Friday, August 14, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Krill Carson


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Bolide and calf.

On today’s whale watch out of Provincetown, we had some great looks at quite a few humpback whales, including Bolide and her calf of this season. Bolide is a very good mom who really watches out over her calves. Humpback moms only have a single calf and they nurse their calves for close to a year. At the end of that year, mother and calf will separate and will not associate together much after that time.

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Bolide and calf surfacing together.

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Bolide fluking out with calf.

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Bolide and her beautiful young calf of this season.

As we watched this amazing pair, we noticed that the calf was surfacing very close to mom’s side. Then the calf dove at an angle towards mom’s tail stock, a good indication that the calf had started to nurse. Humpback moms nurse their calves for up to a year and produce a very rich and fatty milk that helps the calf grow quickly. Once weaned, the calf separates from its mom but remembers the feeding area that mom brought it to during its first year of life. So we expect and look forward to seeing Bolide’s 2015 calf as it returnsto this feeding area next season and all subsequent season.

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Bolide fluking out.

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Very black ventral tail pattern of Bolide.

We can easily identify Bolide by looking at the shape and markings on her dorsal fin (the fin on her back) as well as her ventral tail pattern. Bolide has a very black tail pattern with a thin white line on the left. Humpbacks with very black tail patterns are often the hardest to identify. After leaving Bolide and calf, we picked up another humpback whale who also had a very black ventral tail pattern. We quickly identified this whale as Perseid, another female who had a calf last season. Since the calving interval for humpback whales is every 2 to 3 years, we don’t expect to see Perseid with another calf for at least a year or two. Taking a few years between calves allows moms to regain their strength and to rebuild their thick blubber layer.

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Perseid fluking out.

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Perseid fluking out.

As we waited for Perseid to return to the surface, we sighted a number of single humpbacks also in this area. We were able to identify two of those individuals as Pele and Rapier’s 2009 calf. As we watched Pele in the distance, we noticed that he was moving in Perseid’s direction. Pele and Perseid are often seen feeding together so we wondered if this pair would reunite once again. When Perseid surfaced again, we were delighted to see that Pele had indeed joined her as they moved away from the area to the east.

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Perseid fluking out with Pele coming towards her in the distance.

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Pele fluking out off our bow.

At the end of our trip, we picked up another mother and calf pair, but were unable to identify the mom. Mom has a very dark ventral tail pattern with some white patches on both sides. Her calf was very active as it rolled over belly-up and lifted its flippers out of the water. After smashing the flippers on the surface a few times, the calf then started flippering on its side. Mom appeared to be putting up with the antics of her young calf, as she traveled slowly by the calves side. Nice to see such an active calf looking healthy and being so playful.

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Calf flippering belly up.

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Calf flippering on its side.

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Ventral tail pattern of calf.

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Mom fluking out.

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Calf tail breaching.

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