#28 A short window....

Almost a full week had gone by before we were able to get back out on the water. After hearing reports of right whales near the northern end of Campobello Island, we began our morning by searching for right whales as we passed East Quoddy light. Although we didn't find any right whales at this northern latitude, we came across the first humpback whales of the season! (The New England Aquarium Whale Watch back in Boston also sees a lot of humpback whales!)

Like right whales, humpback whales raise their flukes when they dive, but they have distinctive patterns on the ventral side of their flukes while the flukes of a right whale are completely black. Humpback whale researchers use the pattern on the ventral side of the fluke, along with the shape of the dorsal fin to identify individuals. (Try this game to see if you can identify right whales using their individual callosity markings!)

Continuing our survey into the Bay, we found that the right whales had moved a few miles to the east. Throughout the day we found that most of the whales were solitary even though they were spatially very close to each other. We photographed over 35 individuals including 12 engaged in a SAG! The whales in the middle of the SAG rolled slowly around the female, stroking her with their flippers. (For more on this behavior, check out these other posts about SAGs.) Other whales who weren't positioned next to the female patrolled the edges of the SAG, as if waiting for the perfect opportunity to slip in next to her.

The SAG held a surprise for us although. One of the whales had a dorsal fin! Somehow a humpback whale had ended up in the middle of the SAG! The humpback only remained with the SAG briefly though. As the SAG broke up for a few minutes and then reformed three hundred meters away, the humpback whale headed in the opposite direction. As the afternoon progressed, the tide turned to become poised against the low winds. We turned west and spent the rest of the day photographing whales that we passed on our way back to Lubec.

Top photo: Flukes of a humpback whale. Photographer: Philip Hamilton, NEAq
Bottom photo: Two right whales engaged in a SAG. Photographer: Moira Brown, NEAq

- Cyndi

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