Tag Archives: whale

Minke Whale Feeding

On our trip back to Edmonds, after we left the orcas, we had a lucky encounter.  We came across a minke whale.  It was having a good time feeding on bait balls that were easy to spot given the large number of birds on the surface above them.  We saw the whale surface a few times and then it headed for the bait.  Timing its surfacing was tricky.  The birds all started to take flight but they did so a long time before the whale came up through the fish.  I missed the key moment.  However, I did get a few shots of the whale as it was feeding although not of the swollen lower jaw folds as it took mouthfuls of water in.

Some Humpback Fluke Action

We took a trip out to go whale watching while we had some visitors staying with us.  The trip departed from Edmonds and proved to be a great day out.  Our first encounter was with some humpbacks.  We have had some great humpback spotting previously and they got a post here from one of those events.  This time we came across a couple of them feeding in the waters of Puget Sound.  A couple of times we were nice and close when the whales dived.  The humpback is great for getting a view of the fluke as they dive deeper.  Here are a couple of fluke shots I got.  The flukes are the way that the scientists are able to identify the whales since they are quite individual.

Lunge Feeding Humpbacks

B11I8352.jpgThis seems to be a really good year for sea life.  Having had a really successful trip out watching whales from Monterey Bay, the whales have decided to come closer.  There have been sightings of humpbacks inside San Francisco Bay this year.  More recently, my friend Roger has seen them feeding on the coast just south of the city.  I joined him for a while.  We could see a number of the humpbacks lunge feeding just off the beach.  They were a little far from us but we still had a good view.

B11I8389.jpgThe whales start below the surface and surge upwards with their mouths open grabbing a mouth full of water and fish.  They then spot out the water and eat the remnants.  We found that the seagulls were the guide to where the whales would be next.  They would mill around, awaiting the next feeding, hoping to get a spare fish in the process.  As they spotted the whale coming to the surface, they would all converge and this would be the guide to where the whale would be next.  Sometimes, the whale was just coming up for breath so you never knew which it would be.  When there is only one whale, it tends to alternate although not always.  With more than one, it is a guess.

AE7I0750.jpgA few days later, I was out with Nancy and we decided to see if there was any activity.  The previous spot was not showing any sign of whales inshore.   A couple of spouts further out but nothing feeding in the shallows.  Instead we tried Pacifica where they sometimes come in near the pier.  Again, nothing.  We were just starting to drive off when I saw what appeared to be a spout inshore.  I parked up and wandered over to see if there was anything.  Nancy stayed in the car but knew something was up when she saw me turn and run back to the car.  A whale was in the surf feeding.

AE7I0588.jpgWe moved along the beach watching the whale burst to the surface and grab mouthfuls of water and fish.  A lot of people quickly gathered to watch the feeding.  The birds were still the clue but now we were down on the level of the waves so sometimes things got obscured by the water.  Even so, we were right there to see what was going on.  Soon the whale appeared to be full and moved offshore.  It was still swimming around near the pier when we headed off.  I don’t know whether this was a regular feature or we got lucky but it was very cool to watch.

If I Can Smell the Breath, They Must Be Close

AE7I3686.jpgHumpback whales do not use Listerine.  If you are upwind or one (or more), you will know it by the smell.  When they exhale through the blowhole, a very aquatic aroma is shared.  This isn’t the only way to spot them of course, they are a pretty large beast so not the hardest thing to find – particularly if it is a calm day like it was for us.  We saw so many humpbacks that we passed most of them by.  We did end up pretty close to some, though.  These guys seemed totally uninterested in us.  I have to say I took it hard.


Whale Watching Tour

Whale Watching RouteI have been on a few whale watching trips in the past.  We took one out of Provincetown on Cape Cod that had a whale guarantee.  No whales and you get a free second trip.  95% success rate.  Guess what day we went on.  No chance to go back and take the free trip.  We did a trip in a RIB when staying on Pender Island and had more success on that occasion including a pretty close encounter with a humpback.  Other than that it was a pretty quiet trip.

Consequently, I was cautious when we went on our trip out in Monterey Bay.  This is an area with an abundance of marine life, particularly at this time of year.  Dolphins, humpbacks, orcas and even blue whales have been about a lot recently.  However, we went on a trip that had a lot better chances.  It was an all day excursion.  It was listed as eight hours but we ended up being gone for eleven.  The map above shows where I took shots so you can see we went a long way up the coast.  It is easy to see why they don’t let children under 13 or pregnant women on.  Boredom or urgent needs are not realistic!

