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Whale Watch Blog

Welcome to the Tangalooma Whale Watch Blog.

 

Here, you can keep up to date with all of the action aboard our whale watching boat, and learn some interesting facts from our Eco Rangers. 

Saturday, 31 August 2013
A mission to get to Antarctica!

A bit of a slow start today with a couple of pairs of humpback whales that seemed to just be on a mission to get back to Antarctica. They were travelling South fast and taking long dives, which made it a bit difficult for us to keep track of them.

But after a while we managed to find a young whale on its own that showed us a lot of breaches. This one was still travelling North towards the breeding grounds so maybe it was a young female ready for her first breeding season, and she was making her presence known to any potential suitors in the area by breaching repeatedly. Certainly a spectacular display for us to watch!

We were already very happy with how the day had turned out when we started heading towards home. But the best was yet to come! Back In the shallow waters off the northern end of Moreton Island we found a mother and calf pair of humpbacks. It was only a small calf from this year and these two were heading South. So that makes it our first baby of the southern migration (aside from the few early newborns we had witnessed still on their way North back in July)!

This calf was already quite dark in colour so maybe two months or so old. And it had certainly spent those two months off North Queensland building up a lot of energy – it was showing us an amazingly boisterous display of continuous breaches with some tail lobs thrown in occasionally. Absolutely fantastic to watch and SO cute! Lets just say there were a lot of “Awwwww”s and “Wheeeee”s  to be heard on board…

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Friday, 30 August 2013
50 inshore bottlenose dolphins..

Another sunny and calm day out on the whale watch with plenty of marine life. We spent some time enjoying the beautiful surroundings off Cape Moreton where we encountered a large pod of around 50 inshore bottlenose dolphins. They stayed quite close to us as they were cruising around the shallows just off the headland. We could see quite a few mothers with calves amongst them. These dolphins are very social animals but they don’t actually form very stable groups – they join groups and split up again all the time. Males tend to have preferred associates, one or two other males they spend a lot of time with. But females tend to group with other females in the same reproductive state. For example females with young calves will join other mothers. That way they can help each other by baby sitting or foraging together. And the calves can develop important social skills by having other calves around to play with. This large pod today certainly had quite a few little ones amongst them and it was great to watch them all swimming around together. In the waters out here (as opposed to the sheltered waters of the bay) you do get larger sharks and other predators, so it makes sense for the dolphins out here to form these much larger pods for protection.

We also saw two pods of humpback whales today. First a group of four adults that were slowly heading out towards the East, swimming very close alongside us for a while and showing a couple of flipper slaps. One of them even surprised us with a big full-body breach just as we were turning to leave them! After that we found another large pod of six adults still travelling North. They must have realized they were running a bit late on the migration to the breeding grounds (most animals we’ve been seeing lately are already heading back South by now), as they were swimming very fast in a tight group, probably males chasing a leading female.

Once again, plenty to see out here!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
We could see the whales underwater in full detail!

Today was an unreal day out on the whale watch, slightly slow to start, but a finale to remember. We headed out and saw our first two whales just out from Tangalooma point. We had a quick look but as they were quite inactive we continued on, spotting a few inshore bottlenose dolphins on the way out. When we arrived at the whale watching grounds, we decided to first head to Flinder’s reef, and saw two beautiful green sea turtles come up next to the reef. We tracked south to find our whales out here, and came upon a pod of three whales. Unfortunately they were diving for long periods of time and were hard to predict, so we decided to try our luck elsewhere.

We tracked back west for a while and eventually saw a few blows in the distance. As we came closer we realized that it was quite a large pod that we had found. We came closer and it was a pod of seven humpbacks all together, and they were spending lots of time at the surface. After a while it became apparent that this was a large group of males all after a single female. There was an intense pursuit, with all the whales chasing after her and ramming each other at the surface. We saw some beautiful head slaps and some pec slaps too! The best thing about all of this was that we were up on a shallow sandbank, only 5-10m deep and the water was crystal clear, so we could see the whales underwater in full detail and they approached us quite closely a fair few times.

On our way back we came across another pod of three juveniles who came quite close to the boat as well. What an amazing day, 13 whales, 2 turtles, a fair few dolphins, and the show from our pod of seven was definitely something to remember!

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Ben
Monday, 26 August 2013
Stop and take a look...

