2014 Sightings | May 16 afternoon

We also had a fantastic whale watch this afternoon. While there were probably about 8-12 humpback whales in our general area, most of which were feeding, we spent time with five of them. The first two were Samara and Osprey. These two were super active and repeatedly diving to create perfect, 9-shaped bubble nets (see photo).

Textbook bubble net

Big mouth

Nice shot of the baleen plates: The brushy mats inside the whale's mouth filter the fish from the big gulp

We must have been right above all of the fish because this duo was feeding right next to the boat every single time they surfaced. They were so close that we could actually tell that they were feeding on sand lance.

Gaping mouth breaks the surface

Visitors had front row seats for all the action

Being so close meant visitors could see how giant a humpback's pleats become while feeding

The gulls today must have a special taste for sand lance because they were very aggressive with Samara and Osprey. 

So many gulls!

A number of times these gulls sat on their heads trying to steal the fish directly out of the whales mouths (see photo)! I caught a photo of one successful gull who was flying away with a sand lance hanging out of its bill.

Looking for some fast food

Success! One gull nabs a fish from the whale's mouth

Nearby, a few humpbacks were creating quite a commotion as they were kick feeding with their flukes. As we approached the scene, we were thrilled to find Nile and her calf accompanied by Amulet. Born to Mars in 1987, Nile is a very special whale around these parts. While just about every other Stellwagen humpback left our area last summer, Nile was the only one who stayed behind to grace us with her presence throughout the entire season.

Nile's fluke with her calf nearby

As the season progressed, she grew quite fat and we suspected that she was pregnant with a calf. Our suspicions were confirmed when she was reportedly photographed with a calf down in the Caribbean this past winter. Judging by the size of the calf and the fact that Nile seemed to be bursting at the seams last fall, I would guess that Nile gave birth to her calf very soon after leaving for the breeding grounds last fall. It was incredibly exciting and rewarding to finally see this highly anticipated young calf and to think that it was growing inside its mother as we watched Nile day in and day out.

Nile and calf

This calf is Nile’s 5th offspring the last of which was born in 2009. Nile was one of many whales in a tagging study back in 2011. You can find her track here.

Hopefully, Nile’s calf will stick around for years to come so that we may continue to learn through this young calf as researchers have from Nile over the past 26 years.

Tasia, naturalist and photos

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