Editors note: Here’s another post from our roving correspondent MaryKate – this time from right here in Central Florida. She was kind enough to write this for us which let me have Father’s Day off from the blog. Enjoy her post!
Happy Father’s Day to all Dads far and wide!
To celebrate, I thought I’d share some recent photos of a new swan family at Lake Cherokee in downtown Orlando. I noticed a single swan in Lake Cherokee, and locals tell me (s)he has been alone for quite some time. We were worried that something might have happened to its mate.
Lake Cherokee Mute Swan
However, last weekend, the mystery was solved. Turns out the swan couple was fine after all and had been up to some FOWL play. They showed up together with their swan babies!
Lake Cherokee Mute Swan Family
Mom and Dad are proud parents to three baby swans, two white ones and one grey. Apparently Mute Swans can be grey or white when they’re young, and then their feathers all turn white as they grow. My favorite is the grey one.
Mute Swan Cygnets Close-Up
Especially today, it’s touching to see this swan Dad (and Mom!) taking such good care of their family. I’m glad they found their cygnet-ficant others before Father’s Day!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hope all fathers out there (especially my Dad and brother) have a very Happy Father’s Day! Now go make some photos!
Editors note: Here’s another wonderful post from our roving correspondent MaryKate. This one features photos from her trip to Hawaii in February – enjoy!
Being on Maui in February during peak whale watching season is like nothing else! Each year between November and May, humpback whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska down to Maui to mate and give birth, with January to March being the best months for abundant whale watching.
While there are so many whales you can see them from shore (sometimes causing traffic jams as people watch a whale breach!), I highly recommend going out with Pacific Whale Foundation for a more intimate experience. My favorite cruise is their Sunday Whale Photo Safari out of Lahaina on Ocean Spirit, a luxury sailing catamaran**.
Fluke of a Shot
I’ve been ‘whaley’ obsessed with working on my whale photography skills between trips to Alaska and Hawaii. As I make more photos, I’ve tried to find different perspectives and refine my skills. This trip, I was happy to catch some behaviors and situations I haven’t seen before – so I’ll focus on those photos in the rest of today’s blog.
Keeping My Eye On You
This image above is the first time where I can see the humpback whale’s eye (the round bump at the right)! This humpback was slapping its pectoral fin on the water, perhaps to communicate with other whales nearby. While we watched this whale, (s)he was watching nearby kayakers the entire time to make sure that they didn’t get too close.
Another new situation for me was this next photo of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins. I’ve seen one or two at a time before. This pod started out as three or four dolphins surfacing by our boat and then erupted into a large pod of 30-40! This many dolphins together is a breathtaking experience!
Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin Pod
We also had some very active humpback calves, and they treated us to a few baby breaches (also known as “flying pickles” because of the way they look when flying through the air). This calf below was just coming out of the water to breach – look how tiny he is compared to his mother nearby.
Humpback Whale Calf Breaching
I’m also working to improve my compositions (although the captain of the boat sure controls a lot of that!). I really like this image of a mother and calf double blow. Including the Maui shoreline in Lahaina adds interest and context to the photo.
Humpback Whale Mother & Calf Double Blow
I had great luck on this trip with weather and whales – too much to fit into one post! Check out the rest of my photos in the album here.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go see things through a different set of eyes and make some photos!
**DISCLAIMER: I’m biased – I love PWF and their mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy and to inspire environmental stewardship so much, that I recently joined their board of directors.
Editors note: Today we have an update from our roving correspondent MaryKate. This post features some new friends she made on her Alaska visit back in September – enjoy!
I wrote a post awhile back about my Labor Day trip to Alaska and the majestic Orcas we observed in Seward with Seward Ocean Excursions. But there was so much amazing wildlife on the other stops of our trip that it deserves another post.
After Seward, we drove three hours down to Homer. I was excited to visit Homer since I’ve only been there once, and it was so foggy that I didn’t really get to “see” Homer. This time though, our weather was simply beautiful!
iPhone Panoramic View from our Rental (Homer Spit is in the distance to the left)
While in Homer, we ferried from Homer down to Seldovia on a 7 hour Seldovia Wildlife Tour aboard Rainbow Tours. While it was towards the end of the tourist season in Seldovia, it was worth the trip just for the wildlife and views from the ferry, and there were plenty of photography opportunities.
Sea Otter in Kelp
My favorite photo from the trip was this Sea Otter in Kelp. Sea otters sometimes wrap themselves in kelp like this to anchor themselves and relax a little. While sea otters are very common in Alaska, and friendly enough that they make great photography subjects, I thought that the composition of this shot made for an especially interesting photo. If you click-through to the Flickr album, you can see the progression of the sea otter unwinding himself from the kelp to swim away.
Sea Otter Floating Away
When we were almost back to Homer, we saw a raft of otters. I’d seen several of these on our trip, but all were too far away to photograph, so I was glad to catch these guys.
Raft of Otters
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and you otter make some photos!
Editors note: Today we have another awesome report from our roving correspondent MaryKate. She’s back in Alaska, this time in Seward. Just looking at this gives me some relief from our still hot Central Florida weather – enjoy!
