Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Whale tails, again

Judging from the number of views the previous whale tail post received, I feel safe in making the assumption that those of you who read this blog have an affinity for whales far exceeding any other subject!  Well then, good on ya!  Here are some more whales for you!

I have a few new whales to add to the growing list of Wrangell area humpbacks that I have been able to photograph and identify so meet the new ones.

This is Razorback who was seen with a group of 8 that we followed as they bubble net fed along the shoreline of an island.  Several of the whales in this group were ones that I have been seeing all summer, many of whom are usually together.

Halo.  According to some whale information I have read, 70% of the humpbacks in SE AK have all black flukes.  This statistic hasn't proven itself out yet in my personal observations but Halo is one of the few I have seen with nearly completely black tails.

Mako.  I found a photo from 2013 of Mako in a file so was pretty interested to be able to start getting a little bit of a history of these whales.


Glacier.  All of these whales were in the same group of 8 and were doing quite a bit of this --

Bubble net feeding is typically preceded by a high pitched call that is sometimes audible through the hull of the boat and on a calm day like the one in the photos, you can see the bubble ring forming which gives you time to prepare for a sight that is always incredible.  There is obviously a good deal of coordination that must occur during these feedings as one whale has to do the bubbling and calling while the others get into specific positions as seen in the photos.  Depending on the size of the group, one or more whales typically come straight up high out of the water in the center while the others twist on their sides around the center whale.  This is a very coordinated behavior that has to be preplanned somehow to make it work.  Very often the feeding groups consist of the same individual whales regardless of where I have found them which may also mean they form a kind of "team" to include ones with the best fishing abilities.  

This breaching whale was a smaller whale than the ones in the group who we noticed breaching far out in the distance in the middle of the strait.  It fortunately breached several more times when we got closer and put on a nice display.  This whale was swimming very quickly on an intercepting course with the group of 8 but never became part of that group.  Once it reached the shoreline, it was always several hundred yards behind the group and could have easily caught up to them but didn't.  I'm not a whale, but I got the sense that it was not being permitted to become part of the group.  Maybe it was a less experienced bubble feeder that would disrupt the good thing the group had going.   We eventually came to a place where we saw other whales in the distance ahead of us, including a double simultaneous breach!, at which point this whale appeared in front of the original group of 8 hurrying toward these new whales.

This is Eclipse diving with some of the scenery of SE AK in the background.

A series of shots showing bubble feeding from the beginning to close to the end.  

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