Humpback whales, what do they eat?


This video from California in the USA is called Surfer Almost Swallowed by Whale.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

What Does A Humpback Whale Really Eat For Dinner?

Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2014 by eNature

Despite the title of the video above, Humpbacks don’t eat surfers!

Eves so, that video has received lots of attention around the internet when it appeared— and for good reason.

It shows a surfer’s VERY close encounter with a humpback whale off the beaches of Santa Cruz, in Northern California.

But it’s also interesting because it’s a great close-up view of how a Humpback feeds and the sort of marine life that makes up its diet.

How To Eat Without Teeth?

Humpbacks are baleen whales and have no teeth. They feed by using the large plates of baleen in their mouths to filter out shrimp-like krill and other small creatures from the water. Plated grooves in the whale’s mouth allow water that was taken in to easily drain, leaving a mouth full of dinner.

But most folks don’t realize that baleen whales such has humpbacks also consume fish— mainly small schooling fish they hunt in same fashion as krill.

In the video you can clearly see lots of small prey fish scattering in all directions just before and as the whale breaches. (Double click on the video if you want to see a bigger version of it). You an also see the whale’s baleen plates and the water rushing from its mouth as it filters out its prey.

Blowing Bubbles For Dinner

Humpbacks are energetic hunters, taking krill and small schooling fish such as herring, mackerel, pollock, and haddock. They’re also quite clever and have been known to use a technique called bubble net feeding.

A whale or group of whales swims in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of prey, encircling and confining the school in an ever-smaller cylinder. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the ‘net’ with their mouths open, filtering huge quantities of water and capturing thousands of fish in one gulp.

It’s a pretty amazing thing to observe…

And one other fun thing to note in the video is all the seabirds following the whales as they feed. These birds know that breaching whales panic fish and make them easy pickings for an alert bird. Looking for flocks of seabirds working the ocean’s surface is time-honored way for fisherman to locate schools— and for whale watchers to find whales.

Have you had a chance to see Humpbacks or other whales? We always love to hear your stories.

Fin whale dies in North Sea


This 20 August 2014 video is about a lifeboat, tugging a drifting dead whale from the sea near Katwijk in the Netherlands to the beach near Scheveningen.

There, scientists of Naturalis museum investigated it today. It turned out to be a seventeen meter long adolescent male fin whale.

Most probably, the young whale died because of a collision with a ship; some of its vertebrae were crushed. Other possible causes of death: a killer whale attack; or a collision with a seawall.

See also here.

Grey whale calves born near Russia


This video about western gray whales is called The Last 130.

From the International Fund for Animal Welfare:

Gray Whale Research Team marks eight new calves so far

By: Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova

Posted: Wed, 08/20/2014

This update on the western gray whale (WGW) expedition was filed on behalf of the team by IFAW Russia staff member Anna Filippova. –MV

The total number of new calves for 2014 is now up to eight.

Even though the first half of August has not yielded many good observation days over the past several years, we have already enjoyed many working days at sea this month.

On August 1, we photographed our sixth mother-calf pair of this season. The mother was known from previous years and has been seen with calves off Piltun before.

On August 3, we went far north of our camp and sighted three mother-calf pairs (two of whom we had already seen a few times in July).

The third pair, number seven for the season, was pleasant news for us when we recognized the mother: a female born in 2004 and observed in previous years but never with calves.

Giving her age, it is assumed to be her first calf.

After seven hours at sea, a very thick fog came in very fast; we could hear whales breathing around our boat but were unable to see them.

August 6 was especially productive: We identified 31 gray whales with seven different mother-calf pairs among them. One of the pairs was new for this season, bringing our total to eight.

–The WGW Expedition Team

The western gray whale (WGW) expedition is a team of scientists from Russia and the USA that have been returning every summer since 1995 to Sakhalin Island (in the Sea of Okhotsk near Piltun Bay) to monitor and research western gray whales. Annually since 2000 IFAW has supported this research program that collects population data through photo-identification and genetic analysis of skin tissue biopsy samples. Information about population condition is very important to understanding the impact and influence of oil industry on the WGW population, and is key to IFAW’s WGW campaign.

Dolphins, whales squealing with pleasure?


This video is called Science Bulletins: Whales Give Dolphins a Lift.

From Science News:

Dolphins and whales may squeal with pleasure too

by Science News Staff

8:00am, August 15, 2014

Guest post by Chris Riotta

When dolphins and whales squeal, they may not be sending food signals to their friends. They could just be shrieking with pleasure.

After measuring the time delay between a dolphin or whale receiving a reward and the animal’s squeal, one researcher noticed the lags were about as long as the time it takes for the chemical dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

Because the time it takes for the animals to squeal is about the same as for a release of dopamine, the dolphins and whales may be making these sounds of out sheer delight, scientists argue August 15 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Good Irish whale news again


This video is called Filming humpback whales off Ireland’s south coast with Cork Whale Watch.

