New season, new goals

Well we are back in the southeast for our fourth SEUS field season, and this year we are changing our focus a bit. For the past three seasons, we have been focused on conducting behavioral follows of mother-calf pairs while simultaneously making acoustic recordings. Since we have three good years of that, Susan decided we should try to supplement our existing data with tag data. This will allow us to say with even more confidence that what we have been seeing in previous years is representative of the behavior of mom/calf right whale pairs. While we tried our hand a bit at tagging last year, this year we are making it our top priority!

Unfortunately, we have been here for two weeks now and have had some bad luck with the weather. We have only managed to get out three times…very reminiscent of our recent Bay of Fundy days! There are three mother/calf pairs sighted down here so far, but we have not had much luck finding them with enough daylight to tag on two of the days. On the day we did have light on our side, we were unfortunately unsuccessful in our attempts. It is not an easy task, just ask Will!

Despite little success so far, yesterday we were lucky enough to find a SAG of right whales, or a surface active group, which is two or more whales socializing at the surface. SAGs are believed to play a role in mating, but they almost certainly serve another purpose as well. See the New England Aquarium‘s website for much more information on right whales and SAGs. We got some great photos, and even threw in a hydrophone to eavesdrop a bit. All in all, despite not getting any mom/calf data, it was at least an exciting day!

A right whale shows off a pectoral fin during a SAG

A right whale shows off a pectoral fin during a SAG. Photo: Dana Cusano


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