February 2014

February 1, 2014: The CCS Aerial Survey team successfully completed a Cape Cod Bay survey after waiting about two weeks for a weather window. We were able to find six individual right whales – some of them recognized as whales we had already seen in January. Some of them were observed subsurface feeding in the middle of the Bay. In addition to the right whale sightings, a few dolphins were also observed.

February 4, 2014: Today the flight team successfully completed an Eastern Outer Shore survey. Two right whales were observed skim feeding to the east of Chatham. One of the right whales was EgNo2615, named “Reef”. This whale is an adult male which was last seen by the CCS team in April 2013 in Cape Cod Bay. Additionally over 100 dolphins, a group of rays, one minke whale, and five fin whales were observed. Definitely, a great day to fly!

February 8, 2014: We changed things up a bit this survey, starting from our southern lines and heading north. This proved to be a fruitful effort as the right whales were concentrated in the south bay.  Eight whales were sighted on this survey. Many of them were taking longs dives, and as they were surfacing, we observed that their mouths were open. This may imply a food source at greater depth that they are taking advantage of.  Of course we must mention the sighting of the right whale star, Wart.  Last year she drew a lot of attention by presumably calving in or around Cape Cod Bay – a first to the knowledge of researchers. We have seen a few other 2013 moms around this year, and it’s great to see all of them back here gaining back calories after rearing calves.

February 12, 2014: Today’s survey brought a slight change in right whale distribution within Cape Cod Bay.  The area off Wellfleet that the whales have been occupying over the last month appears to have expanded to the north; several whales were still spotted in the southern portion of the bay.  While the northern group was displaying long diving behavior, some individuals in the southern bay were subsurface feeding.  But the best part of all is that it looks like Wart is sticking around to partake in the deep food resource.

February 20, 2014:
The whales keep coming; we seem to track down more and more right whales with each flight. This flight we had about 26 displaying all kinds of behaviors. The majority of the whales in the central eastern portion of the bay were taking long dives, but a few in this region were involved in Surface Active Group (SAG) behaviors which involve multiple whales rolling and splashing at the surface. It’s likely that the diving whales were taking advantage of a food sources near the bottom, based on the findings of the boat-based habitat team that same day. Also, we sighted a few whales in the southern portion of the bay that were subsurface feeding at a depth where we could see them below the surface. It’s clear the dinner bell is ringing in the bay, and we’re excited to see how many whales hear it this year!

February 23, 2014: It was a good day to fly today.  The eleven right whales were seen in the eastern central and south central portions of the bay. Patience is a virtue when dealing with long diving animals staying down for more than ten minutes at a time while searching for food beneath the surface.  One lone party of two right whales who were taking a break from feeding showed us some SAG behavior.  Can you see the whale upside down under the whale at the surface?  Look for the white belly. Great times in the aerial survey world!

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