YET ANOTHER THREAT TO WHALES – GULL ATTACKS
BLOG 4 – 1 September 2013 – at the Research Station in Península Valdés
We spent the day recording behavioral data from the cliffs. Vicky records the behavior of right whale mothers and calves, and their respiration rate as a way to estimate their body condition. I began our annual monitoring of the frequency of gull attacks on the whales. Kelp gulls have learned to feed on the skin and blubber of live whales at Península Valdés. The gulls land and peck on the back of the whales, opening lesions and affecting the whales’ behavior. We monitor the frequency of gull attacks since 1995, and provide this information to government officials who make decisions on wildlife management.
Península Valdés is a nursing ground for southern right whales, so we focus our observations on mothers and calves. However, most of the whales that we saw today were in a very active mating group. Lots of white water, flipper slaps and much caressing and hugging must have been quite noisy underwater… the mothers with their newborn babies were quite far apart from the action!
We just had dinner in the candlelight. Johnny cooked pasta with a tasty tomato and pepper sauce, and I made a broccoli and cheese pie. And now we are ready to crawl into the warmth of our sleeping bags for a good night
By Mariano Sironi, Right Whale Program Scientific Director