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Posts Tagged ‘Humpback whale’

Fin whale, and “Onion” returns, Nov.16, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cape Lookout Studies Program, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sighting Report

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Today was an amazing day for the crew of Spyhop. The day started out with 2015’s first sighting of “Onion” here in Beaufort. While out for our regular bottlenose dolphin photo ID survey we encountered him  in the estuary near Phillips Island. He appears to be in good condition, and seems to be in the company of a new companion.

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We continued out to the ocean, as weather conditions were perfect. No other groups of bottlenose dolphins were seen off Shackleford banks. However, several blows from whales were visible in the distance. Heading back into Beaufort inlet we spotted a very unusual sight…A Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) just off of Atlantic Beach! This encounter is highly unusual as Fin whales are rarely sighted south of Hatteras in NC or near the beach in shallow water. While photographing this animal for documentation and possible photo identification we sighted a humpback whale, also very near the beach and a short distance away near the AB circle. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to photograph this animal. However, on our way back to the dock we encountered yet another humpback whale only slightly farther offshore of Ft Macon!

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Fin whale top left and right, Humpback whale below:
humpback whale

Nov. 11, 2015 Dolphin Photo ID

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cape Lookout Studies Program

 

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Beautiful weather allowed us to go out today on our cape lookout studies program boat “Spyhop” and do our usual bottlenose dolphin survey and photo ID.  Just a few minutes after leaving the Gallant’s channel dock we encountered our first group of approx. 15 animals in the estuary. We recognized a few of our winter “regulars”, among them at least 3-4 mother/calf pairs. The next group was spotted in the ocean off the west end of Shackleford, including freeze brand (FB) #402. Freeze brand animals have been previously captured and marked with numbers to help with dolphin research and identification. A lot can be learned from the sightings of these animals. The third group we saw was fairly large, but due to deteriorating weather conditions we decided not to attempt photos. Inside Cape Lookout Bight we saw a single bottlenose dolphin and surprisingly (for this time of year) several sea turtles, one identified as a large Loggerhead. We had hoped for another sighting of the humpback whale repeatedly seen in the area over the last few weeks, and last photographed by us on Nov. 5, 2015.

Here are today’s “best of” bottlenose dolphin dorsal fin photos:

bottlenose dolphin fin photos

Humpback Whale, Cape Lookout, NC, Nov 5, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Conservation, Sighting Report, Uncategorized

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The changing seasons bring new visitors to our waters here on the North Carolina Crystal Coast…

This time of year we anticipate sightings of our “winter” atlantic bottlenose dolphins arriving for their annual stay. Seldom do we encounter other species near shore, so the recent sighting of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) was an unusual treat.

In the western North Atlantic ocean, humpback whales feed during spring, summer, and fall in a range that encompasses from western Greenland south to the mid Atlantic region of the eastern coast of the United States. Their preferred diet consists mainly of krill and small schooling fish species.

In winter, whales from the North West Atlantic migrate to subtropical/tropical waters to mate and calve. Not all whales migrate south every winter however, and significant numbers of animals are found in mid- and high-latitude regions at this time.

Similar to all baleen whales, adult humpback whale females are larger than adult males, reaching lengths of up to 60 feet (18 m). Their body coloration is primarily dark grey, but individuals have a variable amount of white on their pectoral fins and belly. This variation is so distinct that the pigmentation pattern on the undersides of their “flukes” is used to identify individual whales, similar to a human fingerprint. Other markings on the body and fins are useful for identification as well. One of the most distinguishing characteristics for this species is the “humped” dorsal fin for which the species is named.

Once hunted heavily to near extinction levels, populations of humpback whales are increasing and in recovery. The species is a true marine mammal conservation success story.

During our rather lengthy encounter with this animal we were fortunate to witness and record multiple events of “lunge feeding” on large schools of menhaden (another heavily exploited species that is showing signs of a population increase due to a ban on large scale targeted harvesting).

Through some of the photographs taken by the crew of “Spyhop” we have successfully matched this animal to other recent local sightings of north carolina whales, and hope to use them for further whale identification studies.

If you happen to sight a whale, please enjoy the experience in a cautious manner and at a safe distance (see NOAA guidelines). These animals are large, and though peaceful, direct encounters with boats can be dangerous for both humans and whales.

north carolina humpback whale fluke

Humpback Whale Sighting

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Humpback Whale Sighting

Jan. 3, 2005

Today we encountered a humpback whale on our way to the NC Maritime Museum’s field station at Cape Lookout. The whale appeared to be a juvenile and was associated with menhaden purse seining boats that were encircling a school of menhaden. Volunteer John Russell got a great photo of the underside of the tail (“flukes”) which can be used to identify the individual whale.

Click photo to enlarge

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Flukes
Humpback Whale Flukes

Humpback Whale sighted off Shackleford Banks

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Humpback Whale sighted off Shackleford Banks

On January 8, 2004 as we were running our bottlenose dolphin survey route along the offshore side of Shackleford Banks Nan saw something big in the distance. We quickly realized that we were looking at a whale. We changed our directions and went about a mile offshore where we saw a humpback whale heading south. Keith took these 2 pictures and we continued with our bottlenose dolphin survey.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale