August 13

What a gorgeous day today – sunny, warm, and super calm seas! On our morning trip today, we spent time with Firefly and her 2015 calf. Firefly is a female first seen in 1990. As we approached, we could see a lot of whitewater in the distance – the calf was breaching! I also saw some lobtailing, where the whale takes its tail out of the water and repeatedly and rhythmically slaps it on the water’s surface – not sure if that was the calf as well, or if it was Firefly. As we got closer, the calf continued to breach and we all got some great looks. The calf was doing spinning head breaches, flipper breaches, and back breaches! All of these are just slight variations of the breaching behavior where the whale brings its whole or part of its body straight out of the water and lands with a huge splash. The calf even did a couple of flipper slaps. This active behavior continued for at least half an hour, at which point the pair seemed to settle down a bit. The calf was still doing a little bit of rolling on its side, but had stopped the acrobatic breaching. No one knows for sure why they do this – it’s thought it could be for communication, or maybe just for fun! We continued watching the pair as they calmed down, ending the trip with some really good looks at the calf, where it brought it’s face slightly out of the water on a couple surfacings.

Our afternoon trip took us to the same pair of whales – Firefly and her calf were still hanging around the bank. The pair had certainly calmed down from this morning. The calf was spending a lot of time on the surface resting, doing a behavior called “logging”. In this behavior, the whale is doing its own variation on sleeping where it shuts half of its brain off at a time while the other half remains alert and reminds the whale to take breaths. While the calf was logging, Firefly was nearby under the water – the calf was pretty solitary for most of the trip, with Firefly joining her calf visibly only for a little while. We watched this pair for a while and then decided to try and find some other whales on the bank. We did end up finding a fin whale, as evident by the huge blows we kept seeing in the distance. However, despite our best efforts, we were unfortunately unable to get a close look, as this fin whale kept taking only a few breaths and then would surface again pretty far from us. Fin whales, nicknamed the “greyhound of the sea”, can swim at very fast speeds when they want to – and we certainly saw that today! You never really know what these wild animals are going to do!

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