What a beautiful day of whale watching today! We had barely come around Comboyuro, the north-western corner of Moreton Island before we spotted a pod of humpback whales! It was two adults and a juvenile – probably a female with a one- or two-year-old calf and a male escort. They were leisurely cruising south-east towards the Cape and stopped to have a closer look at us. Diving right under the boat several times, we were able to watch them swimming just under the water surface as it was such a beautiful calm day! It was just magical seeing these large creatures in their full size just under water, rather than the usual views of only the back or fins sticking out above the surface. Their beautiful black and white colour patterns stood out clearly through the calm water and we could see all the details of their big heads, fins and tails.

The pod stayed very close to us as they continued their slow travel towards the Cape. But after a while they were joined by another pod of two whales and things suddenly started heating up… One of our original three animals (the male escort, I think) started tail lobbing, tail slapping and lunging through the water very fast. More than likely the two newcomers may have been another two males, and the original escort was making it unmistakably clear to them that this lady was his and he was not happy about their presence. But the newbies were not so easily deterred and before long we were watching the five whales all chasing each other around.

At this stage the big female started flipper slapping, rolling at the surface and slapping her massive pectoral fins onto the water creating big splashes and loud bangs. Maybe she was getting annoyed at all the commotion and was telling the males to settle down. Or maybe, on the contrary, she was seeing this as an opportunity to attract even more males into her pod, inciting them all to compete with each other so that she could find the strongest and fittest male to mate with. Either way it was very exciting to watch and topped off by one of the males suddenly displaying a huge full-body breach, maybe to impress her or fend off the other boys.

What a day! It was just amazing to watch such a range of different behaviours from one pod and share an hour and a half of their lives!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Saturday, 24 August 2013
Bow riding and jumping around our boat!

So yesterday I was excited to see a few of the massive offshore bottlenose dolphins… well today we had another exciting sighting of another deepwater species as a whole pod of about 30 common dolphins came racing up to us and spent a good 20 minutes bow riding and jumping around our boat! What an awesome sighting! Just like other offshore dolphins common dolphins tend to live in large groups of sometimes several hundred even over 1,000 individuals together! That’s obviously to do with safety in numbers as they do encounter more of the larger sharks and other predators out in the deeper open ocean than in a sheltered bay.  Common dolphins are easily identified by the bright yellow patch on their sides which forms a beautiful hour glass pattern with a grey patch towards the tail. They are very fast and very active dolphins that seem to absolutely LOVE to bow ride. Common dolphins are often seen racing in towards a boat from miles away, just to catch a ride on its bow wave.

Biologists used to think that these sorts of behaviors must have a function for the animal. For example, bow riding might save the dolphins energy while they are travelling. They can cover long distances getting pushed along on a ship’s bow wave without much active swimming at all. But often you see them actually change direction and go out of their way to chase down a passing ship that may be going in a completely different direction from them. This does not make much sense if they were trying to use the ship to get where they were going faster. So most biologists now tend to think that they probably do it for fun!  It certainly looks like a lot of fun when you see them racing alongside, swerving from side to side in front of the bow and leaping high out of the water!

An awesome sighting that was followed by some very active breaching humpback whales, making it another fantastic day of whale watching with a boat full of happy people!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Friday, 23 August 2013
Dolphins racing towards the boat!

Wow, what an awesome day today! Beautiful calm waters and we spotted our first humpback whales just off Bulwer before we had even left the bay. These two were heading North out of the bay but stopped and came right up to us to check us out! They did a few beautiful spyhops within touching distance of our boat, sticking their big heads high up out of the water to have a good look at us. Clearly they were quite curious and interested in us. When they moved on to the shallow sandbanks just around Comboyuro Point, we left them and headed on towards Cape Moreton.

Before long we found another pod of three adults in the shallow waters quite close to the cape, chasing each other and rolling around at the surface. Probably a couple of males trying to win over a female… We watched their antics for a little while but then noticed a whale breaching repeatedly further up ahead. So we made our way out to that one.

It turned out to be an individual adult, and he showed us many more beautiful breaches. He was quite predictable, he would breach, then surface for several breaths, then lift his fluke out for a deep dive and come up again with another big breach. That made it very easy to get some great photos as we knew to get ready for the next breach as soon as we saw him take a deep dive!

