Resurrection in the Food Web

I often wonder if people in the Southern Hemisphere view Easter differently than we north of the line.  Easter is so tied into rebirth, renewal and resurrection.  It comes naturally in the springtime.  If the days were getting shorter, leaves falling and flowers wilting I am not sure how I would view Easter, perhaps as the promise of resurrection at some time in the future.

In Sitka it is easy to tie resurrection to the season.  The days are getting longer, by 5 minutes a day, and Sitka Sound is abundant.  The herring come in their millions to spawn, and every sort of predator comes into the sound to feed on the herring.

On March 25 the Sitka Whale Fest held its annual “Food Web” cruise and we watched as, in order of size, sea gulls, eagles, sea lion, human and whale predators came to feast on either the herring or their eggs.  (Ok sea lions may be bigger than humans, but humans come in boats.)

It was a dramatic day, sun, clouds, rain and snow, all within a few minutes or miles of each other. Although the dominant feeling was spring we had significant snow a few days later.

The Sea Lions swim through the herring schools and their thrashing fairly well defines the term feeding frenzy,

The whales can hunt herring both shallow and deep and on the herring grounds we watch a combination of surface lunge feeds and deep dives.

The Fishermen look for the whales and head toward them to compete for the same fish, often aided by spotter planes watching from above.  On March 25 a Purse Seiner was making a test set.  Someone asked one of the naturalists if whales ever got caught in the sein net.  As if to answer the question, two whales surfaced in the middle of the net.  They pulled on the net and the boat had to struggle to stay upright until it could release the net and let the whales out.

Whales, as if learning from fishermen, blow bubbles around a school of herring, forcing them together the same way a net gathers them.  It’s called bubble netting.  When the fish are concentrated the whales surface, mouths open, eating hundreds of fish in one gulp.  As they surface they blow.  One whale blows a rainbow, the sun reflecting through whale breath.  Or should we call it a whale bow?  There was some discussion, whale bow? rain blow? Blow bow? Magic!

Spring comes, the earth and sea are renewed, the herring surrender their lives to the diversity of Sitka Sound.  Resurrection!

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