#5: First SAG of the season!

On Saturday, we headed back into the Bay for our third survey. It was a beautiful day on the water- clear skies, calm seas, and whale blows on the horizon! We sighted fin, minke, and humpback whales early in the morning. We also spotted a sperm whale, which Philip photographed. Sperm whales can be identified by their flukes, and we compared Philip's photos to the fluke photos we took last year. It seems that this whale was not one of the sperm whales photographed in 2010, but we'll need to collect more data before we can draw any conclusions about whether or not the same individuals are returning to this area.

The broad flukes of a sperm whale. Photo: Philip Hamilton

Eager to see some right whales, we continued on and were thrilled to notice a cluster of blows around 9:15 AM. We were approaching a Surface Active Group (SAG) of about 20 individuals! This SAG was fairly energetic, and it was amazing to hear how loudly the whales exhaled. The main center of attention was a female, Catalog #2746, who is also a mom this year. Her calf was on the outskirts of the SAG, and every now and then she would leave to reunite with it, at which point all the other whales would race after her. #2746 floated belly-up most of the time, showing off her white underside. The other whales around her burst out of the water and tried to get as close to her as possible. After an hour we left the SAG while it was still in full swing, but our colleagues on another boat observed the SAG for additional two hours! Check out the video below to get an idea of what this SAG looked (and sounded!) like:

Soon after, we came across a season code whale, S025. This whale was first seen in 2009 but we know very little about it, so it cannot be given a catalog number yet. Based on its behavior, it was easy to see why it hasn't been better documented- it zigzagged all over and led us on a wild chase! Although we weren't able to collect a skin sample from it, we were happy to have it well documented through our photographs.

The elusive S025. Photo: Kelsey Howe

Later in the day, we came across more whales scattered across a small area of the Bay. Monica was successful in collecting a skin and blubber sample from the 2011 calf of Catalog #2790, and by the end of the day, we had photographed 34 different whales!

The 2011 calf of Catalog #2790 with some mud on its head. Photo: Tracy Montgomery

Knowing there are so many whales in the Bay is exciting, but frustrating at the moment since we're currently stuck on land due to severe fog. It looks like we will have some excellent days coming up soon though, so stay tuned!

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