|Two Humpbacks near the Farallones|
These whales are well known for their acrobatic aerial displays (breaching) where they jump, and often spin, out of the water. Although the function of this behavior is not known, it is thought to possibly be involved in communication and/or ectoparisite removal. In any case, it's always incredible to watch. From the island, we have seen numerous whales breaching, tail slapping and flipper slapping. Our high count of Humpbacks last week was 91 in a single day! The number of Humpbacks observed from the island varies significantly from year to year but in the last two years we have seen very high numbers here in the late summer and fall. The high count last year was 107 on Oct 8, the second most seen in a single day (highest count was 125 on November 8 1998). It is definitely unusual to see numbers this high already in August so we may still break the record.
|Humpback Whale showing how it got its name|
Humpbacks weren't the only cetacean species spotted from the island last week. We also saw Risso's dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins, Gray Whales and Blue Whales.
|Risso's Dolphins near the Farallones|
|Blue Whale back. It's hard to get a feel for how big there are from this.|
|Cassin's Auklet chicks are fed krill by their parents|
Happy as the whale recovery stories are, significant threats to whales remain. We witnessed one of the most serious last week when we found a dead Humpback floating near the island that appeared to have been struck by a ship. There were numerous deep lacerations on the whales left side. As this incident demonstrates, ship strikes are still all too common and remain a serious concern and cause of mortality to many whales.
|Dead humpback spotted near the islands|
|Lacerations on the left side of the whale likely from a ship propeller|