To continue on with the adoptable whales, Regina Asmutis Silvia - WDCS Senior Biologist, tell us about another humpback.
Reflection. Noun, re·flec·tion (ri-flek-shuhn): (a) A returned image, as in a mirror. (b) A thought or consideration, a remembrance. (c) A well-traveled, humpback whale, mother of three.
Perhaps the dictionary left out definition (c), but that what we at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society thinks of when we hear the name Reflection. Reflection was named for her very symmetrical fluke (tail) pattern, one side appearing as a reflection of the other. But her name has come to mean more to us. She is a reflection, or remembrance, of science, of management, and of whales at risk. But she is also a symbol of hope.
Gulf of Maine humpbacks, like Reflection, feed in the cold North Atlantic waters off the New England and Canadian coasts during the summer. In the fall, these whales leave for the warmer waters of the West Indies where they will mate and calve. Of particular importance are the waters off the Dominican Republic including Silver Bank, Navidad
Bank and the mouth of Samana Bay. Silver Bank is one of the largest breeding areas for humpbacks in the North Atlantic.
We’re not exactly sure how old Reflection is, but the first documented sighting of her was from Silver Bank 1992. She next showed up in 1995, feeding off of Virginia Beach where she appeared as part of a growing number of humpback whales wintering in the waters off the Mid-Atlantic of the United States, a risky stop-over for young whales given the high density of vessel traffic and fishing gear. Luckily, she survived and,
as an adult, became a visitor to the waters off of Massachusetts where we have seen her regularly since 1997.
For more than 10 years we have watched her be a doting mother to three calves- Buzzard (2000); Spiral (2007) and her youngest, yet to be named, in 2009. We can tell her apart at a distance from her own very stylish kick feeding technique, a subtle head nod before each kick. And, quite honestly, at times, she can be a pain the stern! On one particular research cruise, she seemed to constantly be there, no matter where were surveying. It became a joke after a while when each time we thought we were photographing a new whale, it was just Reflection, “again”. Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have 546 pictures of her in our database.
But we’ve also watched her survive two entanglements with fishing gear: a minor entanglement in monofilament in 2001; and a life-threatening entanglement in 2003 when she was anchored in fishing gear off of Cape Cod. Were it not for the heroic efforts of the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Team, she may not be with us today.
And we are working to make sure Reflection and her calves stay with us. WDCS has been actively working to protect humpback whales in the North Atlantic by reducing their risk of entanglement and ship strikes. We are promoting responsible whale watching and we are working to increase habitat protection. Our work to protect Reflection is, in fact, a “reflection” of the efforts, care and compassion of our supporters. And for that, we are thankful.
Reflection was frequently seen, kick-feeding. Kick feeding is a technique that some humpbacks utilize to help school fish where they slam their fluke, or tail, on the surface, dives under the disturbed area, emits bubbles, and scoops up more than 500 gallons of water and fish with her lower jaw. Reflection adds her own twist to it, with a
subtle head raise before she kicks. Like all baleen whales, she doesn’t drink salt water but uses her baleen as a strainer to catch the fish. While some whales seem to feed in cooperative groups, Reflection seems fairly independent and is often seen kick feeding on her own.
But independent or not, everyone needs a little help. You can help WDCS protect whales by adopting Reflection.