Sunday, 24 February 2013

A whale of an adventure

OK, so I am about as likely to successfully complete a decent scoring birding Big Year as I am to find a magic step ladder to the moon. Maybe I need to concentrate on a smaller subset of animals. Those that are a bit bigger and easier to identify would be ideal and ones that involve going on the water to see would be even better. So it was that while out  foiling (I use this term to loosely describe attempting to pump the boat in minimal breeze faster than the ebb tide can push me out under the bridge), the highlight of which was being joined by a pod of dolphins, the idea struck me, why not do a Big Year of marine mammals! There can’t be too many of those, especially if I cheat just a smidge and limit it to Californian marine mammals. Well, any one who has performed the google search will know how wrong I was. There are in fact ??? species of marine mammal to be found in the waters of California, and some of then look mighty similar.

Sounds like a good challenge and where better to start than the big ones! So I booked a trip aboard the whale watching vessel the Kitikat to the Farralone Islands. These islands are offshore form the Golden Gate bridge and maintain a air of mystery by being tantilisingly only just visible from the main land on the clearest days. Putting my weather forecasting knowledge to good use, I managed to arrange this trip for the highest swell forecast of the year - it coincided with the calling on of the Mavericks big wave surf contest just down the coast. Seeing the pluses of energy rolling ahead of the Pacfic storm and turning into huge breakers on the islands was nearly as exciting as seeing whales… and then I saw a whale and realised that nothing can be as exciting as seeing a whale! Adam as ever had the camera in the right place at the right time and caught these amazing pictures of the Grey whale. Whale identification is much easier - it even uses my basic naming vocabulary. 

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