Yesterday afternoon, just before dark, we’d all gathered in the living room. Intent on various projects, it took a moment for a familiar sound to register. Once it did, we dropped what we were doing, jumped into boots and raced outside to see an unusual sight.
A few yards off the beach rocks, a humpback whale surfaced, swimming north.
This is our fourth winter on the homestead, not counting some short visits in winters previous to moving here. We’ve never seen or heard humpbacks in the winter. We know that, while the majority of humpbacks migrate to the breeding grounds near Hawaii, a small number stay in Southeast Alaska through the winter. Mostly, though, they seem to prefer more sheltered areas. We saw them now and then near Juneau; my brother and his wife often saw them in Tenakee Inlet. Our Wildlife Journal never has any humpback entries between mid-November at the latest, and the first week of March at the earliest. The one we saw yesterday is the first we’ve ever logged in January.