Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday July 14

Every now and then you have one of those trips that make all the days searching in the fog, dealing with some crummy weather conditions, and sometimes minimal whale sightings, all worth it. This morning was one of those trips. People always ask when is the best time to go whale watching: morning vs. afternoon, month vs. month, cloudy vs. sunny days and the answer is we have no idea. Whales surprise us every single day and even after years of collecting data during trips there is no clear winner as to the best month, the best time, the best chance of seeing whales on any given day during our season which runs from mid-May through mid-October. Today was one of those days where we were in the right place at the right time and got some incredible looks at such enormous wildlife.

This morning we were off again to similar locations where we had some whales yesterday. Coming into the area we slowed down, took a really good look around, and saw a spout. We meandered over to the area and in the process saw another spout off our left-hand side. We had two Fin whales in the area: Streak and Comet. Suddenly a Minke whale popped up in the mix. We were watching Streak move around the area and were noticing both Fin whales suddenly appeared to start to moving in towards each other. We looked out in the distance to see where their movements were about to take them and that's when we knew something potentially awesome was about to happen. We could see patches of ocean water appear to be bubbling at the surface. Usually tides and currents cause sections of ocean to make interesting water movements on the surface but this was no tide. Large patches of herring were breaking the surface.
The dark area in the photo is a large school of herring creating a disturbance on the surface of the flat calm ocean
The fish were so close to the surface we watched as large schools swam right by us. The whales were heading towards all these fish! Minutes later the feeding bout began.
Herring attempting to swim in every direction but into the darkness of a whale's mouth!

A third Fin whale, out of nowhere was spotted charging on into the same area and soon we had 3 Fin whales circling around, a couple Minke whales surfacing, and lots of white water being created.
Incoming Fin whale! Can you see the start of the white lower jaw seen on all Fin whales on their right-hand side? (hint: it is the white part you can see below the surface on the left side of this photo)
Comet at the surface while more herring create the dark line seen in the background
The Fin whales were lunge feeding at and below the surface all around us! These whales were attempting to catch as many fish as possible in each and every mouthful as we watched the fish swim feverishly in any direction but in towards a whale's mouth while the whales themselves were swimming around like crazy.
White water created as a Fin whale lunges just below the ocean's surface charging after the schooling fish!
The whales were circling all around us and even lunged through the water right in front of us a few times. It was whale pandemonium! 
A Fin rolled over on it's right side with it's left flipper above the waterline (creating the trail of white water) as this whale can be seen with its lower jaw fulled extended outwards capturing lots of food in its mouth! And yes, that is a single herring jumping over the whale avoiding being lunch!

The aftermath of the whale lunging through the water just off our pulpit as the whale rights itself and filters out all the salt water from its mouth
It was hard to determine where to look as fish were swimming, whales were lunging, and white water was cascading at the surface. In all the whale chaos of the moment it was still such an orchestrated event as these massive whales moved through the water with such ease.
Streak the Fin whale just under the surface as this whale swam alongside the boat before finally surfacing for a breath of air (above and below)
You can even see the flipper of this Fin whale as the whale gets a good breath of air
The final moments as Streak dives deeps allowing us to see this whale's tail just below the surface. What an amazing sequence of looks at this whale swam right next to us.
As quickly as these events began it didn't take long for everything to once again calm down. The boiling of the herring disappeared at the surface and the whales began to move off in different directions as we were left to sit there floating on the surface amazed at what we had just seen and looking at all the fish scales that sparkled in the sun as the feeding frenzy suddenly ceased.

Times like these is why we truly say we never know what we are going to see when we go out whale watching. Even though these same whales have been seen in the same general area over the course of the last few days their behaviors can change at any moment and we as researchers, biologists, and overall general huge fans of these wild animals continue to enjoy the opportunity to share every trip's experience with all of our passengers.

Our morning trip ended and our afternoon trip began with a stop at Boon Island to check out some of the seals in the area. 
Seals at Boon Island
Grey seal swimming just off the rocks of Boon Island
This afternoon we then headed back out to the ledge. The whales were acting much more like we have seen the past few days as some where circling around and some whales were travelling through the area. 3 Minke whales were also spotted sporadically at the surface and we were able to get some great looks at Fin whale #0282 this afternoon.
Fin whale #0282
This whale meandered through the water as it surfaced alongside the boat a few times getting some great looks at this large species. 
#0282 with Boon Island in the background
We even got a quick look at Comet the Fin whale but this whale was on the move so quickly we could only see this whale from a distance.

Once again one day out on the water watching wildlife can and does prove to be unique each and every time.

No comments:

Post a Comment