The day was very productive.  Be ready for a stream of posts of aquatic wildlife!

Dolphins and Whales

C59F0528.jpgA sunny Sunday is a great time to go to the coast.  We took a drive along the Pacific from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay.  We had bought some food before leaving Santa Cruz so picked a spot along the way to stop and eat our lunch.  Sitting and watching the ocean while eating is very tranquil.  While we were there, I thought I saw someone swimming.  Then I saw another one and realized that it was a group of dolphins making their way along the shore.  No sooner had they gone but, coming the other way, I spotted a pair of whales, presumably a mother and calf.  Neither the dolphins nor the whales were terribly conspicuous since they are almost always underwater and hard to get a shot of when they break surface before they disappear again but here is what I did get.


The Whales Are Out There

C59F7613.jpgMy sister has pretty amazing eyesight. Her ability to spot things before the rest of us has shown itself on many occasions. I have often been wondering if she is just making things up only to finally see what she saw. To all my pilot friends, I would recommend her as a second pair of eyes anytime.

C59F7633.jpgWe were taking a trip along the Pacific coast while they were over visiting recently and she said she had seen a whale. This is by no means unusual along this stretch of coast but, even so, I was a little unsure if it really was a whale. Turns out it wasn’t a whale. It was at least five of them. They were a little way offshore but there they were. Plenty of spouts of spray from blowholes and the occasional sighting of bodies as they came to the surface. It was a shame that they were so far out but at least they got some whales for their visit.


wpid8292-C59F0142.jpgA short distance along the coast from our beach overlook we came to a lighthouse.  This seemed like a popular part of the shoreline on a Sunday, even though the weather wasn’t great.  I imagine on a sunny day, it is full of people along here.  We strolled along the shore and out towards the point on which the lighthouse was built.  The sea was looking very calm and out a distance we could see a number of kayakers in a loose group.  Initially we had no idea what they were up to and assumed it was just a nice place to be.  Then we saw something we had not expected.

wpid8288-C59F0130.jpgA plume of spray followed closely by another signaled the presence of some whales.  They were not far offshore and were coming in our general direction.  I don’t know how to recognize whales unless they are of a few distinct types but I know that they get grey whales along here so I am going to guess that this is what they were.

wpid8290-C59F0133.jpgThey made pretty good progress along the coast and the kayakers were following at a discrete distance.  I suspect for some that had been waiting ahead of the route, they got a pretty good view as the whales came through.  We tracked them for a while.  The problem with taking pictures of whales is that you don’t immediately know where they are.  The clear their blowholes and you get a nice plume but that is often the first sign and it is dissipating by the time you get the camera on it.  However, the shots are secondary in this compared to being there to see it.

Some Fishy Video

As you might have noticed, there is a bit of theme developing with some of the stuff I post.  Photos are the main focus of what I do but I am also dabbling more with the video side of things.  There are some things that video can show that stills do not represent as well.  Since the 1D MkIV arrived in my hands with the ability to shoot HD video, I have been surprised how many times I have taken some video along with the stills.

Anyway, all of that is a roundabout way of saying that I have got some video from the Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago that goes along with the previous posts on the swimmy things.  It is shot through glass (of course) in the public areas so I know that the reflections are sometimes there but even so,  I hope you like it.

Beluga Whales

Since we were at the aquarium and had paid the entrance fee, we weren’t only going to look at the jellyfish.  We aren’t members of the Shedd so coming and going like we do at the zoo or the arboretum is not a practical solution.  Therefore, we had a list of things we also wanted to take a look at while we were there.  One of these was the Beluga Whales.

We both have a soft spot for the Belugas.  For Nancy’s birthday a few years ago, I bought her a Beluga Encounter where so got to stand in the tank with the whales while the trainers instructed them on how to work with them to do various activities.  She had a great time!  Anyway, they are a sweet looking creature and, since they are the only whale with a flexible neck, they have a way of appearing to be more human, even if it is only in your mind.

For some reason, they were very active while we were there.  They came to the surface a lot including some mini-breaches, splashing around and squirting water from their mouths.  I hadn’t seen them this active before.  More often, they will be swimming around below the surface a lot.  We hadn’t intended to spend so much time with them but in the end we were there for ages.  The show with the dolphins got going further round the facility.  This made shooting both better and worse.

When the blinds are open on the windows, the whales can often be backlit.  However, there is still light.  They lower blinds for the shows.  The light becomes a lot softer at this point.  Of course, there is also a lot less of it.  More cranking up of the ISO!