Post Content

Erin Burke

Erin Burke

Protected Species Specialist, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF)

View Erin's Bio

The Right Whale Class of 2011 has officially arrived! On St. Patrick’s Day, the aerial survey team saw 49 right whales – most of them deep inside Cape Cod Bay. This endangered species returns each year to feed in the bay. Last year, approximately 50 percent of the known population of 400 animals made use of our waters during winter and spring. I spent the day aboard the Center for Coastal Studies’ habitat sampling boat, inspecting the food resource in the vicinity of 20-plus right whales skim feeding off Sesuit Harbor.

Can you spot the 4 skim feeding right whales?

IMG_1766 
Even in such a large group, the whales are very mysterious at this time of year. As we saw, they’re typically engaged in sub-surface or low skim feeding behavior, which makes them notoriously difficult to see – even when you’re looking for them! In April, they usually switch to high skim feeding on copepods at the water’s surface, making them easier to detect. Still, boaters in the bay should be a sharp look-out for right whales over the next couple months to avoid collisions. (Don’t forget the 500 yard no-approach zone though).

Due to the ephemeral nature of both food and whales in the bay, these aggregations often don’t last long. And sure enough, members of the St. Paddy’s Day gang have already gone their separate ways, after mowing down the zooplankton in that area. Right whales know how to clean their plates.

Time will tell how the 2011 season shapes up. Will the surface plankton show up in large quantities? Will vast aggregations of whales arrive again? Will we see high skim feeders from the beach? How will 2011 compare to the astonishing numbers of whales observed since 2007?

Stay tuned…

Written By:

Recent Posts

2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: March posted on Apr 23

2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: March

Girard’s Sugarhouse in Simsbury, CT.  The sugarhouse was built in 1887 and produces around 250-300 gallons of syrup annually.  Photo by Michael Girard March’s contest winner was Michael Girard who photographed his family’s sugarhouse in Health. Michael Girard has been a sugarmaker since 1961 when he   …Continue Reading 2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: March

2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: February posted on Feb 25

2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: February

  February’s contest winner was Amanda Bettle, who photographed sheep at The Natural Resources Trust of Easton.  This photo features Dog, a former 4-H show animal and sole male sheep among the nine ewes in the Natural Resources Trust of Easton (NRT) flock. It is the mission   …Continue Reading 2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: February

2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: January posted on Jan 26

2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: January

January’s contest winner was Renee Finnegan, who photographed a pensive Highland cow at Oak Meadows Farm & Garden in Rutland. Glenn and Mary Kauppila have been farming 100 acres of land in Rutland for approximately 15 years. With the help of their three adult children, they   …Continue Reading 2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: January