August 29th - Humpback soup East of Valdes
On the morning of August 29th, we set out in search of some humpback whales. We found BCZ-CS513 “Anvil” and another whale we were unable to identify in the Strait, east of Valdes Island.
In the afternoon, we headed towards Valdes again, where we found 12 humpback whales who were all scattered around the Strait. We were able to identify BCX1210 “Slate” and her calf, BCY0195 “Fader”, MMZ0004 “Zephyr” and her calf, and also BCX1057 “Divot”. The rest of them were being lazy with their flukes so we never managed to get any IDs for them.
These humpbacks have been spending their summer here in the waters of the Salish Sea where they have been feeding in our nutrient rich waters. If you have spent some time here in British Columbia you will notice that the visibility in our waters is pretty poor. This is because there are millions of tiny organisms in our water called Plankton! We generally separate plankton into two different categories; the more plant-like Phytoplankton and the animal-like Zooplankton.
Phytoplankton are microscopic, usually single-celled, organisms which use photosynthesis for growth. They form the base of the food chain and have Zooplankton, as well as other organisms, feeding on them. Zooplankton is also usually microscopic, but not necessarily single cellular. There are lots of crabs and other intertidal animals which have their larval stage which is planktonic. Technically, anything that is unable to swim against the current is considered to be planktonic, so even some of the larger organisms like jellyfish are considered plankton! The humpback whales will feed on this plankton as well as any small bait fish which are drawn to the plankton blooms and eat them! Its pretty amazing to think that these giant animals survive off of only tiny food but they do this by eating a lot of it! They feed by taking huge mouthfuls of water and using their baleen plates to filter all the food out of it. A humpback whale can eat up to 3,000 pounds of food every day! This means that all the humpback whales we saw today would’ve collectively eaten about 420,000 pounds of food today! WOW!
Over the winter months the humpback whales will travel down to either Hawaii or Mexico where there is less food for them, but is also much safer from predators. They wont feed while down in the breeding ground but instead survive off of their fat reserves that they are building while being here!
This is an amazing thing to think about while watching these gentle giants, or while checking out the photos we captured of the humpbacks from today. All the best photos from the day are below, so be sure to check them out!