July 26, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Sammy Beynor

Cory’s shearwater.

On this Sunday’s trip, the clouds and chance of precipitation could not rain on our parade when it came to seeing whales. We began our trip traveling a decent distance offshore where we began seeing seabirds. We got great looks at species of shearwaters including: Cory’s, Great and Sooty Shearwaters. These seabirds are unique in the fact that they can only take off from water.

Humpback off the bow.

When about to take off they appear to run on the surface. These birds feed on the same small schooling fish as our whales do and are a great indicator of how much bait is in the area. As we continued to travel around the knuckles of the arm of the Cape, we began seeing more and more birds, even including a Wilson’s Storm Petrel.

Ventral tail pattern of Mayo.

We began to see many blows in the distance. The blow is the physical exhalation of the whale. Whales are mammals and when reaching the surface they exhale warm air that condenses when hitting the cold air above the ocean. This creates a puff of smoke appearance. As we approached, we noticed that there were a large amount of blows in the area- telling us that today was going to be a fantastic day for watching whales.

Fluke out just off our bow.

Ventral tail pattern of Nile.

We began with two quick sightings of finback whales, the second largest animal in the world. We also got a few quick glimpses of minke whales, the smallest species of baleen whale. However, we decided to move past these animals that were not spending much time at the surface to look at the numerous whales exhaling in the distance.

Bubble net being made by humpback whales.

Open mouth feeding by a humpback whale.

We encountered a group of roughly 5 to 8 humpback whales. These whales were identified by the unique pattern on the underside of their tail. It ranges from black to white in coloration and is specific to each individual. Through photo ID we can take pictures of the underside of the fluke and identify each whale to learn a little more about its life history. Some of the whales we saw today included: Putter, Echo, Mayo, Stingray, Reaper, Nile and Draco. We even saw a mother and calf pair who we identified as Orbit! Below are pictures of their flukes.

Ventral tail pattern of Putter.

Reaper.

Ventral tail pattern of Orbit.

There were between 35 and 40 humpback whales in the area. These whales were engaging in different types of feeding behaviors. We got great looks at whales participating in bubble net feeding. This is when one whale or multiple whales blow bubbles under the surface creating a net like structure that traps the bait and forces them towards the surface. Then one or more whales swim through the net mouth open to collect all the bait fish. They then strain the water out through their baleen while keeping the fish inside their mouth.

Draco.

Echo.

We got great looks at this behavior incredibly close to the boat. In addition we got great looks at whales lifting their tails right next to our vessel. Today’s trip was incredible and we look forward to encountering all these humpback whales again!

Translate »