Archive for the ‘Sighting of the Week’ Category

Recently we saw a cow/calf/escort combo and the baby was copying the tail throws of the male.  It appeared to be learning from the male, similar to how we assume the female teaches her baby.  It’s possible the calf is a sponge at this age, like our babies are, and can learn from anything in their environment. Check out the video below!


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As we head toward the end of March there has certainly been a change in what is happening out in the water.  we have been seeing primarily competition groups and calf/cow/escort combinations.  Captain dave recently told me a statistic: 85% of cow/calf combos at this time of the year will have an escort tagging along.  That is a high number and reveals how desperately these males will try to mate before having to head back 3,200 miles without food.  Yesterday was a fairly slow day, but on the last trip we got mugged by a cow/calf/escort.

We first approached the group because the calf was breaching and it was the most activity we had seen all day.  They made there way over to the boat, and the baby was large.  After spending 20 minutes with the whales we realized it was a little girl whale hanging out with her mom.  Mom was using the boat as a barricade between herself and the boat.  Although the calf was quite large, she continued to stay right on her moms nose while she was near the boat. The escort would snort and snarl as he cruised by and seemed truly irritated.  Every time the male came by the female would inch closer to us.  It was an incredible encounter the ended our day on a high note.  Kyle got some incredible under water footage, I will have it up soon.

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We went out on Thursday and had a couple of great muggings throughout the day.  For the most part we have been seeing cow/calf/escort combinations recently.  On the second trip yesterday one mother presented her baby to out boat.  They will do this to familiarize their calves with the boats in Maui, since the boats will be a part of their lives every year when they migrate down here.  The baby was on her moms nose and rolled over onto her back with both pec fins up in the air.  At one point the mom was coming over to the bow and the baby came too.  As she was rolling back to her tummy she looked up and made eye contact with me.  There are few things I enjoy more then watching a whale, watching us.

We got to see some of these whales up close as well, since the babies were either presented or just were interested and came over to check us out.  The middle two trips were amazing and left us feeling like it was another great day on the water!

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Ok, I had A LOT of technical difficulties getting this uploaded.  Turns out, I just needed a much faster internet connection! Here we go a couple videos of the False Killer Whale encounter:

Last year I used to go on a lot of whale watches for fun because I only worked once, sometimes twice, a week.  This year I have not gone on very many because I have been working a bit more. One of my good friends is leaving to hike the Appalachian Trail for the next eight months, so we decided to go out on a trip. Turns out she picked the trip of the century! We saw a species of whale that I have never seen in Hawaii.  Every day, people ask if there are any other types of whales in Maui and every day I say no, but today I realized my normal answer is not exactly truthful.

We saw a pod of at least 50 False Killer Whales.  They look like really big dolphins with rounder faces, and they display behaviors like our humpbacks, which was strange to see. Our boat was in the center of the group and they spanned a quarter mile in every direction.  We saw them tail slap, chin slap, and even breach.  The breaching was incredible; there was at least ten feet between bottom of the tail and the surface of the water.  For those of you familiar with Maui, we followed these animals from the end of the Lahaina harbor channel all the way to Black Rock. Once they reached Black Rock they joined up with Humpbacks and Spinner dolphins.  It was one crazy day! I have a few videos that are on the way and should be up within the next couple of days.

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We went out on the water on Tuesday, and I have to admit that up until very recently the later trips of the day had clearly been the better shows.  On Tuesday, that all changed.   The first trip of the day proved incredible.  We had a cow/calf pair come over to the boat.  The baby was older and was showing signs of developed motor skills.  He was playing around and came over to the bow and was rolling on his back with his peck fins in the air.  Mom, being the protective female she is, spy hopped no more than 10 feet from our boat as her baby continued to play.  It was stunning to watch and left our passengers in a state of pure bliss with a glazed over look of happiness on all of their faces.

The day continued on in a spectacular fashion.  We had a different breaching baby on every single trip.  All of these babies were also in close range, the furthest was 150 yards.  In retrospect, it is hard to recall each trip individually because all the flying calves began to blend together. Alas, the life of a whale watcher is so difficult! For me the most exciting part of the day was that I FINALLY caught my very own breach on film. It’s not great, but it’s a start.

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Although I have an infinite love for the whales, I am still obsessed with dolphins.  We have an expression out here in Maui that perfectly describes why we get so excited when we see dolphins, it’s something along the lines of, “Any day on the water you can go out and find the whales, but the dolphins find you.”  We have three types of dolphins (Bottlenose, Spotted, and Spinners) but one stands out among the others.  The Spinner dolphins are smaller than the other varieties, and have babies that are so adorable it is hard to describe, other than to say they look like little grey, spinning footballs.

There are, as far as I can tell, two large pods of spinners.  They mostly hang out further away from Maui, typically on the backside of Lanai.  I have only seen them a handful of times and it had been a while, I was itching for a sighting! On the last trip on Sunday we had gone south and an adolescent whale came over toward us.  I had spotted a pod of spinners that were getting closer but we couldn’t move because our whale was too close.  Finally, as we broke away we were late returning to the harbor but Captain Dave announced, “This is for you Katie!” I came out of the cabin and he was speeding away from the harbor and headed directly toward the pod. I was so excited, and of course wasn’t able to catch a picture of them spinning (when they jump into the air they can do up to 7 revolutions) but I got a couple of great shots as they were riding our wake.  Above is the whale that mugged us, below are the spinners.

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At the end of last week we had a private tour for a group of 136 foreign tourists.  It was a great trip all and all but the only problem was the whales were too good.  So good that the interpreters were watching whales instead of helping Raquel and I bartend for the group, which was especially hard when we were more interested in just watching the competitive group going crazy.

There were about five boats surrounding the group of seven and each whale was showing different behaviors.  Two were breaching, one was tail thrashing, another pec slapping, and so on.  It was constant action.  Finally, as the bar slowed down I was able to grab my camera and check them out.  The group had started to break up but I was able to catch one of the males as he was heading away and chin slapping repeatedly.  After looking at the picture more closely, I can’t help but notice…is this whale fat?

Once I upload the picture, you will understand what I am talking about.  There is a definite size difference between this whale and others we are used to seeing.  Clearly, he is not an overweight whale but probably has just arrived from Alaska.  I have never noticed some of the smaller differences in these animals that I am starting to notice this season such as dorsal fin differences, weight variances, the shapes of spouts, etc.  The picture is coming soon!

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