Name that whale

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oldsalt
I've Got Gills
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Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:02 am

Name that whale

Post by oldsalt » Sat Apr 11, 2020 10:45 am

My fascination with whales goes back a long time. In 1960, a pod of Orca surrounded the boat I was rowing. I was frightened. They were bigger than our boat and the dorsal fin of the bull rose above the head of this seated teenage rower. This was before we gave them cute names; there was no Shamu or Keiko, they were KILLER WHALES. The only thing I knew about whales is that I saw one kill Gregory Peck in Moby Dick. I joined the navy two years later, and whales were an occasional novelty while crossing the oceans. Sometime in the late 70's, I saw gray whales up close while camping out at LaPush. I started tracking their nearshore migration then. A local consortium, Cascadia Research Collective, assumed the lead in monitoring this gray whale population. Grays entered Puget Sound in 1990. CRC identified individuals based on the markings on their flukes and backs, and assigned them numbers. They found a small number from 1990 have continued to return every year since then. They have been labeled "The Sounders". I photoed one of these original Sounders, CRC#22 on March 26.
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Earhart1
Inevitably, she was given a fanciful name - Earhart. I have often seen her in the company of #21 - Shackleton. In an earlier posting I show a picture of the two of them so close together that they look like one from a distance.
When the whales feed in shallow water, one lobe of the fluke sticks up. I photograph these and forward the shots to CRC for them to use. A couple of examples follow.
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Feeding Gray1
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Fluke Lobe
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Fluke Lobe
This leads to some delightful observations. I was able to determine that a whale feeding here on March 24th, returned on April 8th.
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March 24
DSC_3756.JPG (76.69 KiB) Viewed 604 times
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April 8
DSC_3879 (2).JPG (95.96 KiB) Viewed 604 times
This shows that this individual was hanging around.
CRC also uses the dorsal views to identify these animals. Here is a picture of the venerable Earhart taken from home on April 8.
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Earhart Dorsal
The last shot shows the paired blowholes found in all baleen whales.
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Blowholes
I hope you are all managing this time well.
-Curt
Happy to be alive.

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Jan K
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Re: Name that whale

Post by Jan K » Sat Apr 11, 2020 3:27 pm

Very interesting. I hope they find enough food as not to starve and end up dead on our beaches like some in the past.

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oldsalt
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Re: Name that whale

Post by oldsalt » Sat Apr 11, 2020 5:52 pm

Jan: Coming into Puget Sound to feed on ghost shrimp was referred to as a "high rick strategy". I don't know the scientific consensus, but with the abnormally high mortality of gray whales last year, none of the Sounders were lost. CRC uses drones to assess the overall health of the gray whales. Essentially, they look to see if they appear well nourished or emaciated. I walked the beach at low tide after the whales were feeding and was amazed at how close to shore they were. This picture shows the feeding craters in the sand where they scooped up mouths-full.
April9.20.JPG
Feeding craters
-Curt
Happy to be alive.

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