On July 26, the Right Whale Research team headed out to the Bay of Fundy (BOF) on our trusty research vessel, Nereid, for the first time this season. We had received reports of a few right whales to the north of Grand Manan Basin over the past week, and had high hopes for the day. After heading up the eastern side of Campobello Island to The Wolves islands, we shut down the boat to do a listening station. A listening station is a tool we use to hear whale exhalations, which aids our visual search for whales- under calm conditions, a whale that may be difficult to see will surely be heard.  At our first listening station, a curious young seal approached and circled the boat. Our silent listening station was not so silent, as there were lots of giggles at this little seal head that kept popping up to check us out.

A curious harbor seal, and a listening station fail.
Look at that face! Photo: Megan McOsker

Throughout our survey in the morning, we did four more of these ten-minute listening stations. Finally, Johanna heard a blow and we had to travel about two miles before we caught up with three right whales (now that’s a successful listening station!). Catalog #1613 is a male born in 1986, and #1813 is a male first seen in 1988.

#1613 and #1813 at the surface. Photo: Monica Zani
#1613 (foreground) with #3950. Photo: Marianna Hagbloom

The youngest in the group was #3950, who is the 2009 calf of #1611, “Clover.” Finding right whales on Day 1 was fantastic, but we felt like we really hit the jackpot when #3950 pooped and we were able to collect a sample! This sample will be incorporated into our large collection that Anderson Cabot Center researchers have analyzed to assess health and stress levels in right whales.

Megan collects a poop sample.
Poop: it's a beautiful thing.

In the afternoon, we found three other right whales that were briefly involved in a surface active group (SAG), but which then switched gears and began feeding near the surface. Catalog #3845, “Mogul,” has been visiting BOF almost every summer since his birth in 2008. A male born in 2010, Catalog #4014, and a female born in 2009, #3917, were with him.

Short SAG action. Photo: Kelsey Howe

To our surprise, one of these whales pooped and we collected a second sample for the day! Both of the samples were very red in comparison to past BOF samples, which tend to be more brown.

This was one of the best first surveys of the season that we’ve had in years- an uplifting trip that we desperately needed given the past two months.

Mogul lifts his flukes for a dive. Photo: Johanna Anderson