at 3 pm. Escorted by PCCS Education Director Jesse Mechling, participants should meet at Province Lands Visitor Center for an easy 3-mile round-trip through Hatches Harbor to Race Point Light. Bring binoculars, water, good walking shoes and warm clothes. For details call 508-487-3623 x103 or email jmechling@coastalstudies.org . Admission to the walk is free, although donations are welcomed.

The PCCS is seeking additional donations, because recent and impending cuts to the Center's right whale research budget means that important research by the habitat team into the effects of the Atlantic’s warming waters on the whales' food supply could end in a matter of months. May 2013 might be the last time the aerial survey team can take to the skies to accurately assess the size and health of the population. This could also be the last season that the Center's disentanglement team is able to respond to reports of a right whale trapped in fishing gear. To help them preserve these programs, you can donate or purchase a membership at https://coastalstudies.org/join-give/gift.htm

Chris Daniels is a writer, photographer and office-guru-about-town who shares her life with a bossy cat and “Damon, the Dog With the Toy”

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