Gigantic calves and thinner mothers!

November 26, 2012 by dyertrust

Gradually as the calves are getting larger (both longer and thicker) their mothers are getting thinner! The mothers do not feed while they are here off the South African coast, but sustain themselves from their thick layer of blubber, which they build up while they are feeding in the Sub-Antarctic waters from January to May.

The southern right whale mother and calf pairs are ruling the bay at the moment! Some days we have had more than 30 pairs. They mainly spend time travelling slowly along kelp, relaxed, rolling, and logging in the same place. The calves are by far the most active and often breach and play around the mother. Maria has been tracking the detailed behaviour of the mother and calves, and they are spending lots of time travelling, milling, or being submerged.

We have had at least five brindle calves frequenting the area. Since most of them have very distinct markings we were able to tell them apart.

We had the dolphins on two occasions. A small group of Indo-pacific humpback dolphins had a feast where they were so active that the fish were thrown into the air. Also, the Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins visited the bay and spent almost two hours surfing the waves.

The annual aerial survey of southern right whales off the South African coasts also took place in October. It was the 34th time that the Whale Unit from the Mammal Research Institute (MRI) of Pretoria have conducted the survey. Meredith Thornton, Ken Findley and Andre du Randt from MRI, were responsible for carrying out the survey this year.

They started on the 8th of October. The survey team takes photos of the callosity patterns of the mothers, each whale has a unique pattern and can be identified by this. Later the pictures will be analysed and matched to the current catalogue.

Due to the harsh weather conditions the aerial survey was only finished on the 4th of November. Normally it is completed before the end of October and takes a maximum of two weeks. It is always a pleasure to have the team here and DICT hosts the team when they come. Thank you Meredith for the pictures.

Two special guests made it all the way from Sweden; Annas mother and cousin. They spent two weeks in the Greater Dyer Island area and went tracking with the team, diving on the shark boat, whale watching on Whale Whisperer, and flying with African Wings! Annas cousin went back with an even stronger determination to become a marine mammologist.

The team is looking forward to the summer and calmer weather conditions. Day by day we are seeing more and more tortoises on the roads when driving to Pearly Beach a sure sign of summer approaching.