We saw our first minke whale of the year today. It was a small juvenile that would have only recently left its mother. It always amazes me when I see these tiny young whales separate from their mothers so early in life. They are around three metres long at this stage and are perfectly capable of looking after themselves. Once they reach the rich waters of the north they are very much on the hunt for sand eels, sand smelt and other small oily fish to fuel their growth.
It is believed, although not confirmed, that our minke whales head down towards the Cape Verde Islands during the winter in order to give birth in warm waters. They need to do this as the calves are born with limited blubber (minke whale insulation). They then start the journey north and the calf is fattened up on the way by the mothers energy rich milk. Once they arrive on the northern feeding grounds mother and calf separate. The calf newly fattened up seeks out good fish stocks to fuel its growth and the mother needs to replenish her fat reserves after feeding the calf whilst fasting on the journey.