12 images Created 28 Nov 2014
Humpback Whales - Other Behaviour
Humpback whales are as Herman Melville observed “ the most gamesome of whales”. They have become the popular focus of whale watching worldwide because they are the most obliging to entertain with their surface activity. They can be observed employing a variety of feeding techniques, including the spectacular cooperative bubble net feeding, blowing plumes of ethereal, but stinky breath, raising their flukes when they sound, and more inscrutable behaviour such as spy-hopping, pec-slapping, lobtailing and breaching. Over many years of observing their behaviour I have been able to draw some of my own conclusions regarding their more playful looking behaviour. It is quite apparent that they employ some of their more ostentatious behaviour: breaching, when they jump out of the water; pec-slapping, when they lay on the surface whilst slapping the water with their enormous flippers; lobtailing, when they lift their flukes vertically and slap the water with a tremendous thud - to create a shock to herd their prey when they are hunting. It has also been apparent to me that they employ these activities both as a threat display when boats get too close, and also just for recreational fun, because after all shouldn’t they and other animals have the same need to express their joie de vivre. I know from my experience and observations that having a whale of a time is a very literal expression. It is also likely that they use such percussive activities to dislodge barnacles and other parasites. This kind of behaviour is always very unpredictable, especially breaching, which is consequently very difficult to photograph, especially as with any of their activity that I was trying to capture I also had to paddle my kayak, and my hands were divided between paddle and camera. Their sporadic breaching became the most elusive and tantalising of things to photograph, and it always seemed as if they were waiting for me to release my camera and pick up my paddle before breaching again!