Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whales in the Bay of Fundy Fog

OK, so where did all this fog come from? But not to worry, whales are still being sighted. It's always a bit intriguing to go whale watching in the fog. Usually on a clear day, we are looking for the spouts of the whales which can be seen a few miles away but on a day where the visibility is diminished, we have to rely on our ears to locate the whales. We go to the areas where the whales had been sighted on previous occasions, and shut down the engine and listen for the exhalation of the whales. Once heard, we then head in the direction from which is was heard and shut down again. This continues until we locate the whales. Though fog does make it more challenging, it is usually successful. Yesterday, we had thick, thick fog and we were able to watch 7 different humpback whales. The first two were adult females, who we identified as Lace and Touchdown. After watching Touchdown roll and flipper slap, we then watched 3 others who we identified as Churchill, Cloud, and Luna. Cloud has the distinction of being the oldest whale of known age. He was born in 1977 to Istar, who is now a Gulf of Maine grandmother! The last two whales we watched were Flash and her calf. So despite the fog, it turned out to be a very successful day!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another calf arrives in the Bay of Fundy

On July 10, Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises welcomed another mother and her calf to the Bay of Fundy. The mother was identified as Squiggle, an individual we have been sighting in the Bay since 1990. The arrival of Squiggle and her calf brings our total up to eleven, much better than our calf count in 2006 which was three! Usually in a season we average 4-5 calves but in later years we have seen that average increase as we are covering a broader range.
The calf swam beside its mother but entertained us in the meantime by rolling and tail lobbing (slapping the surface of the water). We obtained excellent photos of the calf's fluke print and dorsal fin so that we will recognize it when it returns to the Bay of Fundy.
On July 14, we were pleased to see a North Atlantic Right Whale move into the Bay. This species is critically endangered with only approximately 350 remaining in the world! The Grand Manan Basin in Bay of Fundy is a summer feeding ground for the majority of this population. Another popular feeeding area for them is at Roseway Basin, off Nova Scotia's South Shore.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Birth Announcement

Foggy is one of the new mothers that have been sighted in the Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy has become a bit of a nursery as of late with the arrival of ten humpback mothers with their calves. The moms that have been identified are Foggy, Flash, Colorado, Mirage, Umbra, Eclipse and Teo. There were three whales that we have not been able to identify. Foggy is special to researchers at Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises as we watched her grow to adulthood since she was brought here as a calf by her mother whose name was Bermuda. This calf is the third born to Foggy; her first, Sparkler, was born in 2000 and her second, Motley, was born in 2003. Her 2007 calf will not be named until it makes its return to the Gulf of Maine after it leaves its mother.

Humpback whale calves are born in the Caribbean after a 12 month gestation. They drink about 50 gallons of milk from their mother, gaining several hundred pounds per week. They stay with their moms for about a year after they have been weaned at the Northern feeding grounds.

There has been plenty of other activity as well. We have seen the humpbacks move in a bit closer to Brier Island. On one occasion, which was a research cruise, we watched as 4 adult humpback whales surface fed on herring. They would blow a column of bubbles and lunge through it with their mouths agape, taking in several hundred pounds of fish with each gulp. Humpbacks are baleen whales and use those to filter the food out from the water, much like a sieve.

There were also some curious whales, such as Orion, who approached us and spy hopped next to the boat as if he was doing the watching! It is times like this that we wonder who is watching who?

Humpback whale named Orion spyhopping next to our whale watch boat.