A WHALE OF A STORY!

Look carefully at this picture. I was on the eastern side of the tip of Small Point, out searching for the whale I'd heard was there. Here is the carcass as I found it, with Seguin Lighthouse watching in the background. I approached the dead animal, hoping to identify the remains. What I discovered in its open mouth were rows of baleen, which some whales use for feeding. I had never seen the baleen up close and personal. It looks like a brush and filters out the small creatures that serve as food for this huge animal.

I had been told that this whale had been here through the winter. Now it is decomposing and NOT pleasantly fragrant! Gulls have started to peck away at the carcass, in fact it was those birds that clued me in to its whereabouts. If I had any thoughts of extracting bones, those were dismissed. They are still well encased in skin.

Here is a closeup of the sieve-like plates of baleen. There are no teeth as in Killer Whales and Dolphins. To feed, the animal forces water through the baleen fibers and then licks off the trapped food. What might that food be? Baleen feeders often seek and ingest Krill which is a kind of small shrimp. The type of baleen and size of the mouth area help determine the foods that are sought. Minkes apparently ingest small fish. It is hard to imagine such large animals building their bodies from planktonic sources, however. I am concluding that this whale is a Minke. The pointed snout and dorsal ridges extending down the underside of the body are distinguishing characteristics. I will have to look again to see if white spots on its fins still show up, another feature of this animal. (I did go out again, but no white patches were found. The animal is quite smelly and oozing goo.)

Out on the rocks, my interest was also perked by the blooms of Aronia arbutifolia (Chokeberry) in rocky cracks. These are beautiful small flowers. This plant also grows into a shrub under the right conditions. It continues to be very dry in this area. The foliage of my Lupine is wilting as the buds elevate from those concentric cicles of leaflets. Other flowers now in bloom include Cinquefoil, Starflower, Canada Mayflower and Pink Ladyslippers. I hope your Memorial Day weekend was beautiful and memorable, as mine was.

5/27/08 Ronnie, the whale watcher.