Far and away, most people who want to see whales at Cape Cod National Seashore go looking during the warm summer months. But, according to seashore officials, the winter months can offer glimpses of these leviathans as well.
You just need to be sure to dress warmly, perhaps packing a Thermos of coffee or hot chocolate, carry a good pair of binoculars, and be patient.
According to the seashore, while most adult whales head south to breeding grounds during the winter months, young or non-reproductive whales have no reason to head to the breeding grounds and so sometimes can be spotted hanging out in local waters.
To go in search of whales, head out to some of the ocean and bayside beaches on the Outer Cape and see what you can find. Here, thanks to the seashore, is a list of whales that might be seen:
* North Atlantic Right Whale - Up to 55 feet in length. Cape Cod Bay is one of the few locations in the Gulf of Maine where they are known to congregate. Here in local waters (December - April) they feed mostly on tiny crustaceans near shore, in the eastern parts of Cape Cod Bay. Beaches on both the bayside and ocean in Truro and Provincetown may provide opportunities for right whale sightings. North Atlantic right whales (named because they were the “right” whales to hunt) are the most endangered whales in the world, with approximately 325 still living.
* Fin Whale - Up to 70 feet in length. Fin whales can be seen year-round in Cape Cod waters, and can sometimes be seen close to shore from the northernmost beaches, such as Herring Cove and Race Point, an area known locally as finback alley. Fin whales are relatively fast, therefore extensive hunting didn’t begin until the 20th century, with the advent of modern ships and equipment. Today, population estimates range from 60,000 to 100,000 worldwide.
* Other Whales - Young humpback whales, pilot whales, dolphins, and porpoises are also found year-round, but with the exception of humpback whales, they are seldom seen near shore unless in a stranding situation.