Tuesday 6 November 2018

Humpback Whales

I was driving passed Mail beach looking out to sea and thinking it would be a good time to see some whales as it was so calm. Passing the first lay-by i noticed a surge coming towards the coast and immediately thought, Whale. I just caught a glimpse as i passed the lay-by- a  Humpback.

I headed straight home to collect my telephoto lens then headed back to the lay-by in the rain. By now a couple of cars had pulled up and , looking at not just one, but three Humpback whales a family party, along with two Risso's dolphin

One of the Humpback's seem to be working an area close to Cunningsburgh while a pair, a mother and calf headed towards us.

As they came closer they were spouting air regularly as they moved faster herding fish into position. They then started to blow bubbles ( Bubble netting) to confuse the fish while circling around them

and then diving coming up underneath them with an open mouth taking in a large number of fish. There has been a lot of herring recently, but they also feed on Mackerel & Sandeels

They did this a couple of times with the two Risso's dolphin close by taking advantage of the concentration of fish.

They slowly moved south towards Sandwick so i made a dash for the top lay-by where only two cars were parked. This area quickly filled up with about 30 people watching this great show.

Again they circled blowing bubbles then fed and towards the end showed their dorsal fins several times before heading further out and south.

Big Bubbles

From photos taken in November last year it appears that these two are the same animals that appeared at Levenwick so hopefully it may become an annual appearance. Shetland is one of three places, the others are the northern Irish sea and western Scotland

They tend to grow 11- 15 m in length, with the pectoral flippers distinctive, being extremely long and mostly white on both sides.

The dorsal fin, located two thirds along the back and is usually short and stubby.

The overall colour of the Humpback is grey, its head, is  broad and covered in fleshy tubercules.

When it dives the body arches steeply prior to a deep dive, exposing the rough edged tail- stock, the fluke is a good identification point

the blow is distinctive, a mushroom shape

Humpback's have become regulars in Shetland waters since the 1990's and tend to occur later in the year late October - January.

I read an interesting story in National Geographic that Humpbacks interfere with Orca killings and move in to protect other species

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