September 20, 2014

Hungry hungry humpbacks

 We had our annual visit to Telegraph Cove over the Labour Day long weekend and its been a few years since we actually had a blog post dedicated to one of our favorite animal sightings: the humpback whale. There have been an increasing number of humpback whales in the area this year, and Captain Wayne told us that it was a poor year for baitfish such as herring, so the humpbacks were being very competive for their meals. The whale below slapped its tail on the water for several minutes straight, maybe saying hello and maybe telling the other whales to give him some room.
 This was the first year we had seen humpbacks performing a newly discovered feeding technique called 'Trap feeding.' This behaviour seems particular to this area of the world, making it all the more rare and amazing to see. The whale essentially pops its mouth above the water and slowly moves around while using its pectoral fins to push fish into its mouth. An incredible bit of hunting AND a good chance to see the whale for more than a few seconds as they held this position for half a minute or more scooping up fish.
 Of course, with so many whales in the area, some were more competitive than others, as the whale below is lunging sideways through a bait ball. There were 5 or more humpbacks in the immediate area all feeding on this school of fish and the meal lasted several minutes.
Interestingly enough, the whales are just being opportunistic mooches, the actual work is done by the birds, some of which dive under water while others scoop up fish from above, forcing them into a ball for defense... the the humpback "sneaks" in and eats the lot. The birds do the work, but we have yet to see any get accidentally eaten, so they don't have the worst part of the deal, that place is reserved for the fish that EVERYONE seems to find so delicious.

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