April 29, 2016

Today was another exciting day on the NW corner! As we arrived on the NW corner of Stellwagen Bank, we documented 4-6 humpbacks (most likely more) in the area, as well as many herring gulls and northern gannets. The behavior of the day was kick feeding! We spotted three individuals solo kick-feeding. it’s always exciting to see this style of feeding, which is unique to Stellwagen Bank.

Tracer kick feeding

Tracer among the birds

Our first whale we spotted kick feeding was humpback whale Tracer, with an all-black fluke. This whale gave us some great looks of its slashing fluke, who also incorporated some deep bubble net feeding. We could tell there was a long period between this whale’s kicks and its bubbles because it would take several minutes for Tracer to come back up after kicking at the surface. We also watched some water filtering out of Tracer’s mouth.

A humpback whale filtering

As if one whale kick-feeding wasn’t enough, another whale stole the show with some even higher-splashing kicking. This whale was named Swimmer, for the marking that looks like a person swimming on the bottom of its fluke (see photo).

Hi, Swimmer!

Swimmer bubble net feeding

It was interesting to compare Tracer and Swimmer’s kick feeding styles – Swimmer was much more spastic in its tail thrashing, and fed more quickly, taking quick dives and surfacing quicker in its spiral bubble net. The more we observe individual humpbacks, the more we learn that they have unique feeding styles.

— Laura

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