For land animals, spring is the time for babies! But in the marine realm babies can and usually do follow different cycles. It’s still usually based on food availability for the newborns, but this doesn’t necessary match up with the normal temperate cycle of spring, summer, fall, winter. For cetaceans (aka whales) this is especially true since these intelligent animals are capable of traveling great distances between feeding grounds and breeding grounds and so are their babies who usually can swim within the first 30 minutes after birth. So births can happen in quite, secluded, safe spots like calm, tropical bays and then the calves can nurse until they and their mothers reach better feeding grounds. Pretty neat right?

Humpback whale in the San Juan Islands

Big Momma the Humpback whale swims next to her calf near Henry Island

Today Captain Gabe and I set out on the M/V Seahawk with a delightful wedding group! Step one: see these kids get married, Step two: go see whales. We headed north towards Battleship Island, and while I was scanning with the binoculars I said, “Oh look, a fluke… A FLUKE!” It was a Humpback! Actually it was two humpback whales! Just with the first look at the bottom of the caudal fin we IDed them as Big Momma and her calf. Big Momma was one of the first Humpbacks to appear in the Salish Sea following the international moratorium on whaling, and so far she has brought six calves back with her over the years. This calf was born in tropical waters sometime this winter at around 14 feet long and 2.5 tons. After that the whales start their journey back to the artic waters around Alaska. During this time the baby is drinking around 100 lbs. of milk a day until enough food can be found. The Salish Sea, as far as we know, is a stop over on their huge migration to their feeding grounds in the arctic since here is very protected and has a good concentration of food for them.

Bald Eagle on San Juan Island

Bald Eagles returns to its nest after catching a fish

It was super cool to be the only bout out there early in the morning watching this Humpback mother and her calf travel together. I’ve seen this pair a few times and the mother has fluked a lot and the calf has been trying to learn, but I have never seen it do it correctly until today! The calf is still a little rusty but I know it’ll get it down soon! We also scooted by Spieden and saw tons of bald eagles fishing and a whole lot of Harbor Seals be lazy like normal. Whale folks, until next time!

 

Naturalist Erick

M/V Seahawk

San Juan Outfitters