Tuesday, September 8, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Kat Kleinham

Hancock and calf.

Today’s whale watch was beautiful! We started off our trip by coming across a number of finbacks off of Race Point. Finback whales have been in this area for weeks now and they’re so close to shore that even if you were to visit Race Point beach you would see tens of them. We made our way off shore heading to Stellwagen Bank where we came across many humpback whales showing very active behaviors.

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Spinning head breach.

Humpback whales usually dive beneath the surface for about 5 to 7 minutes and coming up for about 5 to 7 breaths. That wasn’t the case; they were only diving down to an average of three minutes and coming up for only a few breaths. This shows that they were probably diving for baitfish that was in the area. In the group we first came across, one of the humpback whales surprised us right in front of the boat with quite a splash of a spinning head breach!

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Humpback whale’s head.

Other whales were diving beneath the surface to feed or they were lunge feeding, or feeding mouth open at the surface. In the picture you can see one of the humpbacks finishing a lunge. Humpbacks will lunge forward mouth open at the surface and then close their mouths to strain all the water our through their baleen.

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Hancock, surfacing off our bow.

There were many humpbacks in the area all diving and either lifting their fluke or tail out of the water or not. Since the humpbacks were pretty distant, the most visible and clear part of the humpback was their dorsal fin. We explain on our trips that we can identify each individual whale by the pattern on the underside of their fluke but we can also do this by their dorsal fins. Each dorsal fin sits behind their head and on the whale’s back is shaped differently for each whale.

We always get the question on whether or not we tag the whales in order to track where they migrate too. The easiest way to track their movement patterns is by photo identification, just as I explained before. There have been research projects in which only a few number of humpbacks have been tracked with tags in order to visualize their movement patterns underneath the surface. What we see on our trips on the surface is only half the story of what these humpbacks!

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