Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Slalom, her 2011 Calf and Gemini

Wart has a large family and daughter Slalom, born in 1982, with her 2011 calf has been sighted in the Bay of Fundy by the New England Aquarium research team.  In addition, they have also spotted Gemini, a large male named for the pair of scars on his back.

The right whale numbers are up this year compared to 2010 when food resources seemed to be limited and the right whales did not stay long in the Bay when they did come in.  There have been more right whales seen this year already than all the sightings from last summer.

Right whale diving in the Bay of Fundy

Drippy-nose and her 2011 Calf

Drippy-nose and her 2011 calf were seen for the first time in the Bay of Fundy on August 27 just before tropical storm Irene moved through the area.  She and her calf were seen again August 30 by the New England Aquarium research team.  She was not seen on the calving ground in the winter but was seen off the Cape Cod area in the spring with her several months old calf.  In 2008 she also wasn't seen on the calving area off Florida/Georgia, but was first seen with her calf in the Bay of Fundy with a large calf probably six to eight months old. 

The calf's callosity pattern on its head, cornified skin that forms unique patterns on the head of all right whales, was photographed and the calf can be followed for the rest of its life using these unique patterns.  Whale lice do live on the callosities giving them a more colourful appearance but the callosities themselves do not greatly change over time, other than the head growing in size.  Calves also loose the concave shape to their head and it becomes convex.  Right whale calves often have more orange whale lice than adults.  This species of whale lice tend to be more prevalent on slow moving calves and adults that are compromised by injury or illness.  Whale lice eat the constantly sloughing skin on right whales.  Calves are growing quickly and probably slough more skin; the skin of sick animals often turns grey and sloughs in large sheets, promoting the growth of whale lice.

Drippy-nose's 5th calf born in 2011, left side of head

Drippy-nose's 5th calf born in 2011, right side of head

Drippy-nose's callosity pattern.  The white mark in the coaming callosity
(immediately before the blowholes is distinctive).

White scarring on Drippy-nose's tail from an entanglement in fishing gear.
Drippy-nose, AKA Sonnet, was first seen as a calf with her mother Kleenex in the Bay of Fundy in 1981.  At 30 years of age, this is her fifth calf.  She had her first calf when she was 10.  Calves are generally spaced at three years or more (one year pregnancy, one year nursing, one year recovering weight lost during the year of nursing).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bayof Fundy weather

It has been a difficult August this year with weather.  Lots of fog and rain and now post-tropical storm "Irene", making survey days limited.  There are definitely more right whales in the Bay this year than last year which was an unusually low number year for right whales. Several mothers and calves have been seen, as well as some surface active groups, indicating that males numbers are also good this year.

Hopefully, there will be a few more better weather days in the next month so the calves can be photo-documented.

Right whale calf seen August 27, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Many Right Whales Seen by New England Aquarium Research Team

The New England Aquarium Research Team were able to get out on August 9 and found over 25 right whales, two sei whales and one sperm whale.  Our researchers were also out the same day to do some plankton tows, confirming that large quantities of copepods, the preferred food of right whales, are present in the Bay.  Sei whales also eat copepods which makes sense why they are also here.

The sperm whale sighting is exciting since this is now the second year that they have been in the Bay after only one other sighting in the past 30 years before 2010.