Log for April 17, 2015

Though a bit rainy, we had a great trip today aboard the Aurora. The sightings locations have been bouncing a bit around the NW corner the last few days, so captain Jeff decided to travel across the entire NW corner to find whales, and it paid off.

Lunge feeding behavior

When we arrived on the corner, we started seeing various splashes in the distance, and also began to be surrounded by scattered Atlantic white-sided dolphins. When we got closer to the splashes, myself and the passengers were very excited to see that it was actually lunge feeding behavior! Lunge feeding is one of my favorite behaviors because it always takes you by surprise and you really get to witness firsthand the amount of force these whales can exert - and today was no exception!

Sandlance scatter

We began the trip by watching a pair of two humpbacks (later ID’ed as Sprinkler and another unknown we have sent to Center for Coastal Studies to help ID) continuously horizontal lunge feeding together. Passengers were really fascinated on how this pair worked so well and quickly together! In some of the photos you can observe their prey (sandlance – see photo). This pair gave us some excellent close to boat lunges as well (see photo).

Lunging together

As this duo worked together, a third humpback, Trance, was side-lunging in the same location, but not associated. In the latter half of the trip, this group eventually formed into a trio, and while we were watching this group lunge, a large fin whale began lunge feeding close by! (see photo). It was a great teaching moment to explain the different feeding techniques of the two species.

Fin lunge

The fin whale lunge (see photo) is much sleeker and quicker, and makes quite a big wave! Also fin whales almost always lunge on their right side – it’s hypothesized that maybe their lighter-colored chevron patch on their right side (see photo) helps confuse the prey they are corralling.

You can barely see the lighter patch on this whale's side

Overall a fantastic day of lunging humpbacks and fin whales, and white-sided dolphins following alongside. We also spotted a minke whale and harbor seal, making it a five marine mammal-species day. Plus we saw tons of gannets and gulls!

— Laura Howes

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