Friday, May 31, 2013

NECWA Spring e-newsletter

Click on the Constant Contact link below to access our spring e-newsletter to learn more about our projects and activities for the spring.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

She's Baaaaack.....

SALT has arrived!

Whale watching season has "officially" begun. Salt, the most famous humpback whale in the world, the Grand Dame of Stellwagen Bank has made her way back to the Gulf of Maine feeding ground.

NECWA's first 2013 sighting of Salt occurred on May 17. NECWA staff member Tammy Silva was whale watching on board the Tails of the Sea with Capt. Tommy O'Reilly. This lucky group of whale watchers found themselves in the middle of a feeding frenzy! About a dozen humpback whales were gorging themselves on sand lance on the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank.   Then, seemingly out of no where, that famous white dorsal fin appeared off the was her! Salt! To an experienced whale watcher, the unique white scarring on Salt's dorsal fin is unmistakable. When you see it, you just know it's her and it was so exciting to see her after a long winter!
Salt's dorsal fin
Salt was first sighted in the Gulf of Maine in 1975 and has been sighted every year but one since then. She has had 12 calves and she has multiple grand-calves as well. Through photo-identification, researchers have been able to track her entire family over the years and Salt and her family alone have taught us tremendously important pieces of information about humpback whale life history. Salt's last known calf was born in 2010 and was named Zelle (all of Salt's calves have names related to salt or condiments!). Humpback whales typically give birth to a calf every 2-3 years and some NECWA staff were secretly (or very openly and excitedly!) hoping she would return with a calf #13 this year. But it looks like Salt does not have a calf this year, as she was sighted alone. Maybe next year! We are all looking forward to more sightings of Salt this season!

Salt's ventral tail pattern
To read more about Salt and to view her family tree, visit: Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies

Inflatable, life-sized model of Salt, the humpback whale.

Salt, our inflatable humpback whale

This week, we finished our inflatable model of Salt, the humpback whale. NECWA staff and interns have been working on this life-sized model since early winter. This model is made from sheet plastic and held together by packaging tape. We made sure that it was anatomically correct in every way from the length of the body to the length of the flippers. And since we created this model after Salt, the most famous humpback whale in the world, we made sure the top of the dorsal had white on it, just like hers.  And we marked in the ventral tail pattern to have her exact pattern.

This model is inflated with a small fan that sits under the tail stock. You can enter Salt through a slit on the right side of her body. Once you get inside, you can't believe how big she is on the inside and out!

We will be debuting this model at our upcoming school program at the Middleboro Memorial Early Childhood Center scheduled for early June. Each spring, NECWA presents these children a fun and hands-on program on marine wildlife. We use Salt as our Ambassador as we tell her story in a fun and meaningful way.

Not only will we have the children view our new life-sized inflatable of Salt, from the inside and out, but we will also get them involved in a number of hands-on activities to help them better understand the biology of marine mammals. They will try out our blubber gloves to see how blubber helps to insulate marine mammals in a cold environment, and they will try their hand at filtering their food in a clean ocean and one filled with marine debris. Can't wait for all the fun!

I want to thank everyone who helped with this inflatable model from the start to the finish. Thanks to the students and parents of Northbrook Academy who helped in the early stages of construction as well as Liz and Ron from Bridgewater State University. Big thanks to Tammy and Tiffany from NECWA during the middle part of construction. But the biggest thanks goes to our intern Rob, for a job well done. Rob worked with Krill on every stage of construction from start to finish. Without his help and constant words of encouragement, I don't think I would have been able to get this model finished in such a timely manner.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Whale Watching Season Has Started with a Bang!

Whale Watching out of Plymouth - May

Great whale watching at the start of our 2013 season. We have been seeing humpback whales, finback whales, minke whales as well as Atlantic white-sided dolphins and harbor porpoise. We want to thank Captain John Boats out of Plymouth for providing internship tickets for each trip. With that support, our  interns would not be able to get offshore with any consistency.

Atlantic white-sided dolphins. 

Atlantic white-sided dolphins.

Bubble net being made by humpback whales. 

Feeding Frenzy!
This season, intern tickets have also been donated by Plymouth Whale Watching out of the State Pier in Plymouth. This will allow more of our interns to get offshore on a regular basis. Thanks to both companies for the generosity on behalf of our program. 

Buzzard kick feeding. 
Fracture and Zeppelin feeding deep together. 
Lunging through the bait. Lots of body parts!
Surface feeding. 
Zeppelin lunging through a bubble net. 
Fern's 2013 calf coming towards the boat. 
Northern gannet
Finback whale spouting.
Finback whale
Finback whale