Saturday, April 16, 2011

Humpback Whale "Pec Slaps" and Flukes

Last August, in addition to seeing blue whales, we also encountered many humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae).  In particular, we spent quite a bit of time near a mother humpback whale and her frisky calf.  The calf was waving pectoral fin(s) in the air and being generally rambunctious.  Apparently, an adult humpback's pectoral fins are the largest in the world and can extend to over 15 feet.  The calf seemed to be waving hello (and then good-bye) to all on the whale watch boat.

Humpback Whale in Monterey Bay


Humpback Whale in Monterey Bay



Humpback Whale in Monterey Bay

We also saw a tail slap by an adult humpback whale and several tails/flukes as the whales dove.  Last but not least, we saw a calf breach.  Due to the speed and unpredictability of the breach and my own excitement at trying to capture it, the photo is a bit blurry.

Humpback Whale Tail Slap in Monterey Bay
Tail Slap

Humpback Whale in Monterey Bay

Humpback Whale in Monterey Bay



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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Southern Sea Otters in Monterey Bay

Southern Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) are a fixture in Monterey Bay, California.  On our whale watch last year, we saw this little whiskered fellow hanging out by a kelp forest and munching on a clam.  At first, he was floating on his back in the water with a clam on his chest and next he had cracked the clam and was eating.  They are such delightful creatures.  Although the Southern Sea Otter population is much larger than earlier in the 20th Century, they are still dying at alarming rates and struggling to survive.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium is doing a lot of research on these otters and has a wonderful exhibit of otters who are unable to be released back into the wild.

Sea Otter in Monterey Bay

Sea Otter in Monterey Bay

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Leviathans Next Door: Blue Whales in Monterey

Last August, we spent the day on a whale watch off the Monterey, California coast.  While the weather was chilly and overcast, it was a spectacular day as we saw 5 blue whales and 25 to 30 humpback whales.  Here are some shots of the largest animal ever known on earth: the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus).  We were lucky to see two travelling together as well as a mother and her calf.  They dwarfed our boat and seemed like stealthy submarines gliding through the depths.


Blue Whale Diving with Calf Nearby
Blue Whale Diving with Calf Nearby


Blue Wale in Waters off Pebble Beach
Blue Whale off Pebble Beach
Two Blue Whales
Two Blue Whales
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Harris' Hawks in Southern Arizona

Harris' Hawks (Parabuteo unicinctus) are common in Southern Arizona including Tucson.  Unfortunately, many of these majestic birds are electrocuted every year on power lines in urban areas.  While many birds of prey are solitary, Harris' hawks live and hunt in packs led by an adult female.  Their natural predator is the Great Horned Owl.  The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has a flock of Harris' hawks that are showcased in afternoon raptor flight displays.

Harris’ Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Harris' Hawk on top of Saguaro Cactus

Harris’ Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Juvenile Harris' Hawk

Harris’ Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Harris' Hawk on top of Saguaro Cactus


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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Western Screech-Owl Portrait

Here's a Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii) that we saw at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona last month. Named after a Smithsonian naturalist, Robert Kennicott, it is very small with noticeable ear tufts. The yellow coloring of this owl's irises against its gray and black feathers was striking. The Western Screech-Owl is common in the Western United States and nest in tree holes or holes in Saguaro cactuses in the American South-West.

Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii)
Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii)
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Arizona Broad-Billed Hummingbird

During our visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona, I captured a female broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) just as she was about to fly away.


Female Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris)
Female Broad-Billed Hummingbird
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Portrait of a Barn Owl

A recent trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona also provided a wonderful opportunity to observe closely a Barn Owl (Tyto alba). Barn Owls are found almost all over the world and have such beautiful markings.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pyrrhuloxia (Cardenal Torito) of the American Southwest

I captured this beauty posing near a cactus at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona earlier this month. The light was perfect and the bird remained remarkably still for the shot. Here's some information on this bird which is found in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico.

Female Pyrrhuloxia (Cardenal Torito)

Female Pyrrhuloxia (Cardenal Torito)
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