January 2016

Right whale EgNo1170 Sub-surface feeding in Cape Cod Bay on January 7, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

Right whale EgNo1170, “Legs”, sub-surface feeding in Cape Cod Bay on January 7, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

07 January 2016:
Happy New Year! The CCS aerial survey team flew its first flight in 2016 in Cape Cod Bay in the North-to-South direction. While the day was a little hazy towards the horizon, the sun was shining making for wonderful, calm conditions to survey for whales.
Two fin whales were observed, one of which was outside of the Bay and the other in the southern part of the Bay. Also sighted were approximately 100 dolphins, 20 of which were common dolphins, in the mid-west part of the bay.

Right whale EgNo4145 Sub-surface feeding in Cape Cod Bay on January 7, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

Right whale EgNo4145 sub-surface feeding in Cape Cod Bay on January 7, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

Flying deeper into the Bay, two subsurface feeding right whales were documented. These whales have been identified as EgNo1170 and EgNo4145. EgNo1170 is also known as “Legs” and is an older male. Meanwhile, 4145 is a younger male, born in 2011 to Slalom, making our old favorite, Wart, his “grandmother”. While EgNo4145 was seen last season in the CCB, both of these individuals were seen on the same day in January 2014.
Here’s to hoping that the first flight of this New Year is a sign of things to come and more right whales are encountered soon!

15 January 2016:
The second flight of the 2016 season proved to be a typical one for January – a short weather window with difficult to sight right whales due to long dive times and short surface intervals. We took off early on this chilly Friday morning to fly Cape Cod Bay in a South-to-North direction with calm seas, low winds, and enough cloud cover to reduce glare.

CCS research vessel R/V Shearwater was on the water as well collecting habitat and right whale data.

Right whale #2615 subsurface feeding. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

Right whale EgNo2615, “Reef”, subsurface feeding in Cape Cod Bay on January 15, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

During regular survey transect lines the aerial survey team only observed one fin whale and two seals. However, the crew on the R/V Shearwater spotted at least one right whale off Sandy Neck, so when the aerial survey finished the transect lines the plane came back to the area to relocate and document the whales. There, two right whales were observed – both of these turned out to be different than the one documented by the vessel.  These animals were only at the surface for one to two breaths and then, when subsurface, were very difficult to follow. The right whales documented by the aerial team were identified as EgNo4145, the young male was documented during the previous flight, and EgNo2615 “Reef.” Reef is an adult male born in 1996, and last seen in Cape Cod Bay in 2014. Both were observed with mouths open and were presumably feeding at depth.

With an impending Nor’Easter coming this weekend we are unsure if we will get another flight in or not, but needless to say it will be interesting to see the behaviors, distributions and identities of the whales we observe on our next day out in the field.

25 January 2016:
The CCS Aerial Survey team flew their third flight in January on Monday. After being sidelined for nine days due to blustery weather, the team was excited to see who would be occupying the Bay. It would be interesting if EgNo 4145 was found to still be hanging around, as he was seen in the previous two flights. Unfortunately, while the weather finally cooperated, providing low winds and mostly calm seas, the right whales were not to be found. Flying within Cape Cod Bay in a north to south direction, the team saw a handful of dolphins and three fin whales in the northern portion of the Bay.

Right whale #1701, "Aphrodite". CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

Right whale EgNo1701, “Aphrodite” in Cape Cod Bay, January 30, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603-1

30 January 2016: 
On Saturday a fourth, and final, flight in for this month was flown, and the effort was worthwhile. With a mostly cooperative weather window the reward was observing three right whales and two fin whales!

Cape Cod Bay was surveyed in a south to north direction, coming upon a group of two right whales in the south part of the bay. One of these whales has been identified as Aphrodite (EgNo 1701). Continuing on survey, a single right whale was observed, this whale has been matched as a 30 year old male, Manta (EgNo 1507). This single whale exhibited what is often typical January behavior, spending limited time at the surface and with dive times exceeding 20 minutes.

Overall, the team was thrilled with this last January 2016 flight and hope to continue the successful flights in the month of February!

We are grateful to pilot Joe Chronic and his colleagues at New England Specialized Aviation Services for their continued support of the Center’s aerial survey activities.