#9 Skim Feeding Right Whales!

I recently joined the Right Whale Project to help the Aquarium team heading to Roseway Basin later in the week (check back tomorrow for more information on our trip to Roseway Basin). I have a full time position in the Education Department at the Aquarium and am lucky enough to help with this season's surveys. I have previously flown aerial surveys in the southeast but I haven't been involved with data collection for about a year and a half, so the team sent me on the R/V Nereid yesterday to get me back up to speed.

Right whale with mouth open, showing its baleen

We ended up having an amazing day on the water. We headed to the middle of the Bay of Fundy survey area and weren't having any luck spotting right whales when we got a report that the R/V Shearwater, a research vessel from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies doing humpback whale surveys, had seen 3 - 4 right whales skim feeding as well as a mother/calf pair southeast of Grand Manan Island. Even though the position was about 26 miles away, we took a chance and steamed to that spot. On our way we spotted TONS of humpbacks and then about a mile from the reported spot, we found our first right whale for the day! We ended up seeing 3 right whales, all skim feeding. While this behavior is common in other habitats, like the Cape Cod Bay, it is not commonly seen in the Bay of Fundy. Right whales in the Bay of Fundy feed at depth, using their baleen to filter the water for mostly copepods, a small zooplankton (animal plankton) that is very abundant in cold North Atlantic waters. It was incredible to not only see this behavior but also to see the incredible baleen that these whales have.

Right whale displaying skim feeding behavior

It was a great day on the water and a great way to get me back in the swing of things, I even got to see my first puffins in the wild! I can't wait to see what we will find on Roseway Basin!


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