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Surprise humpback whale!

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Whale Watching

Thursday, March 02, 2017

James S.

We have had a few sightings of humpbacks in the last couple weeks. We’ve seen humpbacks in the winter before and it’s always a fun surprise while we’re out looking for gray and fin whales. In the last 3-5 years we have documented humpback whales during every season of the year. It’s been a little while since we last saw one on our whale watches, and we were pleasantly surprised with how active the whales were during a couple of boat trips. Take a look at the pictures our interns were able to take of the breaching and pectoral slapping behaviors.

According to the American Cetacean Society’s (ACS) gray whale census it looks like we’re starting to see an increase in the number of northbound migrating whales. It’s the right time in the season to see these magnificent whales on their return trip to their northern summer waters. March through April is the peak times to see the northbound whales. According to the census there haven’t been any northbound calves sighted however. Once the cow-calf pairs are seen northbound we’ll know the end of the season of grays is coming soon. Those northbound calves are probably already underway heading north with their moms right beside them, they just haven’t reached our waters yet.

We’ve also had a lot of dolphin activity in the last few days of the month, even in the rain our friends over at Harbor Breeze Cruises are helping our guests have a great experience on the boats searching for local cetaceans. We have had some great sightings of common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. If you haven’t heard about or seen some of our other blog posts, we have a citizen science program here at the aquarium to help identify coastal bottlenose dolphins. The coastals (as we like to call them) don’t typically swim farther than a mile (1-2 kilometers) off shore. Scientists have observed that the 2 populations, coastal and offshore, rarely interact and probably don’t interbreed. What our citizen science volunteers are doing is taking the sighting data and photographs our interns collect and try to identify individual dolphins using pictures of their dorsal fins. The most difficult part of this project is probably when you are comparing a photo of a dolphin we saw the other day to an entire catalog of identified dolphins from the National Marine Fisheries Service. One of our long standing volunteers, Maggie, will be presenting at our 2nd Annual Citizen Science Symposium this coming Saturday, March 4th, on the work we do for this project.

If you are interested in volunteering in our dolphin ID program please follow the link to apply for the citizen scientist volunteer: whale ID position. Or if you are more interested in learning how we collect field data of our whale sightings follow this link to apply to our internship program here at the aquarium. The volunteership has no deadline, but our internship deadline for the summer intern season is March 11.

And as always, if you haven’t booked your trip to come out on the whale watch come on down! It’s always a good day to try and see one of our most beautiful local species out on the boats. See you on the water!

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