To top off an already fantastic day we suddenly saw some dolphins racing in towards the boat. As they got closer we realized how large they were, over three maybe four metres long! They were offshore bottlenose dolphins, which are now regarded a different species (Tursiops truncatus) from the inshore bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) that we usually see around here. They are much bigger, very bulky, have a shorter rostrum (snout) and also don’t have speckles on their bellies like the inshore  bottlenose. I realized then that our breaching whale had taken us about 3.5 nautical miles out from Cape Moreton into about 80 metres of water depth! That’s why we were seeing these offshore dolphins that are usually found further off the coast in deeper waters! A very cool sighting of a species we don’t encounter very often!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Some whales are still migrating north.

Today we had some great action from a calf, and plenty more whales around, some still migrating North!

We came up first with two southward bound adults who were doing some long dives but showed a few beautiful tail raises and at one stage came tail first up out of the water and hovered like that for a while. Usually the large tail raises indicate that the whales are about to do a deep dive, because raising the tail allows for them to point the head down and use gravity to generate some momentum for the dive. We were only in 13m deep water, and it was interesting to think that a full grown humpback whale could have its head touching the sea floor with its tail still out of the water in that depth (they grow up to 15m long)! The next individual we found was another southbound adult but it was quite inactive.

Lucky for us we saw a small calf breaching in the distance and headed over to it and found 3 adults and this playful little calf all together. The calf was tiny! Looked to only be a very young calf, and you could see this in its breaches, they weren’t quite as graceful as the adults, but he was giving it a good try! We stayed with this pod, only to see more pods pass through from the North and South close to the boat. At one stage the calf started breaching straight towards us and continued around the back of the boat about 15m away and still breaching. Such tiny splashes compared to the adults!

What a great day, the calf breaching so close to us allowed us to get such a good look at it in detail and in total we got to see 13 whales!

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Chad
Monday, 19 August 2013
Surrounded by 6 pods of whales at once!

The number of humpback whales we’re seeing at the moment is just staggering!! At one point today we were surrounded with six different pods in all directions from our boat! No matter which way you looked, there were whales popping up! Absolutely fantastic!

The highlight today was a mother with an older calf (probably from last year). The mother spent a good 30 minutes or so rolling on the surface, showing us her big white belly, and slapping her flippers onto the water! Occasionally the calf would copy her as well, or throw in a tail slap to mix things up! A fun pair to watch!

Shortly after that we found a loose group of four whales that were all hanging out in the same area, surfacing slowly, joining up then spreading out again but not really moving anywhere. It looked like they were resting, possibly sleeping.

The way that whales and dolphins sleep is quite different from us. That’s because whales are conscious breathers. You and I, we breathe automatically even when we’re unconscious. But whales and dolphins have to make a conscious decision for every breath they take, which makes sense as they live in the water and have to remember to come to the surface before they can breathe. This means they can never be fully unconscious. The way they get around that when they sleep is that they only ever sleep with one half of their brain at a time, while the other half is alert and regulates breathing as well as keeping an eye out for predators. They don’t sleep for extended periods like us, they only take cat naps, maybe 20 minutes or so at a time, throughout the day or night. Every time they do sleep, they alternate the sides of the brain that they rest. So generally when they are asleep you see them moving slowly, cruising along or staying motionless just below the surface and coming up for a breath every few minutes or so.

These animals sure have some fascinating adaptations to life in the oceans!

 

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Chad
Saturday, 17 August 2013
Colour Patterns

Lots of humpback whales again today! We had three pods around us in one spot, two pairs came quite close to our boat while another whale was splashing around, tail and flipper slapping.

I am always amazed by the huge variation in their colour patterns. Today we saw one that was almost completely black, one that had lots of white from his belly more than half way up his sides, and even one that was black but had all white flippers (on top of the flippers as well, not just underneath which is normal)! I wonder whether this large amount of variation is a good indication of the genetic health of the population. Lack of genetic diversity is a big problem for many of the whale populations that were hunted to very low numbers. This is often called a “bottleneck” – a population going through a period when there were very few individuals left. Even if the population expands again afterwards, this means that all the animals in the population are descendants of just a few individuals meaning they are all relatively closely related with very similar genes. This causes problems such as inbreeding and the spread of genetic diseases.

Our population of humpback whales was hunted down to about 300 individuals or so which is quite small. But it seems that this population has recovered very well and is increasing at about 10% every year. Despite the bottleneck this population went through, it appears to be quite healthy now with around 17,000 individuals and a good amount of genetic diversity. This does seem to be indicated by the large variation in colour patterns.

