Bon Voyage, Balaenids!

With two successful thesis defenses behind us, Hannah and I decided to head for the coast and join Dana and the rest of the right whale crew in Cape Cod for the weekend.  There was only enough room on Selkie for one of us at a time, so Hannah went out Saturday, and I waited for Sunday to go see my favorite balaenid whales.

The weather was gorgeous, and we found our first mom-calf pair of the day (#2145 and calf) within an hour of leaving the dock.  Unfortunately, 2145 wasn’t being terribly cooperative, even when we took long breaks between tagging attempts.  It also didn’t help that she was so concentrated on her food: feeding whales can be particularly difficult to tag because they only leave their rostrums poking out during high skim feeding.

whale calf nose slightly poking out of water
It’s always surprising that such a big animal can keep so much of its body underwater and leave just the tiniest bit poking out.
whale head sticking out of water
This is about as good as it gets in terms of looking into a whale’s mouth! Not awesome for tagging their backs, though.
whale calf feeding
2145’s calf was mimicking mom and skim feeding right behind her. Too cute!

We were just about to leave the area and leave 2145 to her own devices to survey for more whales when another mom-calf pair showed up!  1604 was feeding by herself, which made things tricky because without the visual cue of a calf right next to the mom, it can be hard to pick out who’s who.  Luckily Grace recognized her as a mom, and we were able to get a solid tag placement on her back!

whale being tagged
Alex landed this fantastic tag placement on 1604!

The tag stayed on for about a half hour before coming off, and we then decided to head north where we had heard of a sighting of yet another mom-calf pair, 1703 (“Wolf”) and her calf.

We observed Wolf and her calf for about an hour and a half, and they were traveling fairly quickly and not really taking breaks that suggested they were in the mood to be approached.  Since we had already had a successful tag deployment and we were beginning to edge into twilight, we decided to head back to the dock and call it a day.

So in total, we saw three mom-calf pairs and probably 15-20 other individuals in our little corner of Cape Cod Bay.  Combined with the near-perfect sea conditions, not too shabby for my last day of right whale fieldwork as a member of the Parks Lab.

I sure am going to miss this.


fluke of a whale calf out of water
2145 showed us her fluke on a terminal dive. See you around North Atlantic Right Whales!