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Though a lot of my photography focuses on birds, such as this Northern Gannet...
                               

...sometimes I get the opportunity to photograph whales as well.  

Even when I go on whale watches, it's primarily about finding new birds, and Monday's trip was no exception.  But this time, something happened that I'd never seen before.

But first, the birds.

Almost every whale watch I've ever been on has involved a single sighting of a Common Loon.  This isn't a very good look, but it was enough to ID it clearly:

                               

Another common sight is double-crested cormorants.  This trip both began and ended with them:

                               

                               

Northern Gannets are birds I've seen in both small and large numbers on different trips, but this trip yielded some of the best looks I've ever gotten of them:

                               

                               

                               

                               

This Parasitic Jaeger was a real treat.  I'd never seen one before:

                               

                               

Same with this Roseate Tern.  I spotted it from a distance and just kept photographing it as we got closer, hoping it was something other than a common tern.  I lucked out.

                               

We saw three kinds of Shearwaters on this trip, and I managed to photograph two of them.  The ones that are all one color are the Sooty Shearwaters, named for their relatively gray appearance.  The Greater Shearwaters are the brown and white ones:

                               

                               

                               

                               

                               

                               

Wilson's Storm-Petrels are one of the most common birds in the world, but they're difficult to photograph.  They're sea birds, but only the size of robins and they dart around very quickly.  Again, I got lucky, not just for the Wilson's, but because some of these might be Leech's storm petrels (they both have that white rump marker, but the leech's are known to have theirs split).  If anyone can positively ID these as either Leech's or Wilson's, I'd appreciate it.

                               

                               

                               

                               

And now the whales.  I got a few photos of fin whales, but I'm not including them.  They're great animals, but they're a little dull from the surface photography perspective.  Instead, I'm focusing on humpbacks.  First, a humpback skimming the surface, getting ready to dive:

                               

Notice the green in the water.  Those are the whale's flippers, which are white, appearing green through the water.  Next are flukes, which are the whale tails, sticking up as they go in for a deeper dive:

                               

                               

                               

                               

Finally, the most exciting part.  I've been on lots of whale watches.  There are two I will remember above all others.  The first was getting to see a mother and baby humpback do synchronized swimming together.

The second was this.  

When humpbacks feed, they sometimes do a trick with bubbles: they will blow up from underwater, creating these pockets of bubbles which trap fish in them and make it easier to take a big gulp of fish in one try.  I'd heard of this, but never seen it.  My impression of it was that it was something that happened underwater.  

But.  Not.  Always.

What you see below is the result of that bubble feeding, not by a single whale, but by a pair of them, which pushed the fish to the surface and then simultaneously popped out of the water with their mouths wide open.  I did not get this photo the first time.  The 2nd time, I was ready for it, but the light was poor, so I made the best of the opportunity.  These are by no means the best photos I've ever taken of whales, but there's something about being witness to this that was pure exhilaration, and I'm just hoping I can convey some small part of it.

Take a careful look at that first photo.  What you see is the open mouths of the whales-- you're only seeing part of the mouth.  In the second photo, you can see both the upper and lower part of the whale's jaw.  In the third, you can see its mouth almost closed, while the one behind it still has the jaw wide open.

Wow.

                               

                               

                               

A quick note: all of these are smaller versions of the photos on my website.  Clicking on them will get you to larger versions with more details (ISO settings, lens settings, etc.).

This was part of a 5-6 hour trip, a specialized tour for both whales and birds, put on by a joint effort with Joppa Flats Nature Center and Newburyport Whale Watch.  They do a few of these each Summer, and they're well worth it.  

Originally posted to juliewolf on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 08:44 AM PDT.

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