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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Porpoising South

This afternoon J and K Pods made their way quickly south past Lime Kiln Point State Park, where I was watching from shore. Most of the whales were porpoising, or high speed swimming, which helped them make quick progress against the flood tide.
It was late afternoon which meant that the whales were backlit, making IDs more difficult. I'm pretty sure this is K26 Lobo and his younger sibling K43:

Porpoising is always difficult to capture in a photograph, because the whales erupt from the surface so quickly and they're swimming faster than normal so it's harder to guess where they might come up next. Today, however, there was so much porpoising there were lots of opportunities to get some cool shots. In some photos, the whale was almost completely obscured by the splash! You can see the whale in this one, but I thought the splash looked cool:

If you time it just right, you can get a photo of the whole head of a whale as she comes up to porpoise:

The dorsal fin on the back of an adult male orca can reach up to six feet in height, but it's hard to tell just how big these whales are unless you have something nearby to compare them maybe some people in a nearby fishing boat:

That's J1 Ruffles approaching some recreational boaters. Look how tall his fin is compared to the people on that boat! A lot of times shore-based viewers get upset when they see boats get too close to the whales, but just to clarify this boat had its engines cut and was drifting in the current. While ideally they would have pulled out of the direct path of the whales, the main concern is to keep boaters from motoring right over the whales or having their engines in gear when they're within 100 yards of the whales. In this case, the boater was actually being pretty good. In fact, shortly before, they were well over 100 yards from the whales when K21 Cappuccino turned and headed straight for them, circled them once, then continued on his way.

While watching the whales approach I saw a rhinoceros auklet and a pigeon guillemot, already in winter plumage, foraging in front of the lighthouse. A couple of Heermann's gulls also flew by:

After dinner a couple of us headed back out to the westside of the island to catch the sunset and see if the whales might head back north. It was a beautiful, calm summer evening with that classic golden sunset lighting. It must have been an awesome night to be out on the water, like these two kayakers were:

We only saw the whales milling far away to the south, but we had some other great wildlife sightings. A family of 10 river otters swam by twice. Lots of salmon were jumping. A harbor seal foraged just off the kelp beds. A small group of harbor porpoise came by.  We heard belted kingfishers and black oystercatchers. And, most surprising of all, we saw a minke whale heading north just offshore! Overall, it was well worth the trip out. Oh, and the sunset? That wasn't too shabby either.

Last night we watched the Perseid meteor shower from a nearby beach. It looks like it will be another clear sky for star-gazing tonight!


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

That sounds like it was a perfect evening!



Warren Baker said...

Great end to a entertaining day :-)

No meteors seen here too cloudy - as usual :-)