2011 05 05- Cuviers beaked whales, baby flying fish, the end of the season and a thank you Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   


On the 5th of May, along with the manta ray and the humpback mother and calf and assorted suitors, we were lucky to spot three Cuvier's beaked whales. Above is a male. While others we have photographed here in Bermuda are grey in colour, others like these ones can be reddish-pink.

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The two females are in the lower photos. You can see the melon-shaped head characteristic of the Cuvier's beaked whales. Its forehead slopes to a poorly defined short beak, and its mouth turns upward. This whale has a depression behind the blowholes which ends in a distinct neck. Beacause its blow is small and not very noticeable they are hard to spot. One of its more interesting features is that adult males have two large teeth about 2 inches long protruding from the tip of the lower jaw. The males use these teeth in fights with each other over females. The scars on the male in the top photo are evidence of these teeth.  The lower jaw of the Cuvier's beaked whale extends well beyond the upper jaw.

The Cuvier's beaked whales' range is known mainly from strandings. It is widespread across the Atlatnic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Deep waters are preferred in anything from cool to tropical habitats. Because of identification difficulties, the global population is unknown.

We went out again on the 7th of May but apart from a glimpse of a whale which we couldn't find again despite the calm seas, we didn't spot any more humpbacks and for us, it is probably the end of the season. But once our attention was drawn away from the larger animals we focussed on some of the smaller marine life surrounding our boat including the baby flying fish below, photo taken by Roland Lines.


All in all, it was a great season with plenty of fluke IDs. It was marred only by Mike Smith's accident while refitting Sea Slipper, which necessitated surgery to reattach the bicep tendon to the elbow. Fortunately Roland Lines stepped up to the plate with his boat Ocean Potion. Because my family, Annabel and daughters Elsa and Somers were away in New Zealand for over three weeks during the peak of the humpbacks' migration past Bermuda I was not only able to spend maximum time on the ocean, but also long hours in the evenings sorting through photos and data. Thanks to Camilla Stringer for being such a stalwart aide-de-camp and to Judie Clee who worked on the 160+ invididual fluke IDs we obtained this season, matching them up to fluke IDs we had taken over the previous four years and also matching many of them to Allied Whale's North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue. Having this 'real time' matching going on, sometimes while she was on the water herself, made our work all that much more interesting and rewarding. Thanks to Dr Jooke Robbins at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies for being so quick to respond to our posted fluke IDs. Once we have sorted through our catalogue thoroughly, I will send our Master Catalogue of Bermuda Fluke IDs to both Dr Robbins and Allied Whale at College of the Atlantic.Thanks also to all our contributors of fluke IDs from the whale watching boats or private boats. Our catalogue would not be complete without these invaluable contributions.

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