Do I come or do I go-or the fin whale two-step
Fin whales usually arrive in good numbers during the second half of June, peak between mid-July and mid-August, and decrease progressively thereafter, however 2012 was an unusual season. The early field season offered few sightings, but picked up in September, and between 2-5 September alone, 35 fin whales were photo-identified. A total of 110 fin whales were photo-IDed (most from the Mingan area, with only a few from Gaspe thanks to Rene Roy). Seventy animals have been matched, which is below the average total of IDs for the last few years (120 per year over the last 8 yrs). It will be difficult to beat our record from 2006, when 176 fin whales were matched/added to the catalog for a total of 227 photographed individuals.
One of the interesting results from the last few seasons data, is that we are starting to re-sight fin whales first sighted as calves. In 2012, two such individuals (F319, born in 2006 to F039) and F479 (born in 2008 to F299, and already re-sighted in 2009) have been observed in the area. Interestingly both mothers are very regularly sighted whales. Previously, F135, born in 2003 had been re-sighted once in 2004, but not since, while F556 born in 2007 was re-sighted in 2011. Since 2003, we have observed 75 calves, however, the re-sighting rate is still very low, especially in comparison to humpback whales. This is, however, encouraging and it may just be a matter of time before greater numbers of calves return regularly to the Mingan region.
The 2012 was a poor fin whale calf year, with only a single cow-calf pair observed and the cow has thus far not been individually identified. The late arrival of fin whales and small numbers observed early in the season are presumably part of the cause.
A few well-known whales (males), that we had not seen for a while resurfaced in 2012: F101, seen 10 years between 1988 and 2007, and F150, seen 10 years between 1988 and 2008. Among our "stars", we can mention the presence of Curly, Milady, F245, F049, F320, F098, Topper, Perroquet and Zipper. A few of the very regular whales (including: Peanut, F238, Dune, Pinceau, Nelson,and Marble) did not appear. This year, the team also re-sighted a whale that was only seen previously in 1991. Another observed fin whale is very likely F027, last seen in 1993. We can only speculate as to where they were all these years. Hard to know what brought them back this year to Mingan!
To date, no signs of F100, the badly entangled whale from last year, but we'll have to wait for a few "normal" years before concluding that he may have died from his injuries. F100 was a very regular male, seen every year between 2000 and 2011. It is worth noting that the 2011 pictures of F099 (another regular male sighted in 2012) revealed that he had a fresh (though comparatively smaller) entanglement scar at the base of the fluke.
F102 and F291 can officially be introduced to our Mingan Finback Hall of Fame. Both are males and often among the first to arrive and last to leave. This year, F102 was first seen on 16 June and was still around on 4 September. Similarly in 2009 he was sighted repeatedly between 22 June and 12 September. Most other years, he was seen throughout July and August. F291 was first seen on 18 June 2012 and was still around on 7 September. Over the last few years, he typically arrived in late June (26 June in 2006, 2007, and 2008) and remained in the area for 2 months. These two definitely deserve to be named! Post your suggestions on Facebook and Alain and Julien will announce the winning name.