Photos taken by Leslie Rapp, 2016
Where do our whales go in the winter? They head south to the Caribbean. Many of the whales in the N. Atlantic are sighted around the Dominican Republic. Why do they go? It’s thought that the females want to give birth in the warmer, calmer and more protected waters. Males go because that’s where the females are. They are there for mating and calving and as a result, different behaviors are observed than we see in the feeding grounds.
Rowdy groups are seen (sometimes called competitive groups). Males will chase a female, competing with each other using their bodies and bubbles sometimes. Males will sing their famous songs throughout the winter. Despite years of studying whale song, scientist still are not positive about it’s purpose. It was once thought that it could be a way to attract females, although there is little evidence of that. It seems to be a way of communicating between males. Click here for a great description from Jim Darling of what we know to this point.
Humpbacks that feed off Alaska go to Hawaii for the winter (where Jim was just telling you about). Like I said earlier, our humpbacks head to the Caribbean. There are a few whale watch companies there that post images of whales that they see for help in IDing who is there. I love looking at the images, because some tails look familiar and some I know I have never seen before in person or in our catalog. A few of the Gulf of Maine humpbacks have been sighted this winter:
Victim and calf
Spoon’s calf from 2015
Other whales have been matched to Newfoundland or even the northern part of the Gulf of Maine. It’s great how technology and virtual communities help us learn more and more about these animals!!! Less than two months left until they return to the coast of Massachusetts. We can’t wait!!