Other populations of humpback whales have not recovered as well, for example, the population that migrates past New Zealand to breed around Tonga is still classed as endangered with only an estimated 1,000-2,000 individuals. This population was hunted to extremely low numbers, there were thought to be as little as 20-60 whales left at one point. Problems like inbreeding and genetic diseases have likely been a contributor to their slow recovery. Interestingly, this Tongan population has a very high number of whales with all white flippers. As I mentioned above, this is quite an unusual sight here in Australia where most whales have black and white flippers. The all white flippers are probably a genetic mutation that had occurred in one of the few whales that were left of the Tongan population after whaling. As many of the whales now in this population are descendants of this white-flippered individual, this trait has been passed on a lot more commonly than elsewhere.

Anyway, I always love seeing these different coloured whales – fingers crossed we’ll see our all white Migaloo again this year as well!!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Friday, 16 August 2013
7 heading south...

A total of seven humpback whales today, the majority of them now seem to be migrating South, back towards Antarctica. But it was also a great day for other wildlife!

The birders on board had a field day today with a huge number of sea birds out and about! We saw the usual pied cormorants and crested terns, a few Australasian gannets, and also a huge flock of several hundred small shearwaters, probably Hutton’s shearwaters! These small black and white coloured birds are uncommon but they do make annual migrations from the Southern Oceans up to Australia. It was fantastic seeing such a large flock of them!

Moreton Bay and the wetland areas  around it are listed as a RAMSAR site acknowledging their international importance for migratory sea and shore birds. An estimated 50,000 migratory birds visit these waters every year! The northern end of Moreton Island has quite large swampy mangrove wetlands just back from the beach, which are a favourite feeding ground for many of these birds.

Aside from birds we also spotted other marine wildlife out there today, including our two resident dolphin species! We encountered two pods of inshore bottlenose dolphins which are quite common in and around Moreton Bay. An estimated 600+ inshore bottlenose dolphins live in the bay and more large populations are found off the ocean sides of Moreton and Stradbroke Islands. But we were also lucky enough to spot a pod of four humpback dolphins! These dolphins are lighter grey in colour than the bottlenose dolphins and have a smaller triangular dorsal fin. They are not as common as bottlenose dolphins with only an estimated 100-200 humpback dolphins in Moreton Bay. They also tend to live closer to the mainland, on the western side of the bay, close to rivers mouths and estuaries. So quite unusual to see them out here off the northern end of Moreton Island – I’ve only seen them out here twice now!

I feel so lucky to work in this area – Moreton Bay is just such an amazingly diverse place and the number of different bird and marine animal species we can encounter on our cruises is just staggering!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Chad
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
Glassy Seas

A great day on the whale watch today with calm weather and plenty of whales and dolphins around. We came around Comboyuro point into glassy seas with hardly any swell. We could hardly even make out the Venus shoal, which is a very shallow sandy bank that we always usually spot due to the waves breaking over it.

We came across our first pod of two adult whales, which were soon joined by another adult whale. After watching a few large breaches in the distance from another pod, the whales close to us started getting playful. We saw a breach, plenty of tail lobs, pec slapping and tail slapping, and one of the whales did a few extended tail raises, with its beautiful big tail fluke sticking right out of the water. The underside of the tail fluke differs for each individual humpback whale, with different patterns of black and white colouration, as well as different scarring patterns. Scientists can use this as a form of identifying individuals humpbacks in a population, which helps in a variety of research fields, including behavioral and migratory ecology. Quite amazing what we can learn from these whales with something as simple as a photo of the tail fluke.

After a while, another two whales came up and passed by the pod and we saw plenty more playing at the surface by the whales. While we were out we also saw three separate pods of inshore bottlenose dolphins; approximately 30 all together. On our way back towards the resort, we were surprised by another pod of three whales not too far from the Tangalooma Shipwrecks. There were two adults and a calf in this pod, and we got to see one more breach before returning back to Tangalooma. Its good to see the whales starting to come into the bay on their southwards migration!

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Ben
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
How do these whales navigate?

Plenty of humpback whales around again today. We are now seeing quite a few whales migrating South towards Antarctica again, after having spent the winter breeding and socializing in the warm waters off northern Queensland.

