Whalewatching 2016: Part 12

25 Apr
Calf flukes-up dive.

Nice close-up shot of a Humpback calf’s flukes-up dive. Judging by the amount of time this calf stayed submerged after this dive, it’s probably several weeks old and ready to follow its mother to the Alaskan feeding grounds. 16 February 2016 (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

16 and 19 February 2016 Cruises

16 February Cruise

This day’s conditions were more typical of our February weather than those of the last few weeks: strong gusting southwesterly winds and heavy seas with whitecaps. This makes it difficult to spot whales; I had to be almost be on top of a whale in order to see it, let alone photograph it!

The following shots of a weeks-old calf were the most interesting and easiest to photograph.

This calf performed several energetic breaches

This calf performed several energetic breaches for about 15 minutes as its mother rested placidly at the surface nearby (light-blue patch of disturbed water at far left). (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

Young Humpback calves like this one usually aren't able to do full breaches (i.e., leap completely out of the water) because the peduncle muscles of the tail stock are not yet strong enough.

Young Humpback calves like this one usually aren’t able to do full breaches (i.e., leap completely out of the water) because the peduncle muscles of the tail stock are not yet strong enough. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

The calf performs a very noisy reverse breach, landing on its back.

The calf performs a very noisy reverse breach, landing on its back. The windblown spray is a small mouthful of water being forcefully ejected from its mouth as it does a “jaw clap”, an aggressive behavior more often displayed by adult whales in competition pods. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

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19 February Cruise

Excellent weather: high winds the night before had cleaned out the vog haze, so visibility was great; moderate trade winds cooled what would have been a cloudless warm day; the surface, while not glass-smooth, was calm enough to spot blows and breaches miles distant.

A large male Humpback headed directly for the boat.

A large male Humpback headed directly for the boat does an impressive (and VERY intimidating) round-out dive at the last second. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

Sailboat and whale.

The crew of this sailboat took advantage of the excellent surface conditions and their ideal position to observe at close range a mother and calf lazing at the surface. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

There were a LOT of surface-active competition pods inside the bay; most pods had four or more participants. Almost immediately the captain of the Ocean Odyssey found one just outside the harbor breakwater.

comp pod action

The male participants in this competition pod really churned up the waters as they heaved about and shoved one another. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

Head lunge looking head-on

A head lunge viewed head-on! the barnacles encrusting the chin plate of this large male Humpback are clearly visible as it lifts its massive head above the surface and slams it down hard with a loud splash. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

The male participants of this competition pod were displaying a lot of very aggressive behavior: head butting and head lunges, inflated head lunges, jaw-clapping and tail cocking.

inflated head lunge & jaw clap in comp pod

A male Humpback performs an aggressive inflated head lunge and caps it off with some jaw-clapping (note the parted lips of the whale on the right). (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

A member of the competition pods swims close enough to the boat its flukes brushed the hull.

A member of the competition pods swims close enough to the boat its flukes brushed the hull. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

flukes-up closeup

Mobbing the boat! (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

The members of one of the competition pods came so close (called “mobbing the boat”) that the exhalations of the competitors straining to keep up with the female and her primary escort were loud enough one could almost imagine they were on the boat itself.

One whale popped up next to the boat just below where I was standing on the bridge; it happened so fast and at such close range (less than 2 meters) that I had no time to dial back the focus on my lens, but did manage after a second or so to refocus and catch the entirety of whale’s body in my viewfinder.

surprise! mugging the boat

This member of the competition pod very suddenly popped up on the starboard side of the boat after swimming between the twin hulls of the Ocean Odyssey. It was close enough I could hear its labored exhalation as it swam by, almost close enough to reach out and touch! (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

Mobbing the boat.

I was just able to re-focus my lens to catch the full length of this whale as it emerged after swimming under the boat. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

Pectoral fins' wingspan indicated with arrows

As this whale swims away from the boat, its two pectoral fins (the tips indicated by yellow arrows) are stretched out fully as it pulls a forward stroke. Each fin (the turquoise-blue patches visible just below the surface) is about 15 feet long, so its total “wing span” (about forty feet for this individual) is almost as wide as the whale is long (more than 45 feet).

 

older calf breaching

A young adult whale (or perhaps an older calf) performs a half-breach,;the L-shaped groove of it closed lips is clearly visible. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

A Humpback calf moves close to the boat

A Humpback calf moves close to the boat, perhaps a bit curious about the engine noise. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Although most of the body of a Humpback whale belonging to the north Pacific population is black, the ventral aspect (i.e., the bottom surface) of its flukes and pectoral fins display large patches of bright-white coloration. A treat for whale photographers is to capture these patches of color when displayed by the whale near the surface, where they appear as bright turquoise-blue flashes.

The turquoise "wow factor".

The turquoise “wow factor”. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

A mature adult Humpback displays a bit of "turquoise fin flash" as it surfaces and blows.

A mature adult Humpback displays a bit of “turquoise fin flash” as it surfaces and blows. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

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