#9: Calves Just Want to Have Fun!

After seeing quite a few right whales on Monday, we had high hopes for a busy Day 3 out on the water on Tuesday. However (as we are already well aware of), our study species have a mind of their own, so naturally we only found five individual right whales. But what our survey lacked in quantity, the handful of whales we did see put on quite a show for us. 

The 2011 Calf of #1243 breaching sequence- these three photos span only one second! 
Photo: Marianna Hagbloom

We spotted "Columbine" (Catalog #1408) several times throughout the day, which was exciting because she is an older female born in 1984 who has been a regular visitor to the Bay of Fundy over the last 28 years. She hadn't been observed here since September 2008, but is one of the first older whales to arrive this season. The NEAq team did photograph her during their 2011 winter survey near Jordan Basin in the Gulf of Maine, which is a potential right whale mating ground. With a beautiful dark black and robust body, Columbine looks healthy, which is encouraging to see in an ocean with changing environmental conditions and food distributions. Due to dedicated surveys and genetic analysis, we know she is the grandmother of #3808, the first right whale that we sighted in the Bay this season!!

Columbine's first sighting in the Bay since 2008. Photo: Philip Hamilton

Our new favorite resident whale (the 2012 Calf of #3390) continued its streak of impressing its audience with what is known as a "curious approach."  The calf (sans mom at this point), cautiously circled the Nereid, while playfully checking us out above and below the water.  We made sure that we were shut down for the entirety of this behavior, as to not endanger our inquisitive young friend.  Moments like this definitely bridge the gap between researcher and study subject: our similarities become more tangible when whales observe us with the same curiosity in which we study them.  

Without a doubt, this was one of the highlights of our day, let alone the season!  It is also interesting to note that it wasn’t until we left the calf about a half hour later that we found its mom (Catalog #3390) at least a mile away.  This is normal behavior for mom and calf pairs in the Bay of Fundy, as the calf is slowly weaned from its mother and the two begin to spend more time apart.  As a first time mom, it looks like #3390 is off to a great start of what we hope will be a long period of her raising healthy calves. 

This calf is studying US! Photo: Maria Hall

Towards the end of the day, the 2011 Calf of #1243 made sure we didn't motor past it by lobtailing energetically.  Once it had our attention, the one year-old began a long series of breaches right off of our boat, intermixed with several bouts of flipper slapping and rolling. It is nice to see that the yearling found its way back to the Bay, since "Magic" (Catalog #1243) and this calf were one of our mom and calf pairs in the Bay of Fundy last year!

  We couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining sighting to finish off the day.  Here’s to hoping the weather stays nice and that more whales continue to arrive in the days to come.

-Kelsey Howe

Editor's Note: Kelsey joined us for her first Bay of Fundy field season last summer! Read her previous posts from the 2011 season on taste-testing copepods and right whale gunshots!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I hope that everyone had a great and saf weekend and I hope that they have another great and safe weekend!