I often get asked how the humpback whales know where to go or how they navigate along their annual 16,000 km journey. Some whales travel over 100 km per day and probably use a combination of the earth’s  magnetic field, the sun’s position as well as depth contour lines to navigate. Humpbacks in particular tend to stay within about 10-15 nautical miles of the coastline for most of their migration. It’s actually been found that these whales can travel in a very straight line for hundreds of kilometers! They also use a combination of senses to find their path. They do have good eye sight and probably use underwater as well as coastal land features as markers. But they also use sounds. We know that toothed whales (like dolphins) use high frequency echolocation clicks to navigate, but baleen whales like our humpbacks don’t produce those sorts of clicks. They do produce low frequency calls though, which are found to cover huge distances and probably serve a similar purpose for the whales – like a kind of sonar. So a combination of senses and features allows them to find their way and follow a very precise route each year. Young humpback whales learn these tricks from their mother during the first two years of their lives.

We’re certainly happy that they find their way to our waters every year!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Sunday, 11 August 2013
Best of the year....so far!

Wow!!! Today must have been the best whale watch of the year so far!!

We saw our first humpback whales just north of the resort on the way out… But as they were already surrounded by a number of boats and jetskis, we moved on towards the northern end of the island.

We had barely rounded Comboyuro Point when we came across a whale that was sitting right in front of a small recreational fishing boat (they had their engine turned off) – literally within touching distance. It turned out to be a juvenile male who was quite obviously loving the interaction! He treated the family on the boat to an amazing show, waving his tail and spyhopping right next to them several times. Then he moved on and started mugging us as well! And now I know why they call it ‘mugging’ – this whale was just not leaving us alone!

He was sitting right next to us, spyhopping, then turning over, lifting his tail out of the water and doing slow upside down pirouettes in the water (with the tail sticking out). Then he spent a good 15 minutes continuously tail slapping next to us, forwards, backwards, sideways… then threw in a few flipper slaps for good measure. He even did one massive breach right next to the boat which was quite amazing to watch: He had only done a very shallow dive and was visible just underneath the surface, swimming slowly, when suddenly he just made two rapid moves with his tail and that was enough to catapult him out of the water for a big breach! Incredible to see how much power these animals have in their tail fluke!

Then he spent the next 30-40 minutes repeatedly diving under the boat and slowly coming out underneath the bow. Maybe he liked the shade under the boat (it was a bright and calm sunny day)?? We were hanging over the edge of the bow as his big head would slowly come out from under the boat to surface and blow air in our faces. Then he would spyhop, lifting his head slowly out of the water within touching distance and roll on his side to have a look at everyone with one of his big eyes… it was just absolutely incredible!

No one can tell me that these animals are not highly intelligent, conscious, inquisitive and playful! What an amazing encounter that we will remember for a long time!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Saturday, 10 August 2013
A range of pods and behaviours..

What a beautiful day – glassy calm waters and lots of whales everywhere!

When we first got out to the northern end of the island, we came across a small humpback whale in the shallows near North Point. We stayed with this youngster for a little while, it was just travelling by itself in an easterly direction towards the Cape. It was still quite small – not a newborn from this year but I would think no older than a year, two at most. Usually calves that size are still accompanied by their mothers, who they stay with for the first two to three years of their lives so it was a little unusual for this one to be on its own. Humpback whale females give birth on average every two to three years, and the last calf leaves its mother when a new one is born so the mother can concentrate all her energy on the newborn. But there are occasional reports of humpback whales giving birth to a new calf straight away in the consecutive year. This is quite rare but it may be what has happened in this case. Our young one here may have had to leave its mum at only a year of age if she had given birth to a new calf. Either way, the youngster seemed in good shape, swimming strongly in the direction of several other pods of whales up ahead near Cape Moreton. So hopefully it will have found another pod to join and be able to continue its journey without mum.

We then spent quite some time with a pod of three adults and a calf. It appeared to be two big males chasing a female with a calf from previous years. The calf looked about one to two years old, so she would be ready to mate again this year and the other two certainly seemed keen to stay as close as possible to her on the way towards the breeding grounds. They swam alongside us for quite a while and approached the boat several times, diving right underneath and popping up right next to us, giving everyone an impressive look at their size.

To finish off a great day we then spotted a breaching whale up ahead. We saw another four or five big breaches close by, before this whale was joined by another that had been flipper slapping further off and a further two individuals coming in from other directions.  It was quite obvious that the breaching whale had been calling the others over or signaling to them. As soon as the four had all come together, the breaching stopped and they travelled on in a tight group.

