On October 28 we did an aerial survey of the Grand Manan Basin where right whales are typically found. I had been out on October 25 by boat covering a small portion of this area as well. On both days, no right whales were seen, even though 20-25 were present close to Grand Manan (approximately 8 to 10 nautical miles) on October 20. That is how quickly things can change. We did see four fin whales and three humpback whales from the plane and three fin whales and three humpbacks from the boat, the latter in a totally different area. One of the humpbacks seen from the air was breaching - the splash is even more impressive from the air, and another was tail lobbing but they were separated by a couple of miles. It is hard not to make the relationship that these whales were possibly communicating with each other by making loud noises.
We have had a lot of wind in the last few weeks which can disperse the zooplankton patches. Right whales have also been showing up in the middle to lower part of the Gulf of Maine so perhaps the whales have started to move to their winter haunts. Aerial surveys will continue for a few more weeks, always dependent on the weather. Strong winds create lots of white caps which makes it more difficult to see whale blows or spouts and also cause a bigger distraction since the search image for a whale from the air is fleeting with little time to make a judgement on whether it is a wave or a whale.
Last year there were right whale remaining into December and some were even seen the end of January but every year is different and the distribution of right whales this summer was definitely not the "norm" which probably reflected a more scattered distribution of zooplankton.
Right whales do sometimes return after leaving the Bay. Their meanderings seem to be part of their lives with sometimes no where in particular to go but a huge ocean to explore, stopping to feed where ever they find dense enough patches of zooplankton.