Whale Tales!

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Ocean Light II

In August we boarded the Ocean Light II, a 71 ft sailboat for a one-week trip off the northern tip of Vancouver Island with the primary objective of photographing marine mammals.  It was our first time exploring this remote region but we had booked the trip two years in advance to insure we were going at peak season and had the best opportunity to catch some action so we could tell some tales of our own!

We were NOT disappointed!!!

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Area of exploration

This patch of ocean had a lot of activity!   Within the first twenty four hours we had seen a plethora of life, including a variety of birds (click here for our dedicated post on the bird action).

One of our favourite shorebirds are black oystercatchers.  Despite their name, they seldom eat oysters and instead forage for limpets and mussels which an oystercatcher can easily and quickly pry open with the sharp jabs of their bill tips.  The birds are also known to “sneak up” on open mussels, quickly stab their beaks between the shells, sever the muscle and quickly swallow it.

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Black Oyster Catchers

Another favourite are the cute harbour seals lounging on the rocks.  Harbor seals come in brown, silvery white, tan, or gray.

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They tend to stick to familiar resting spots, generally rocky areas where they are protected from adverse weather conditions and predation, near a foraging area.

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And now for the star of the show!!!

We had hoped to see a breaching whale, but never dreamed we would be blessed with a “serial” breacher!!!  This particular individual gave us an amazing show, repeatedly breaching over 8 times!  As massive as they are, a breach happens lightening fast and trying to capture it on film or video is a challenge!  Here are some of the best in show!

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Breach #1

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Breach #2

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Breach #3

Humpbacks are very acrobatic, often breaching high out of the water and then slapping the water as they come back down. Sometimes they spin 180 – 360 degrees around while breaching. Scientists do not know why wales do this — it may be purely for play, a form of communication or may be used to loosen skin parasites.

We managed to get a fantastic video (filmed in slow motion 4K video) doing a 360 degree spin!  We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

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Breach #4

 

At least 3 different species of barnacles are commonly found on both the flippers and the body of the humpback whale. A humpback whale can have up to a thousand pounds of these barnacles attached to it!  It is also home for a species of whale lice called Camus boopis.

They can also swim on their backs with both flippers in the air.

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Whale swimming on its back doing pectoral slaps

 

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Tale Slap

If the whales were the star of the show then Northern Vancouver  Island gets the People’s Choice Award for best set.  The scenery was truly breathtaking and sometimes it was difficult to know what to concentrate on.

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We hope you enjoyed our “Whale Tale” and thought we would leave you with a little teaser of what Part II will feature.

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Can anyone guess what creature this is???

Marcy & Ray Stader
StaderArt

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Panama City… Top 3 Things to Do After Dark

When the sun goes down in Panama City there a surge of energy – a kind of “second wind” that infuses all who endured the afternoon tropical heat.  The city never sleeps, but the evening brings on a renewed sense of energy.  The temperature hovers around a perfect 24c/75f and the humidity is just right – it hugs you as you walk around the lively streets of the city.  So what are the top things to do?  Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:

1. Soak up the city lights.

Panama City may be all hustle and bustle during the day, but like the Latin culture, she sheds her work clothes and dresses up in glittering style when the sun goes down.  There are plenty of vantage points in which to soak in the glow of the city splendour, from rooftop bars (like the the 66th floor of the Ocean Sun Casino), to a walk along the Cinta Costera.

 

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(The Cinta Costera along the waterfront in Panama City)

 

2.  Watch the ships lining up to transit the canal.

This is just as fun to watch in the evening as it is during the day.  The best viewing spots are on the Amador Causeway and the Miraflores Locks.  The Locks feature a raised restaurant with a lovey outdoor balcony from which you can enjoy the show while sipping a martini!

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(The Panama Canal never sleeps either – ships await their turn to transit the 80 km waterway 24/7, 365 days a year)

 

    3.  Kick-back and enjoy the the vibe at a local restaurant.

Panama has an amazing restaurant scene, everything is made from scratch and there is a broad range of cuisine available to suit every palette.  It is also a great way to people watch –you never know who might drop in!

One evening we were enjoying dinner outside on the Bay of Panama and we noticed a heron sitting on the roof line of the restaurant.  Of course we didn’t have a camera with us but this Black-crowned Night-Heron was incredibly patient and waited 10 minutes for us to grab the camera and come back to the restaurant.  It continued to pose for about half an hour because it was waiting for an opportunity to grab one of the fish swimming below.  We were very lucky he sat in one of the restaurant’s spot lights otherwise we would never have captured this shot because we don’t use flash on wildlife.
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(Black-crowned Night Heron – unexpected dinner guest)

Another time while dining in Casco Viejo we were surprised when the President of Panama dropped in.  We were politely asked to move to a different table to accommodate his large party, but it certainly made for an interesting evening!  And… for some reason our cell phones mysteriously stopped working throughout dinner 😉

We enjoy the surprises every night after dark in Panama City…

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt