Thursday, August 6, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Krill Carson

Fluke out by humpback calf.

As we headed to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank, we came into an area with a large concentration of seabirds and whales. Most of the whales were humpbacks that were feeding deep in small groups. We assume they were feeding on some type of small schooling fish like herring or mackerel which are common bait fish in our New England waters. One group of humpbacks included Hancock and her calf of this season as well as Venom and Crisscross.

Humpback calf.

Crisscross flippering.

 

Venom fluking out.

Venom is an individual easy to identify just by looking at there flukes for much of the right tip has been cut off. This injury was probably caused by a vessel strike. Although a serious injury, Venom survived and has returned many years to feed off our cold productive waters. If you look closely at her flukes (tail), you cal also see signs of a previous entanglement with fishing gear. The deep gashes at the base of the flukes is clear evidence of this encounter. Getting hit by boats and getting entangled in fishing gear are two hazards that whales face when feeding in our water.

 

 

Venom fluking out.

The top of Venom’s flukes.

There seemed to be a lot of socializing between the members of this small group. Crisscross was actively flippering as was Hancock’s calf. At one point during our time with this group, the calf came right over to the boat as if checking us out. It was great to see the calf looking so well and so fat. Soon the calf will be feeding on its own and preparing to leave Hancock forever.

Tail flick by Crisscross.

Hancock’s calf coming over to the boat.

Hancock and her beautiful calf of 2015.

 

Flippering by Crisscross.

As we watched this group, we noticed that Venom has a satellite tag on her left flank. The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies is satellite tagging a handful of humpback whales this season. This information is helping scientists better understand where these animal’s go over the course of the feeding season. And it is allowing them to evaluate tag placement and impacts on the animals overall health. By providing photos and sighting data of tagged individuals, Provincetown Whale Watch is helping in this very important project.

Crisscross flippering.

 

Satellite tag on Venom’s left flank.

Soon we saw two additional humpbacks in the area that appeared to be heading out way. This pair turned out to be Twine and Pele who eventually joined with our group of four. It was fun to see how humpbacks form these small groups or associations that really don’t last very long. Looking over the data we have collected over the years, the only long-term association is that of the mother and calf. Mom’s and calves stay together for a year before separating. And since we can identify mothers and their previous calves, we notice that although the calf returns to the same feeding grounds each year, they don’t often associate with their moms when in these area.

Twine and Pele moving into the area.

 

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