What are you likely to see when you go on a Whale Watch Cruise this late in the season? Researchers have observed that the last whales to leave our protected coastlines each year are Moms with their late season calves, and male humpbacks still hanging around most likely as a means to optimize mating opportunities. And that’s pretty much what we’ve been seeing on our Whale Watch Cruises during the last several days. Almost every pod we’ve seen has been comprised of Mom and a small baby accompanied by at least one escort. When we’ve deployed our hydrophone we’ve been hearing lots of very clear and loud singing, indicating the presence of male humpbacks as well.
Though sightings this time of year are less frequent than they were just a few weeks ago, late season whale watching is still a lot of fun. Small calves can be uncoordinated and often just can’t get down the 20 feet or so to their resting moms, ending up flopping back up to the surface tail first. We also see lots of twirls and spins from these little guys…and the peduncle throws and breaches attempted by the young calves quite commonly end up as belly flops.The littlest calves are very curious, attempting to approach us at every opportunity.
On the other end of the spectrum, the males who are still around appear desperate to mate. We see a lot of very aggressive activities, including peduncle throws, breaches, body blocks and lunges from these guys. In previous years, April has been the month when we’ve encountered huge competitive pods of as many as a dozen humpbacks — which makes sense. If there aren’t very many females around, each of them will attract a LOT of attention from the remaining males. Sharing the ocean with a dozen charging humpbacks is an experience of a lifetime, and we look forward to sharing the adventure with you before the last Humpback leaves the islands.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Where do the Humpbacks go when they migrate away from Hawaii? Most of them appear to migrate directly north, to feeding grounds off of northern British Columbia and southeastern Alaska waters. But they can migrate to just about any location round the Pacific Rim — one humpback satellite-tagged in Hawaii spent the summer in Russian waters.