Below is the first blog from Gin Swen Ham talking about her first day with feeding behavior.I began interning with WDCS North America at the end of September and had only a little over a month left of time out on the water before the commercial whale-watching season ended and the whales begin their migration back to their breeding grounds. I was lucky enough to see breaching humpbacks whales on my first day out and a pod of common dolphins on my second day! But the best whale-watching day was a recent trip on WDCS’s own research vessel, Easterly.
It was a cold, crisp, beautiful autumn day – perfect for whale-watching. We were moving slowly out of the harbor when we came across a few harbor seals unexpectedly and scrambled to get our cameras out. My task of the day was to take videos. It was my first time taking videos, and in between holding my balance on the boat and trying to focus the camera on the animals, my first few attempts were disastrous – no seals were seen in any of the first videos I took. I was, however, able to capture footage of some harbor porpoises later on in the trip once I had practice, though the footage was still far from perfect. As we continued offshore, we started looking for the tell-tale signs of whales’ presence – spouts – steamy sprays that formed when the whales exhaled warm air that condensed when it come into contact with cold air outside. Alas, there were no sign of them and radio communication with another vessel found they had seen nothing that morning either. We continued searching with the hope that some whales remained in the area.
Then, almost miraculously, we spotted spouts in the distance and headed their way. The whales were feeding actively – open-mouth and kick-feeding. It was the first “feeding session” I’ve encountered since my time here and I was awestruck. Bubble clouds and bubble nets were seen everywhere; I did not know where to aim my camera. I soon learnt to focus the camera on bubble clouds and wait in anticipation for the whales to surface with their mouth wide open. Footage of humpback whales open-mouth feeding has always fascinated me but it was one thing to watch them on a screen and another to see it with my own eyes. And pretty cool to be able to video it. Here's my video.
One whale with part of her fluke missing caught my eye. She was actively kick-feeding and gave me good views of her fluke.I learnt her name was Glo and her injury is a result of unknown anthropogenic causes – which is a strong reminder of the impacts of human activities on these majestic animals. Glo is lucky to be alive and doing well but there may be many others who may have died without our knowledge. This, again, reminds us that much more work need to be done to ensure the survival of these animals.