Just like their close relatives, the Orcas (Orcinus orca), pilot whales live in matrilineal family units, which means that they are headed/leaded by a female, usually the mother. They live in highly stable and social pods (groups) where both the males and the females remain with their mothers during all their life. Mating occurs outside the pod and males typically leave their mothers pod temporarily for mating, but after mating they return to their faimily pod.
Pilot whales are usually very active and behaviors like spyhopping and lobtailing is often seen. Breaching, where the whale leaps clear out of the water, is however rare, but occurs in younger animals.
The pilot whale outside Kvaløya was alone and we can only speculate why this animal was all on its own in the inner part of one of the fjords, and on top it all, doing some spectacular leaps out of the water, but who can resist jumping in the water on a beautiful summers day? Photo-identification data will perhaps answer this questions and I obtained images of the whales left side of the dorsal fin which will be used for identification of this individual.
By studying the shape and markings of the dorsal fin, we can learn much about the biology of pilot whales.
When whales are seen close to human settlements it is unfortunately often the case that various speed-boats go out for a better look, and stressing the animals. A recent sad example of this could be seen in the town of Bergen earlier this year where the pictures of people chasing pilot whales broke my heart: http://www.aftenbladet.no/innenriks/Hval-svmmer-i-flokk-mot-Bergen-2837692.html
Today, several curious boats could be seen in the area, but they all stayed at a good distance from the whale and did not chase the animal - this was almost as encouraging as seeing the animal itself. Not only does it ensure a better whale-watching experience and heavily reduce the stress for the animal, but sets a good example about how to behave around whales - thank you all who kept your distance and noise level down today (03 September 2011)!
All pictures above were taken from land, and for an amazing enounter with whales, you don`t have to go out at sea and stress the animals! With a little patience, they will come to you...