Preliminary Summery of 2007 Dolphin Fleet Fin Whale Data
It is now nearing the end of summer and we are observing a group of fin whales scattered across the Peaked Hill area. They have been in and out of here in varying numbers for over two weeks now. Sometimes there are a dozen or more. These fin whales are often feeding quite actively at or near the water’s surface. Sometimes they are feeding among and sometimes they are feeding outside the tuna fishing fleet. Many people will remember that at mid summer last year there was a group of fin whales (though not as large) in the same area and we are now able to get great looks again this year.
Earlier this summer Dolphin Fleet field guides Mike, Kate and I gathered together for an informal evening of naming fin whales. As anyone who has been involved in such ventures knows the process is challenging. We ended the evening with names for 21 individuals. We are planning to do another naming evening and are hoping to have greater input from other guides, captains and fieldworkers.
As for progress with the individual ID catalog for the boats… Well, progress often takes more time than seems imaginable. On the one hand, I would have liked to have had it done at the beginning of this summer. Progress was great and then something happened… July and August… so, now I will continue in the autumn. On the plus side, I am happy with the work that has been done to date.
I am especially happy with the data and photographs that have come in so far this year. In general the photograph angles are better and photos are in better focus. Neither of these is easy to accomplish with fin whales. In the long term both the boat catalog and the data base catalog will see marked gains as well as improvements by the end of this year.
So far this year we have photographed at least 36 individuals many of which have previous siting records in local waters. There are also several known individuals in the Peaked Hill area that we have not photographed this season. Consequently, a count of 36 individuals is already conservative. It will be interesting to see what the August to October data brings.
While we also have data for uncatologed individuals the following individulas with known siting history’s have been photographed during this’s whale watch season:
Braid – first photographed in 1980.
Scorpion – first photographed in 1981 and with her second known calf. She is the first
local fin whale that I know of with a second known calf.
Spike – 2000
Rila – 2002
Dali – 1982
Steller – 2000
Lightning – 1979
Delta – 2006
Loon – longtime friend of everybody!
Ruby – 1980
Mottle – 1980 and not photographed in 19 years.
Furrow – 1985
Shark – 1981
Goatdance – 2002 also has a calf this year.
Thunder – 2000
Hercula – 1980 and not photographed locally in 19 years.
Matching of photographs of calves to mothers has been challenging. Calves are occasionally photographed alongside other adults. As the season progresses the calves are noticably larger than they were two or three months ago. The calves are also travelling farther away from the mothers. This latter tendency makes them even more difficult to recognize as calves. So far we have four fin whale calves this year. This includes the afore mentioned calves of Scorpion and Goatdance. One unnamed mother and calf pair has been seen regularly over this summer.
Thank you to everybody for some truly great recordings of fin whales this year.