It was fantastic to see such a range of pods and behaviours today!

Posted by Ben
Friday, 9 August 2013
Why do animals play?

We had some nice close up encounters today with two juvenile whales that seemed to be playing hide and seek with us. They would dive down and disappear from sight, but we could actually make them out as big blobs on our depth sounder so they must have been staying right underneath our boat. Then they’d pop up again, right next to us!

Humpback whales, especially the young calves or juveniles, are known for being quite playful animals. Calves are often seen frolicking around while their mothers are resting. Last year we watched a baby repeatedly swimming up on top of the mother’s head, getting her to push it through the water. I’ve heard a story of someone playing tag with a humpback whale calf using a palm frond. And humpbacks are even known to play with other species: In Hawaii a humpback whale was observed lifting a bottlenose dolphin completely out of the water on top of its head until the dolphin slid down its head and back into the water. The pair repeated this behaviour many times, clearly both enjoying the game!

Why animals play is still somewhat of a mystery to science. In many cases youngsters seem to play to practice adult behaviours and survival skills. For example, kittens pouncing on anything that moves are practicing their hunting skills. But that’s obviously not an explanation in the case above – sliding off the back of a whale is not an important skill for a dolphin and neither is “dolphin lifting” for a whale. Another theory is that play behaviour strengthens social bonds between animals living in groups. Again, that doesn’t explain games between members of different species.

Interestingly, it has been found that animals that play a lot while they are growing up, actually develop larger brains than those that don’t, and seem to have generally better coordination and reflexes. So playing is good for brain development! And it’s certainly very common in intelligent species like whales, dolphins or ourselves!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Thursday, 8 August 2013
Whales Everywhere!

Lots of activity today and so many pods of humpback whales everywhere!!! We first saw two adults travelling North together, before coming across a mother with a newborn calf. The baby was quite small and still light grey in colour suggesting that it may be only a week or two old. Very cute! Mum and calf were travelling quite quickly. They seemed to be on a mission to get to the more sheltered waters of their normal breeding grounds around the Great Barrier Reef, where they can both have a rest and give the baby time to fatten up and get stronger before travelling back south to Antarctica. We didn’t want to get in their way or disturb them so we moved on towards a few more pods of whales further South, on the east side of Cape Moreton.

This turned out to be a great choice as we soon came up to a pair of juveniles that were very active. They came quite close to our boat and treated us to a few beautiful high breaches close by. In between, they were slapping their big pectoral flippers on the surface, probably communicating or signaling to other whales in the area.

The pectoral fins of humpback whales are extremely large at a size of up to 5m. Aside from communication, they have also been known to use these large flippers for feeding. The flippers are white underneath and quite often when humpbacks herd schools of small baitfish together, they actually use their big flippers. They twist them underwater so that the bright white underside catches the sunlight making bright flashes that disorient the fish and drive them even more closely and tightly together. This allows the whale to engulf a whole school of fish in their huge mouth in one go!

Very handy to have the biggest flippers in the sea!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Ben
Wednesday, 7 August 2013
A day of wildlife spotting

A good day all round for wildlife spotting today! Plenty of whales, dolphins and turtles all round!

We found our first pod of three whales: one adult and two juveniles, which soon became four whales as another whale joined their pod. Humpback whales are quite solitary animals, and do not pair for life or stay with the same pods throughout their lifetime. Instead they normally form transient pods with random individuals, which only last for short periods of time, until they break away and continue on their own. This pod was quite interesting; they were heading north but seemed to be playing with each other and the boat. They were swimming in all directions and were quite happy playing around. While watching this group, we saw a large pod of inshore bottlenose dolphins that came up and swam around the whales. A turtle also popped up in the distance too!

After a while we spotted a new pod of whales near Flinders Reef, with two adults and one juvenile. We approached this pod and had a beautiful view of them with the reef in the background. One of the adults showed us a big head raise - it looked like it was trying to have a look at us while taking a breath at the same time! We saw a few breaches a bit further north and found two more whales, which showed us a few nice head slaps.

Before heading back we had a quick look around at Flinders Reef and found a few turtles and another pod of two whales. Great to see so much wildlife out here on the whale watch today!

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Ben
Monday, 5 August 2013
An Abundance of Marine Life...

