2009 09 22 Yet another match, this time to our winter whales from the end of Jan 2009 Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

 

We managed to get a couple of fluke ids on the 29th of January (see diary entry for that day) and I've been really curious to see what a match on these 'winter' whales might be. The humpbacks migrate past Bermuda during the spring on their way north to the feeding grounds. We never seem to see them in the fall when they migrate back from the northern feeding grounds to the breeding grounds in the Caribbean. So humpbacks that we see here in December, January and February are a bit of an anomoly. Are they whales heading south? It's way too early for them to be heading north. Are they overwintering in the middle of the Atlantic and if they are, are they young female juveniles too young to bother join the breeding party down south? And are there older female 'aunts' too old to breed, hanging out with the young female juveniles? Well, here's a partial answer to those questions.

Our #0100 on the left was matched today by Dr Peter Stevick to Allied Whales HWC#8231. It was photographed in August of 1998 on Emerald Bank, Scotian Shelf. That's an eleven year gap which means the whale was at least 12 years old and therefore a mature whale when we saw it here. No idea whether it was a male or a female. The whale on the right was matched in late April by Dr Jooke Robbins, Director, Humpback Whale Studies Program at Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies as 'Limbo', a whale that Dr Robbins describes as a transient that was photographed over a few days in 1998 off Provincetown but never again and therefore probably 'belongs elsewhere'.

I went back to my files and found the photos from that day, including the dorsals of both whales.

The dorsal fin on the left below matches the fluke on the left above and the dorsal fin on the right below matches the fluke on the right above. What can we tell from that additional bit of information?

 

To me, the dorsal on the left looks fairly large and intact. Her back is a bit scuffed up and has prominent knuckles. The whale dorsal on the right also looks large and well formed and no scars, an indication that this is a younger humpback. Dr Robbins is an expert at identifying whales by their dorsal fins (not their flukes) and promises to send me a side view of  Limbo's dorsal that might give us a better idea of her sex or age.I do have underwater video of one of the two that came to have a look at me and I'll see if there are any clues in that footage. They were both diving in waters off Sally Tuckers in 140 feet of water. The length of their dives and surface blows were consistent with foraging whales. We dropped our hydrophone in several times and heard humpbacks singing in the distance, probably on Challenger Bank. 

   

 
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