Judging by the weather we had before Hurricane Irene swept through, the saying about "the calm before the storm" didn't ring true. However, we all can now attest to "the calm after the storm." The team took advantage of four consecutive days on the water this week, all with light winds that gave us calm seas.
As Monica described in the last blog post, on August 30 we sighted a mom (Catalog #1123- Sonnet) and her calf, which were new to the season's sightings in the Bay. While we were photographing the pair, we witnessed a small SAG form- first one adult male joined the pair, then three others approached and joined in! While the adults dived deep, the calf stayed at the surface, which allowed Monica to biopsy dart the calf to collect a small skin sample. By the end of the day, we had photographed 17 different whales.
A SAG around a Mom/Calf pair developed in front of our eyes!
Photo: Tracy Montgomery
The following day, we decided to mix things up and try a different approach to our survey, heading north and east of our usual track. We thought it paid off when we photographed our first whale at 9:00 AM, but as we continued to survey the Bay for hours, no other right whales were sighted. Around 1:30 PM, we finally had our second sighting: a calf and its mom, Viola (#2029), who was born in 1990 and had calved twice before. Unfortunately, this pair was seen in the shipping lanes, the "road" for large shipping vessels. We contact Fundy Traffic at the end of every day with the positions of the right whales we see so that they can notify all the ships that pass in and out of the area to slow their speed and keep an eye out for whales. Hopefully #2029 and her calf weren't going to spend any time hanging out in the lanes and moved on to a safer area. By the end of the day we photographed eight different whales, including two that formed a small SAG, but we also saw an additional three that we weren't able to document because they were too sneaky for us!
Two whales, chin to chin, in a small SAG on August 31. Photo: Moira Brown
Since we didn't have much luck with large numbers of whales to the east, our plan for our third day on the water was to survey on our regular tracklines. However, the whales had another idea and led us northeast! We sighted 11 different whales, but they were difficult to work with because they were on longer dives (14-16 minutes, as opposed to an average 10 minutes) and very spread out. The highlight of the day was seeing a new mom and calf pair for the Bay: #1911, Mystique, who was born in 1989 and had calved three times before.
Mystique (#1911) flukes down for a dive while her calf follows at the surface. Photo: Moira Brown
Working 14-15 hours each day can be draining, but since our team was in the groove and the weather looked great, we decided to go for the gold and survey a fourth day. The team all agrees that our September 2nd trip was the most exciting of the four (and maybe of the season so far!), but I'm going to leave you all on the edge of your seats to find out why in the next blog post....