#4: Plenty of whales in the sea!

Hello all! I’m Kelsey Howe, and before I describe our extraordinary second day out on the water, I’ve been asked to introduce myself since I am a newbie at the BOF field station this year. I was incredibly lucky to snag a seasonal intern opportunity to be a part of this amazing and experienced research team.

A few summers ago, I interned with the non-profit Allied Whale in Bar Harbor, ME, and have spent the last year working for the Large Whale Conservation Program at the State of Maine Department of Marine Resources. While I have experience researching large whales, I haven’t had the privilege of studying right whales, and I am excited to learn and experience as much as I can while I am here.

After our first day on the water, the fog kept us ashore for a few days, and the future forecasts weren’t looking promising. However, after studying the weather buoys on Monday night, Philip decided that Tuesday could be a good day on the water. With an early morning departure, the sun eventually overpowered the clouds to keep us warm while we traversed the waters east of Grand Manan in search of right whales.

After about three hours, we photographed our first right whale of the day, which was recognized as Catalog #3312 (search for our cataloged whales here!), and for the rest of the day our crew was kept busy with right whale sightings!

An adult whale surprised us with its curiosity - it circled our boat and even tilted its head to get a better look at us! Photo: Dan Pendleton

We soon encountered Mavynne (#1151) skim feeding, which allowed us to see her prominent white mouth scars from her tragic 2009 entanglement in fishing gear. As Philip mentioned in the previous post, it is rare to see right whales skim feeding in the Bay of Fundy.

Mavynne's skim feeding revealed her mouth scars. Photo: Patricia Naessig

We decided to try a plankton tow to see if we could get a better picture of the quantity of copepods in the water. We captured quite a thick amount of the tiny reddish pink organisms and discovered that copepods are not just a delicacy for whales, but humans find them appetizing as well! After bravely sampling some of the plankton herself, Amy commented that they would “taste great on a cracker.” Besides supplying some comedy for the Nereid crew, the dense plankton sample indicated that this food source may be more plentiful than in the previous year, which may also mean that we’ll have a more typical season of right whale sightings.

The plankton tow was a success! A dense sample of copepods together has a consistency like jelly.

Noticing some splashing not far from our boat, we discovered a calf “flippering.” This behavior is seen in some other whale species such as humpbacks. The calf had rolled on its side, lifted its huge flipper out of the water, and repeatedly smacked it against the surface. Because it was on its side, we were also able to see its eye! The calf soon joined its mother who we identified as Magic (#1243). Interestingly, Catalog #3343 was also in the area--Magic’s son born in 2003!

Meeting eye to eye: the calf's eye is visible to the left of the flipper. Photo: Dan Pendleton

Ultimately we photographed 23 unique individuals, including Quatro (#1968) and Boomerang (#2503). Additionally, we ended up recording six different species of whales including several sei whales and a sperm whale, both of which are fairly rare finds in the Bay of Fundy. The R/V Callisto was also out on the water and gained great behavioral and acoustic data (about 7 hours' worth!) on a mom/calf pair to the northwest of Grand Manan.

We could not have asked for a more incredible second day out on the water, and judging by the amount of whales and plankton that we collected, this season is shaping up to be a great one!


Facebook Comments


Post a Comment