Facinating Fall

This fall in the Salish Sea has been incredible and surprising in many ways. It felt like we waited a little bit longer for our Humpbacks to come into our area while at the same time we were hearing about very large groups (not seen in post whaling times) hanging around in areas to the south of us. When they did show up we saw a variety of group sizes and behaviours. We witnessed more lunge feeding behaviours (photo below) than we have seen in previous years and were privileged to also get to see breaching, pec slapping, fluke lobbing and spy hopping whales. One encounter that really sticks out was in late October when we were viewing two whales who were rolling around and rubbing themselves in kelp, following each other very closely, almost rolling over each other. Was this just friendly behaviour or are we starting to see mating behaviours here in the North? There are still reports of Humpback whales hanging out and traveling around the Salish Sea today, the first day of Winter. As this population increases in number we are finding that more seem to be sticking around over the winter instead of heading down South to the breeding and calving grounds in Mexico or Hawaii. Whales that are maybe to young or to old to mate. What was really exciting this fall was hearing Humpbacks vocalizing on some of the hydrophones. Sometimes they were vocalizing all night long and other times just for a brief few minutes. For us here in the Pacific Northwest it is new to hear these beautiful leviathans vocalizing or singing on their feeding grounds. One paper found in the January 2012 issue of Aquatic Biology reports that Humpback whales in the North Atlantic are shown to sing extensively on their feeding grounds. (http://www.int-res.com/articles/ab_oa/b014p175.pdf) Which is an exciting prospect as that could mean we will start to hear these giants singing more and more in future years. Below is a recording from early November of one or more whales vocalizing. This was recorded in the evening while there were no boats around the area.

Humpback BCYukKeta2016#1 White Lip lunge feeding in the Strait of Georgia. Photo by Ashley Keegan

Humpback BCYukKeta2016#1 White Lip lunge feeding in the Strait of Georgia. Photo by Ashley Keegan

Big Mama brings home another baby!

May 2016

One of the Salish Sea's best known summer resident humpback whales has had another calf!

Big Mama (aka BCY0324) has been seen in the waters between Vancouver and Victoria for the last 13 years. At least six of those years , she's returned with new calves. Typically, female humpback whales calve once every three years. But Big Mama is having none of that! She's definitely doing her part, introducing another new individual to the North Pacific humpback whale population just two years ago. 

Female humpback whales become capable of reproducing at approximately six to ten years of age. In the North Pacific, calves are born in the warmer waters surrounding Hawaii or the west coast of Mexico. They stay very close to mom's side for five to seven months as they pack on the pounds, consuming about 100 pounds of mothers milk per day! After only just a year or so, the new calf will be on its own. By that time, the pair will have migrated north to the summer feeding ground between Alaska and BC. 

Best of luck to the newest member of our core community!