Another perfect day for a Whale Watch cruise. A beautiful sunny day with crystal clear waters as a backdrop, near Cape Moreton. We arrived at Cape Moreton searching for the blows from the whales. But instead we were greeted by two pods of bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins were hunting in the clear waters near the cape, one pod with about 20 dolphins and the other pod numbering close to 30.

Not long after, we saw splashes and blows further north in the horizon. We arrived to view 3 adult Humpback whales and 2 juveniles. They were pretty relaxed and even swam very close to the vessel. The guests on board were in awe of these gentle giants as they dived into the water. We saw some nice fluking and also some tail lobbing –  where the whales wave the tail fluke in the air.

While heading back to the resort, we managed to sneak a peek at 2 green sea turtles in the midst of their courting near the surface of the water.

Overall, it was a beautiful day out in the water, with perfect conditions for viewing these magnificent Humpback Whales and the abundance of Marine life that call Moreton Bay home.

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Ben
Sunday, 4 August 2013
Friendly whales

What an easy day out on the whale watch cruise, the whales were so friendly today, and we didn’t even have to find another pod because these ones were next to the boat the whole time!

We headed out in some beautiful weather conditions with small swell and light winds and soon came upon a pod of three juveniles heading southwards back to the cold waters of the Antarctic. It only takes 2 months for an individual to complete the whole migration, so these juveniles probably were some of the early migrating whales of the season. These whales were absolutely amazing, and so curious! They approached the boat only five minutes after we found them, and they swam alongside for the whole time we were out there. The water was crystal clear and the whales were cruising along nice and slow, coming as close as five meters away from the boat. They were close enough for us to see the many details over their bodies, and really appreciate their true size. We also got to see some nice behaviors from these whales, including pectoral flipper slapping, tail slapping and tail lobbing. We saw a pod of two whales in the distance, heading northwards, but our focus was on the three close to the boat. We stayed with this pod for the rest of the time out there, and I’m very sure the guests got some amazing photos of these whales!

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Ben
Saturday, 3 August 2013
A better look into Moreton Island..

We had another great day of weather following yesterdays beautiful day out, and even more whales around! On the horizon were plenty of blows from the whales, and the first pod we came upon was a pair of adults heading southwards. We followed them for a while and heard on the radio that there was a mother with a very active calf near Cape Moreton, but stayed with our two for a bit longer as they started pectoral flipper slapping. By the time we got to the Cape, the mother and calf had moved on, but we had two pods around us with four whales all together. These ones went down for a few long dives, but popped up quite close to the boat, which was great to see.

We saw a few splashes a bit further north, so decided to investigate what was going on. We came upon three whales and after a while it was apparent that they were courting. Most likely two males competing for the female. There was a fair bit of splashing at the surface, and they were rolling about all over each other, with some pectoral flipper slapping and a few half breaches. It was quite the site to see, and the best part was that they were so close to the boat while doing it! We all got a great show from these ones and stayed with them for a while, as they headed south towards the island. By the time we left them, they were still competing. These courtship displays can last for hours, and new males may enter the competition as they come across the female, so its likely that they were still competing for a while after we left. We finished up a great whale watch with a nice close up cruise through honeymoon bay, which gave us a great look at Moreton Island itself!

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Ben
Friday, 2 August 2013
The perfect day!

Today was a perfect day for whale watching, with hardly any wind or clouds, and plenty of whales to be seen. We encountered our first whale very close to the island even before we made it up to North Point. The water was beautiful and clear, and the whale was very curious and came right up to the boat. We got a great look at it both above and under the surface. After a while we found another pod of two whales, which were going down for quite long dives, but at one stage came up right in front of the boat, only 10 meters away! We then saw some splashes in the distance, which appeared to be a couple of juveniles breaching and playing so we decided to go check these out. It was a bit further that we had to go offshore, but along the way we spotted a beautiful hammerhead shark that came right up on the surface next to the boat. It was very curious and was checking out the boat, and definitely shows that these sharks are also intelligent animals.

We caught up with the juvenile whales, and they were amazing! One of them was continuously pectoral flipper slapping, and was right near the boat, and we could hear the thuds every time it slapped the water surface. We also saw a fair few breaches from this pair as well, and then more and more pectoral flipper slapping. It was unreal! A bottlenose dolphin also popped up and swam in front of us and near the whales, which was great to see. What a day, great weather, five whales with lots of activity, a hammerhead shark and a bottlenose dolphin!

Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Ben
 
 
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