2010 12 31- The humpback whales are back! Yahooo! Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   


The whales are back! It seems every year we have our first confirmed sightings of the season in the last week of December. We've had such awful weather this fall/winter (except Christmas Day) that this was one of the first calm days we've had to spot the whales. Tom Sheratt on Knapton Estates, just around the corner from us, phoned in this morning with two whales sighted, thanks to the good eyes of his visiting brother-in-law Jason Carr, a Bermudian now living in London, Ontario. Elsa and I hightailed it over to their house and sure enough, two whales quite close together. That's Elsa above, pointing at the whales for my benefit.

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The whales were seen close to this fishing boat at the bottom of the appropriately named Whale Watch Hill. The two whales continued slowly west towards Spittal Pond above right.

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Above Devonshire Bay where the whales were not far off the breakers. The water is crystal clear at this time of year. We received an email from Jill Day who also spotted the same whales close to shore off Devonshire Bay. The whales continued west and then we received a call from our ever vigilant Kelly Winfield who had now spotted the same two whales off Warwick Long Bay. We had recruited Jackie, my sister by then and Elsa stayed with her at Devonshire Bay while I picked up Camilla Stringer to join Kelly.

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Myself, Kelly and Camilla looking at the whales. Yes, we are all pretty happy.

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It was interesting to see dive boats and kayakers out there who had no idea they were with whales in their immediate vicinity.

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So, who were these two whales and what were they doing here when it's not the migration season in late March and April? I'm not a whale so I don't know, but based on the research papers I've read about the whales in their breeding and feeding grounds and my observations over the past four seasons here in Bermuda, these could be young juvenile females and perhaps even 'grandmothers' who do not wish to go to the Caribbean breeding grounds where they will be harassed by males and where they won't find any food. If I had to guess the gender and age of these two whales? Well, you can see the dorsal fin on the whale above left which is typical of a young female, well shaped. The one on the right is more typical of an older whale- it isn't as curved and could be an older female or a male. By remaining on the open ocean seamounts during the winter the humpbacks can pick up reasonable amounts of plankton and krill on the upwellings and still be safe from the orcas further north. At first I thought this pair might be a newborn calf with its mother- and we have confirmed reports of mothers/newborn calves around this time of the year in Bermuda. It seemed one might have had a smaller 'blow' than the other and the 4-5 minutes between blows of at least one of them seemed to indicate a younger whale, perhaps feeding off its mother. But later it seemed the two whales weren't so close together. I followed them along South Shore for four hours until they were past South West Breaker where they appeared to be heading very slowly towards Sally Tuckers. They certainly weren't going anywhere very fast and most of the time they would have been in water 70-200 feet deep.

Anyway, it's wonderful having 'our' whales back again. Please let us know if you see any!