Sunday, July 09, 2006

The eagle has landed

July 7, 2006

One of the by-products of all that bubble-net feeding by humpback whales is lots of stunned and dazed herring. Gulls of every shape and size usually captitalize on this fact, but this afternoon it is a juvenile and adult Bald Eagle that take advantage of the easy prey. The juvenile was only a hit-and-miss scavenger, but move over! Not only did the adult show junior how to grab the sluggish fish off the waters' surface, it even transferred the fish from talons to beak in mid-air. Extra style points were given for that one!

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Hungry Humpback Whales

July 6, 2006

We head out early this morning towards the area in Stephen's Channel where we left the bubble-net feeding humpbacks late last night. Our luck holds as the day is sunny and bright and the whales are very close to where we left them. There are five animals today who cast bubble-net after bubble-net for the entire day. Dropping the hydrophone yields absolutely no feeding sounds whatsoever - complete humpback silence - a first for us! One animal has lost almost half of its' right fluke and the wound is very fresh with no scarring. Looks like a recent run-in with a large vessel has left this propeller scar...ouch! At one point we are even treated to a series of breaches by three of the five feeders!

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Humpbacks in golden light

July 5, 2006

It is late in the evening as we are headed home from a day spent with a transient Orca when we spot backlit blows along the coast of Admiralty Island. Humpbacks! The light is amazing both for backlit images as well as looking across the channel towards Mendenhall Glacier just outside Juneau. Much to our delight the humpbacks started to bubble-net feed! These images were all taken after 9:00PM local time!

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The Orca streak continues!

July 5, 2006

Almost impossible to believe, but we once again spend the day in the company of an Orca. In this case it is a lone transient bull Orca. We pick him up on the north side of Admiralty Island and follow him to the southern end of Douglas Island. He stops to hunt a couple of times, but our anticipated view of a mammal kill did not materialize. What an amazing animal!

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Happy Fourth of July!

July 4th, 2006

The amazing Orca streak just keeps getting better as we spent the entire day today in the company of a small pod of resident Orcas just outside of Juneau, Alaska. The group consisted of an adult bull, a mother and female calf, and an undetermined juvenile. Definitely resident Orcas as we watched them eat salmon off Bird Island in Favorite Channel. What a way to celebrate independence, in the company of this small independent family! Here are four images from the day to celebrate the fourth!

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Double O's

June 29, 2006

A banner trip for Killer Whales (nicknamed "Double O's" for their scientific name - Orcinus orca.) Here in Chatham Strait we again find a small pod foraging in the late evening light. This is our third sighting in a week! SOMEONE on board has great Orca karma!

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Bubble-net Feeding Humpbacks!

June 28, 2006

How do they do it? How in the world do six adult humpback whales come together in the dark green waters of Southeast Alaska to find, trap, and eat tiny herring by the hundreds? The answer comes in an ingenious method of cooperation called "bubble-net" feeding! One animal creates a circular (always clockwise) net of tiny bubbles exhaled through its blowholes below the prey. As the bubbles rise to the surface in a cylinder the herring are concentrated within and will not swim through the bubbles, a very effective net. Then in synchronicity the whales come together within the bubble-net and chase the tiny fish towards the surface. Their timing is perfect as the whales reach the surface just as the herring do. With nowhere left to go the fish jump wildly, but the huge whale mouths are right there to scoop them up. A fish lucky enough to leap out of the mouth of one whale usually ends up in the mouth of another. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place...

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Breaching Humpback Whales

June 25, 2006

An adult Humpback Whale in Frederick Sound near the Five Fingers Islands. This animal provided quite a show as she breached 37 times in a row, much to the delight of all on board! What a show off! Salta!

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Tracy Arm Ice

June 24, 2006

Glacial Ice. Something on the order of 150 to 200 years since these glacier calves fell on high as snow. An amazing journey following gravity to finally come to rest in the ocean as a floating temporary home for Bald Eagles and Harbor Seal mothers and pups. South Sawyer Glacier has receeded almost half a nautical mile since I last saw it last year, the effects of global warming right in front of my eyes! Perhaps the day will come when there are no glaciers in Southeast Alaska for eagles and seals to land on. A sobering thought...

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