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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Breaking the surface

I haven't posted about a mammal in a while, so this afternoon I decided to try to photograph the Humpback Whales that have been visible off Bodega Head during the past week.  

I finally spotted a couple of whales, but they were pretty far offshore, so I wasn't having much luck with a good photo.  Here's the best shot which isn't saying much, but at least it alerts you to watch for Humpbacks if you're at the coast anytime soon.  Look for the very short dorsal fin.

More surprising was that while I was trying to photograph the Humpbacks, another cetacean surfaced much closer to shore.  My view of it was brief, but I saw a fairly long, dark back and a very hooked dorsal fin (see next photo).

I waited and waited...and waited and waited.  And just when I thought this whale wasn't going to appear again, it surfaced, this time further offshore.  I barely captured it on film before it disappeared:

I'm pretty sure this was a Northern Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata).  It was too large for a dolphin, i.e., too much back was visible before the dorsal fin appeared.  It was all by itself.  It swam very quickly and surfaced only twice before diving again and staying under for over 5 minutes.  Note that the dorsal fin was relatively tall and falcate (sickle-shaped).

It's not common to see Minke Whales from shore, or even from boats in this area (in my limited experience).  So when the viewing conditions are right, as they have been recently, with calm seas, light winds, and overcast conditions, keep your eyes open for whales breaking the surface!

1 comment:

beachmama said...

Wow, what a sighting! Out of towners that were at the Farmer's Market in town yesterday, asked me about whale sightings on Bodega Head. I told them there have been sightings of humpbacks and I've seen what I thought were two harbor porpoises. A minke is truly exciting!
So happy to know you're out there watching over the head . . . (and thanks to Norma for alerting me to your site.)