Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Humpbacks Make a Mid-Season Appearance

On Monday, 15 February, Mobile team 4 called just after 9:00 am to alert us of a possible whale sighting. As they watched to confirm, the team spotted dorsal fins – humpback whales!

Arriving on scene, Dr. Jim and Sheila set up on the fifth floor of the Nautilus Condo, one of our community teams. They observed diving birds and one to two humpbacks surfacing repeatedly in a manner that identified this as a humpback feeding area. Unlike right whales who rarely, if ever, feed here due to low concentrations of their preferred food, copepods, humpbacks that do visit are often seen feeding.

This rare opportunity had everyone’s nearly undivided attention, except, thankfully, Nautilus’s co-team leader, Dale, who scanned the ocean to the south and discovered right whales in the distance. Initially, they appeared to be two adult/juveniles. Happily, they swam closer and revealed themselves as a mother and calf pair. Despite a sea state 4, the photos were clear enough to identify them as female #3123 and her calf. The calf must have been feeling at bit exuberant, leaping out of the water and showing off a white belly as seen in the photo.

While Dr. Jim and Sheila focused on photographing this pair, humpback sighting reports continued to come in from teams as far north as Varne Park in Beverly Beach and to the south in Ormond Beach. We surmise that there may have been up to four humpback whales working the area throughout the day. In seasons past, when we have seen humpbacks, they have appeared later in the season, in mid to late March. Last weekend, we responded to sighting calls where we could not find whales. Perhaps, these humpbacks were teasing us with glimpses as they often do. They may remain in our area for another day or two, so keep a sharp eye out for a whale that rolls at the surface like a dolphin and has a small dorsal fin about two-thirds of its body length from its head.