July 30, 2007

This week brought optimism to the team. Weather conditions finally allowed us to send boats to the western edge of our research area where several Fin and Humpback Whales were photo-identified. Some of the individuals observed had been part of the aggregations present at the beginning of the month while others represent new sightings for the season. One of these observations was of a new cow-calf pair; “Hunter” (H461) has been known since 1998 and this is the first time we have see her with a calf. Another regular visitor of the Mingan-Anticosti region has arrived: “Anchor” (H118) .

As they dive, humpbacks generally lift their flukes (tail) out of the water. The pigmentation patterns and the notches on the trailing edge of the flukes are unique to every individual. However, some whales may be followed for several surfacings without “fluking” or just barely. This was the case with Anchor the other day. Although she is well known to team members due to a characteristic, anchor-shaped mark on her left fluke, she was only showing a small part of her right fluke when diving which forced us to search through the catalogue before identifying her.

Can you confirm this match ?!

H118 “Anchor” catalogue picture.

Sighting of “Anchor” this week.

New tags.

Last week, MICS welcomed Ruth Searle from the Institute of Environmental Sustainability , University of Wales Swansea . Ruth is a Ph.D. Student of Rory Wilson, recipient of the Rolex Award, who has developed a device to record an animal's movements, its behaviour, its energy expenditure, as well as the physical characteristics of its environment. The purpose of Ruth's visit at MICS was to deploy some of these new tags on Humpback or Fin Whales. The tags are about the size of a cell phone and are designed to stick to the whales with a suction cup. The data that can be obtained from these daily log recorders could help us understand the whales' underwater movements and possibly the interactions between individuals within a group. Unfortunately, weather conditions and the dispersal of the animals prevented us from successfully deploying the tags. We may be able to try the tags on Blue Whale pairs later in the season during our research trip in the Forestville region.