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This whale likes to eat! It’s no secret that Stellwagen Bank is a productive feeding ground, and Shuffleboard regularly takes full advantage of its fruitful waters. Over the past couple of seasons she’s been one of our most frequently spotted humpbacks, and is often observed kick feeding and using bubbles to corral fish under the water. She’s a favorite of many local whale watchers, who enjoy watching her powerful surface lunges that send fish flying. In the summer of 2018, Shuffleboard was outfitted with a temporary satellite tag. Her movements and data will be used as a part of an ongoing study into the humpbacks’ health and habitat use. One of our most memorable sightings of Shuffleboard from the 2018 season was of her cooperatively feeding with two other humpback whales. All three wowed us by lunging through bubble clouds alongside the boat!
Sprinkles is a younger humpback whale, born in 2014 to one of our most frequently seen humpbacks, Nile. Sprinkles is occasionally known to exhibit curious and surface active behaviors, including spy hops, close-to-boat approaches, breaches, and flipper slaps! According to of one of our naturalists, during Sprinkles’ calf year “he spent more time out of the water than in.” We don’t often see females associating with former calves after that first year together, however Sprinkles and Nile have been observed together several times over the past few seasons. One can only guess if these two know they’re related, as there is still so much yet to learn about humpback whale social behavior. Regardless, it’s always fun to observe and participate in the study of multiple generations!
Owl is an older female humpback frequently seen feeding on Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge during the summer months. She is named for the very corners of her fluke- which resemble a big pair of owl eyes! Owl has an interesting history with vessel strike and entanglements- two of the leading causes of injury and mortality to these animals. She was a victim of a boat strike in her younger years, leaving her with a large and immediately recognizable scar across her back. Fortunately her injuries have healed well over time, and we occasionally see her participating in a dazzling array of surface activity. During one of our final whale watching trips in the 2018 season she was seen double breaching with another humpback whale just north of Stellwagen Bank!
Etch-a-Sketch is part of a well-documented whale family which is very special to us, and was born in 1998. Her grandmother is Salt, the oldest known and very first whale given a name on Stellwagen Bank. Etch-a-Sketch’s mother is Thalassa, Salt’s first known daughter. Both Salt and Thalassa have been successful mothers with 14 and 8 known calves respectively. In 2014, Etch-a-Sketch continued this legacy by showing up with her first known calf. Etch-a-Sketch is always easily identifiable by her big dorsal fin as well as her energetic kick feeding style—she tends to slap her flukes as well as her entire powerful tail on the water’s surface. It’s thought that this action stuns the prey so the whale can capture as many fish as possible in its huge mouth.