Migrating Naturalist: Prop Chop

February 16th, 2011

This is not the calf that had been hit, just an example of a close approach. Note that our propeller is not spinning. (The above image was taken under NOAA-Fisheries Permit #587-1767-01)

A few days ago I wrote about humpback calves (in “Calf Charisma”), and how much I enjoyed their adorably awkward antics. Unfortunately, this lack of coordination also means that their movements can be quite unpredictable. It is not uncommon for a calf to pop up suddenly right in front of you, particularly in Hawaii where the humpback population is so concentrated. These unexpected moves demand that you always keep a sharp eye out all around, and as calves tend to breathe every 2–3 minutes, you can usually spot them from afar.

Migrating Naturalist: Whale Tales

February 14th, 2011

Some people follow the lives of movie stars, and some worship rock gods, but personally, I turn into a stammering fan around celebrities of the science world. Particularly in whale research, there are a handful of very well-known experts who have been studying and photographing these creatures since the research began. Over 30 years ago, these inspiring naturalists began the immense task of unveiling the mysteries surrounding humpback whales, and they still pursue this goal with the same passion and drive today. A large number of these experts were involved in Whale Tales, a day-long event that I had the luck and pleasure of being involved in yesterday.

Migrating Naturalist: Calf Charisma

February 12th, 2011

Some of my favourite humpback groups to watch are those which include calves. There is just something about watching a massive 12 foot, 1 ton (907kg) baby splashing and playing around in the water that warms your heart. Perhaps it is that these little whales seem endearingly awkward, as they attempt to follow the breaches, chin slaps, and pec slaps seen from their mothers. It is extremely rare to see two mothers sharing the same space, and so most calves have no one their own size to share their excessive energy with. Occasionally you will see a calf attempt to engage a playful dolphin, and our underwater photographers often have to be wary of curious or friendly calves who do not realize their own strength!

Migrating Naturalist: Aquatic Melodies

February 10th, 2011

Every once in a while someone in our research group gets kicked off the boat. Not due to bad behaviour, but simply because there are too many volunteers offering help. Our research vessel Deep Blue holds only 6 people, and so on days when underwater divers are on board, an equal number of interns must remain behind. Most of the day is spent entering data and editing fluke ID images, but if you budget time well, there is always a chance for adventures. Today I caught a ride with Michelle (a fellow intern, from Alaska) and her dog Vista, to North Ka’anapali for a snorkeling trip.

What We Have Learned At Home

February 9th, 2011

West Coast Aquatic Safaris recently received the Article below from Rod Palm, Principal Investigator for Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society. We felt that it is such interesting and valuable information and our readers would be interested to learn a little more about the fascinating creatures we know as Killer Whales:

January 01, 2011 marked 20 years of Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society’s monitoring various aspects of the marine environment here in Clayoquot Sound.

Migrating Naturalist: Sunset Drums

February 8th, 2011

Each Sunday evening, a phenomenon occurs on the South side of Maui. A stream of vehicles trickle into the parking lot at Makena beach, and crowds of people of every age are seen climbing over the rocks, towards the area known as Little Beach. As you turn the final corner towards the water, the sound of drumming begins to drift through the warm air. Shapes of people splashing in the calm waves are visible in the half-light, and as you remove your slippers and feel the soft sand between your toes, you notice the crowd at the far end of the beach. Some of them are dancing, some are drumming, many have embraced the “clothing optional” status of Little Makena, but all have broad smiles across their faces.

Migrating Naturalist: I’ve Been Mugged!

February 5th, 2011

The above image was taken under NOAA-Fisheries Permit #587-1767-01

Typically the term “mugging” brings up negative associations in the mind, such as memories of lost wallets, purses, or jewelery. When it comes to whales, however, the exact opposite is true. The act of mugging by whales is much more of a gift, bringing you amazing memories that will last forever.

Migrating Naturalist: The Lucky House Gecko

February 4th, 2011

It seems appropriate on Chinese New Year to celebrate the good qualities of an animal commonly found in and around homes in Hawaii. The gecko is one of my absolute favourite creatures in the area, for several reasons. Firstly, they are well known predators of the many insects that live in this tropical climate. You would be hard pressed to find a home in Hawaii that hasn’t at some point fended off an invasion from ants, cockroaches, or even a few dangerous centipedes.

Migrating Naturalist: Whales—Worth The Wait

February 3rd, 2011

Today started out a little slow, as far as humpback research goes around Maui. Our first observation attempt seemed promising, as we approached a single whale performing a behaviour that many like to call “staging”. This consists of a series of very showy surface activities, like breaching, pec-slapping, and tail-lobbing. Many researchers believe that they do this to attract attention, as often it is seen from younger lone animals, such as yearlings that have recently been separated from their mothers.

Migrating Naturalist: Return To The Whales

January 31st, 2011

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for since my arrival on Maui just over a week ago—our first research day of the season! Ever since my last whale watch in Tofino, I had been longing for the chance to get back on the ocean, and back to the humpbacks, one of the most captivating creatures on the planet. After waking up to gusting winds and the arrival of a cruise ship, our departure from the harbour was a little delayed. The sun had risen above the West Maui mountains long before we pulled into open waters, but the familiar sensation of ocean air on my face, and the thrill of our first humpback spout was exactly how I had remembered.