Humpback whales spotted off the coast of Massachusetts

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2005 file photo, a humpback whale leaps out of the water in the channel off the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui in Hawaii. The federal government is proposing removing most of the world's humpback whale population from the endangered species list. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries announced on Monday, April 20, 2015 that they want to reclassify humpbacks into 14 distinct populations, and remove 10 of those from the list. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, file)
–Reed Saxon

BOSTON (AP) — Scientists say they’ve spotted a sure sign of spring in New England: the return of humpback whales.

The New England Aquarium says naturalists on Wednesday saw three humpbacks off Stellwagen Bank, about 25 miles east of Boston.

Experts say they instantly recognized one of the whales as Ursa, a female they’ve been tracking for years. The Aquarium says she was easily identified by the signature scars on her tail.

Many humpbacks migrate to the Caribbean to mate and give birth to calves. Scientists say their return to New England waters is a harbinger of spring as reliable as robins and crocuses.

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Along with the humpbacks, endangered North Atlantic right whales — some of the rarest creatures on the planet — have been seen feeding in Cape Cod Bay.