From Wildlife Extra:

Whale numbers unusually high in the seas around Ireland to the delight of whalewatchers

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports upwards of 30 fin whales along a 50km stretch of the West Cork coastline in southern Ireland, between the Old Head of Kinsale and the Kedge area, which is unusual for this time of year.

Colin Barnes from Cork Whale Watch, who has spent several weeks observing the build-up of this activity confirms there are huge ‘fish clouds’ comprising small sprat or larval herring in the area and these are likely to be what is attracting the fin whales in such numbers.

Combined estimates from land and boat based sightings suggest there could also be 20 or more fin whales in the waters between Seven Heads and Galley Head, County Cork.

This gathering is certainly the largest validated aggregation of this species so far this year and although not without precedent, it is unusual for so many fin whales to be inshore this early in the season.

This sort of activity is generally associated with a later peak between October and December each year.

Whale watchers are encouraged by IDWG to view the whales from land-based vantage points – elevated sites such as Cloghna Head, Galley Head, Sandscove/Ardfield, Dunworley and Sevens Heads.

There is a lot of wind out there at the moment so it is important to pick a moment when there is a lull in the breeze and the sea calms down.

The bonus is that this activity is not in isolation, as County Kerry has enjoyed a run of humpback whales in recent weeks and minke whales are appearing in the Irish Sea.

All this bodes well for this year’s All-Ireland Whale Watch Day taking place on headlands around the coast on Sunday 24 August between 2:00pm and 5:00pm.

For the latest information on this and other validated cetacean sightings, go to www.iwdg.ie.

Whales in New York City


This 2011 video from the USA is called Whales in the NY Harbour.

The great white shark in London turned out not to be real.

However, this item is real enough. From ABC in the USA:

Whale Spotted Off Manhattan, NYC – Again!

Aug 12, 2014, 5:12 PM ET

By SARAH FIGALORA

New York City is a classic hot spot for tourists of all shapes, sizes and species — even whales, apparently.

A humpback whale surfaced off the coast of Manhattan, and was just one of many to vacation in the city this summer, an expert said.

“It’s becoming more and more frequent,” Paul Siewada, from the Gotham Whale research division, told ABC News. “What’s caused so much commotion is that people in New York City are just becoming aware that whales are in and around New York.”

There have been 49 whale sightings around Manhattan this year, a number that has been steadily rising for the last three years, Siewada said.

“We know [the whales] go from southern waters down to the coast of the Dominican Republic during the winter and go up to Maine and Massachusetts in the summer to feed,” said Siewada. “We think the whales have found a suitable feeding ground right here in New York.”

This suitable feeding ground, thanks to cleaner water, is what’s keeping some whales hanging around instead of continuing to migrate north.

“My boat captain loves to say the New York City is the new Cape Cod,” said Siewada, so it’s safe to say we can expect more whales in the summers to come.

See also here.

Whale fossil discovery in California


This video is called Rare Whale Fossil Pulled From Calif. Backyard.

From Associated Press:

Rare whale fossil pulled from Calif. yard

By MATT HAMILTON

Saturday, August 2, 2014 1:06 AM EDT

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — A search-and-rescue team pulled a rare half-ton whale fossil from a Southern California backyard Friday, a feat that the team agreed to take on as a makeshift training mission.

The 16- to 17-million-year-old fossil from a baleen whale is one of about 20 baleen fossils known to exist, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County paleontologist Howell Thomas said. Baleen is a filter made of soft tissue that is used to sift out prey, like krill, from seawater.

The fossil, lodged in a 1,000-pound boulder, was hoisted from a ravine by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department search-and-rescue volunteers. Using pulleys and a steel trolley, crews pulled the fossil up a steep backyard slope and into a truck bound for the museum.

Gary Johnson, 53, first discovered the fossil when he was a teen exploring the creek behind his family’s home.

At the time, he called another local museum to come inspect the find, but officials passed on adding it to their collection. In January, a 12-million-year-old sperm whale fossil was recovered at a nearby school, prompting Johnson to call the Natural History Museum.

“I thought, maybe my whale is somehow associated,” said Johnson, who works as a cartoonist and art director.

Thomas wanted to add the fossil to the county museum’s collection of baleen whale fossils, but was puzzled over how to get the half-ton boulder from Rancho Palos Verdes, located on a peninsula about 25 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The sheriff’s department search-and-rescue unit declined to send a helicopter, but offered to use the fossil recovery as a training mission. The volunteer crew typically rescues stranded hikers and motorcyclists who careen off the freeway onto steep, rugged terrain, search-and-rescue reserve chief Mike Leum said.

“We’ll always be able to say, ‘it’s not heavier than a fossil,”‘ Leum said.