Fall and spring seem to be good times to spot a whale in New York Harbor, especially humpback and minke whales, as they migrate and are seeking easy sources of food while traveling.
When baitfish or forage fish are in abundance and swimming in large schools, such as menhaden or moss bunker and other species of fish in the herring family, the probability is high to see at least one hungry whale foraging for fish. With waters getting ever so slowly cleaner and populations of forage fish getting ever so slowly higher, sightings of whales and dolphins are becoming ever so slowly more common.
For the past several years, there has been at least one sighting of a whale feeding in New York Harbor during fall migration. Check out the article below from 2015 for more information and remember to keep your eyes open for whales swimming in one of the most urban waterways in the world. If you do spot a whale, please notify the US Coast Guard so they can help protect the marine mammal from ship strikes or other man-made dangers.
By Kathryn Carse | firstname.lastname@example.org
on November 04, 2015 at 1:15 PM, updated November 04, 2015 at 4:33 PM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Eagles above. Whales below. Mount Loretto Unique Area has it all going on.
Anthony D'Angelis had photographed the eagles, but he landed a brand new subject when he and his cousin, Joe Massa, headed out for a half-day of fishing the day after Halloween, Nov. 1.
They were catching (and releasing) tons of fish, which kept them out hours longer. That turned out to be a lucky thing because the highlight of the day came in the waning hours — a breaching humpback whale that D'Angelis caught on video.
The two set out at 5 a.m. on Massa's boat, "My Three Sons." Bunker were everywhere, and so were the stripe bass they were after. The bait fish — technically known as menhaden — is also a favorite of the humpback whale.
Late in the afternoon, they were in the waters off of Mount Loretto Unique Area.
"My cousin said to me, 'Ant, look over there,'" says D'Angelis.
"It looked like the side of a freakin' Volkswagen!," said D'Angelis, still excited by the memory of it. You can hear them both exclaiming in the video he took as the whale plunges through the surface of the water.
His cousin, he said, goes fishing all the time, and has seen whales near the Verrazano Bridge, but even for him it was exciting. He never saw them as far into the bay.
Paul Sieswerda, founder of Gotham Whale, has been tracking whales and other marine mammals in the area since 2011.
"We have only a few reports of whales that far into Raritan Bay," said the St. George resident. On whale spotting trips aboard the American Princess, Gotham Whale has logged a total of 252 whales from 2011 to 2014.
In 2014, a boater reported a humpback in the waters off of Great Kills.
Humpback whales can live up to 50 years, weigh in at 66,000 pounds and be as long as 42 feet.
"It came up near a 23-foot boat and made that boat look tiny," says D'Angelis. The shipping lane comes close to the shore near Mount Loretto, and D'Angelis said, "you could have seen it from land."
D'Angelis and his wife and two children recently moved from Tottenville to across the bay in Old Bridge, N.J.
He shared the whale sighting on the Staten Island Outdoors Facebook page where nature fans and camera buffs post exquisite photos and answer questions about what you are looking at.
There is more good news for the two cousins: After filling out a little paperwork, a cold brew awaits them at Flagship Brewery. Sieswerda and the local brewery have collaborated on awarding "citizen scientists" who report sightings of whales, dolphins and seals.
Any of those marine mammals that are found stranded should be reported to The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation Reporting Hotline at 631-369-9829 for sightings in New York, and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center Reporting Hotline at 609-266-0538 for sightings in New Jersey.