Thanks for having me for my 10th blog post at CFPO, and for a recap of my 6th visit to the majestic state of Alaska! Over Labor Day weekend, I visited Monette for Emergency Birthday Seven (our annual tradition of a last-minute birthday adventure, almost always involving a road trip, wildlife, eating and shopping). We met in Anchorage, and road tripped down to Seward and Homer.
In Seward, we went on a 6-hour wildlife watching boat tour. This time we opted for a smaller boat instead of going with one of the larger companies like we had in the past, and we were really luck that we found Bix from Seward Ocean Excursions to take us out on Missing Lynx!
Orca in front of Bear Glacier
We headed out on the tour, but about an hour out, Captain Bix received word that a pod of Orcas was nearby, so we turned around to hopefully sneak a glimpse of these magical creatures. That’s the great thing about being on a boat with only six passengers – the Captain is flexible and takes you where you want to go to see what you want to see. Sure enough, we found the Orcas!
Orca Coming to Check Us Out
Captain Bix was careful to follow the Whale Sense responsible whale watching guidelines, so we approached the pod slowly and stopped 100 yards away. We observed a pod of 2-3 adults and a baby. The Orcas were very curious, and every time they noticed a new boat, they would swim over to check it out – including ours! It was surreal watching these giant mammals swim towards us, underneath, and around the boat, getting so close that they made eye contact!
Up-close Orca Encounter
The baby in the pod was a bit of a show off, and not quite coordinated yet. It was in a playful mood, practicing fluke slaps and exploring. I did manage to get a fluke photo, but unfortunately missed a shot of one of his elders breaching!
Baby Fluke Slap
The Orca Whale pod we observed were residents, meaning they eat mostly fish (likely salmon here) vs. transient Orca Whales that feast on mammals like seals, sea lions, and even baby whales (i.e. Humpbacks and Greys). Resident and transient Orcas look the same though, so it wasn’t surprising that while the Orcas were out, we didn’t see any seals or sea lions in their normal resting spots. But these seagulls were very interested in piggybacking on the Orca fishing party!
Resident Orca Fishing with Seagulls
Interested in learning more about whales? I recommend a book I got for my birthday: Spying on Whales. It’s a very quick read for a science book, and talks about the past, present and future of these captivating cetaceans in a digestible way.
After observing the Orca pod, we moved on and enjoyed Alaska’s beauty for the rest of the tour, seeing plenty of Puffins, some Harbor Seals, and a Sea Lion. More photos can be found in the album here.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go be amazed by wild whales and make some photos!
Editors note: Today we have another post from our roving correspondent MaryKate. She’s back in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but this time on Maui – enjoy!
I recently took the trip of a lifetime to Maui during whale watching season. While I’ve been fortunate enough to whale watch in places like Alaska, Channel Islands National Park and Maine, I have never seen anything like the whales in Maui in February. Each year around December/January through about March/April, North Pacific Humpback Whales migrate down from Alaska (bye, Monette!) to Hawaii to mate, give birth, and let their babies bulk up before the long journey back north. These whales love the waters around Maui, and I’ve never been to a place where you can sit on the beach or at a restaurant on the coast and watch these amazing creatures from land.
Tails from Maui
But you can get an even better view from the water! I did two whale watching cruises, both with the Pacific Whale Foundation. I’d highly recommend any cruise with PWF (and check out their amazing gift shop while you’re there!), because the money from your cruise goes to protect our oceans through research, education and conservation programs. While all of their cruises are great experiences, if you have the time and the money and are an early bird like me, your best option is to go on a smaller boat as early in the day as possible. We took the larger Ocean Discovery on a Saturday afternoon at 2 pm and there was plenty of whale watching, but it was nothing like the intimate photo safari experience on Sunday morning at 7 am aboard the Ocean Spirit catamaran. With a smaller, quieter boat, we could turn off the engine when we got 100 yards away from the whales, and sometimes they would come closer to us. This humpback whale was curious and “spy hopped” right by our boat, poking its head up to check us out!
Humpback Whale “Spy Hopping”
We were lucky to see many mom and baby pairs, which are easy to spot when you know what to look for: more frequent and smaller blows (the babies need to breathe a lot more often than the grownups), and a floating protective Mom beside them (Mom is always nearby!).
Baby (left) and Mom (right) Humpback Whales
I really enjoyed the photo ops on this whale watch. There was a photographer on board if you had any questions, and I was able to see and photograph whales in a way I never had before. Fun fact – did you know Humpback Whales (and all baleen whales) have two blowholes side by side (kind of like a human nose) vs. toothed whales that only have one?
Humpback Whale – Two Blows Up!
We also saw Maui by air via a Maverick Helicopter Tour. It’s a lot tougher to get good photos from a helo, but it was really amazing to see whales from such a different perspective! Below, a mom and baby (on the right) are “escorted” by a male (not the baby’s daddy!).
Humpback Whales by Air: (From right to Left) Mom, Baby, and Male Escort
Editors note 2: Thanks again MK – it was wonderful to read about your trip and see your photos. Hawaii is still on my bucket list!Also readers, if you’re going to visit, you might want to take a look at the Hawaii category on my on-line friend Jeff Stamer’s blog. He’s been there several times and has some amazing photos and tips.