|Open mouth feeding!|
|Tornado's signature open mouth with the double pectoral slap|
As we approached the southern part of the bank, we saw groups of feeding humpbacks everywhere! The first group we approached was a large group of about 6-8 kickfeeding humpbacks including Milkweed, and her calf, Perseid, Tornado’s calf, and Pleats. Tornado’s calf was putting on an amazing show breaching entirely out of the water repeatedly! Soon, a number of these whales started heading toward a larger group of bubble net feeding whales ahead of us.
Throughout this transition, we waited behind allowing the whales to move safely ahead while watching Pleats kickfeed next to Milkweed’s play-feeding calf. Both whales were alarmingly close to a set of buoys which marked the site of fishing gear, possibly a gill net or lobster pot. Just as I began addressing the danger fixed fishing gear poses to marine animals, we watched as this young calf became entangled in the line (see photo), dragging both buoys beneath the surface as it dove to escape the gear.
|Milkweed's calf dragging fishing gear|
While whales in Massachusetts Bay become entangled in fishing gear just about every day, this was the first time in three years of whale watching that I have witnessed an entanglement firsthand. We immediately began calling a disentanglement team because, as entangled whales struggle, the line can wrap further around and deeper into the whales causing infection and, depending on the type of entanglement, even death. Often, however, whales are able to shed the gear on their own and, luckily, this is what happened today. After repeated tail lobs, the calf was able to free itself from the line and appeared to be gear-free throughout the rest of the trip. Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor the calf’s condition in the coming days to make sure there are no hidden lines wrapped around any less-obvious parts of its body.
|Lots of whales!|
After the calf freed itself, it swam ahead to the newly formed super group of about 12 whales that were collaboratively bubble net feeding. This group included Tornado, Milkweed, Perseid, Salt, Tear, Aswan, Colt, Octave, Storm and Timberline. It was absolutely jaw dropping to watch these whales work so well together time after time. Eventually, the group split up into smaller groups; however, more whales joined one of the smaller groups forming another group of 9 bubble net feeding whales. Throughout this feeding, we watched some amazingly unique behavior; Tornado using her signature double pectoral fin slaps and Tear filtering on his back.
|Thread and Tornado get mouths full|
Today was an unforgettable day on the water and we look forward to hopefully seeing Milkweed’s calf healthy and gear free in the coming days.