On departure this morning Flesh Footed Shearwaters were already up in the air, soaring in the warm gusty air above the waves. This indicated a good bird sighting day was ahead of us, the more wind, the more birds are up and about! In total a diverse range of nine seabirds from albatrosses to the never-before-seen in the bremer canyon Grey Petrel. This also included Shy, Campbells, Yellow Nose and Black Browed Albatross, among the Great Winged Petrels, Flesh Footed Shearwaters, Wilson Storm Petrels, a lone Sooty Shearwater and the single and very cute (bird highlight of the day) Grey Petrel! This white bellied bird caught our attention as it stood out against the other brown coloured muttonbirds.
On arrival to the hotspot the bird activity was in abundance! Some swirls of birds were THICK and we knew they were waiting for a whale of some kind to surface below! Just like clockwork – there it was. A bushy blow. The perfect orca size. The first to surface was the newly named Eric…. no hiding here why he was named this… hint: the new Tim Winton movie produced in town features this actor.
We followed this pod like a hungry shearwater, taking photos like they were morsels of squid at every opportune moment. They would surface sporadicly and out of unison, combined with strong winds and surface chop it was hard to capture a good photograph! We stayed patient and let the orcas work. Searching the depths, moving along into progressively deeper waters.
More birds swirling up ahead, this was our chance to come across more whales! It was a big pod of Long-Finned Pilot Whales, with visiting cousins, Bottlenose dolphins! They headed straight for us, circling our vessel for a short moment and then off again looking for food. Together these cetaceans worked quick and in tight formation. The orca were still close by – a threat to these smaller whales.
Back to the orca we found Nani, Neo and Dot, Slater, Billie, Alki and Nicki! These seven have been observed time and time again together, a close family unit. On each surface they left behind oil slicks, remnants of their fishy snacks. Neo, now one year old was showing off his charisma with zoomies. Instead of surfacing like his mother and older siblings, it was a little surge each time…NEOOOOOWWWW… he is getting so fast!
We could sense an approaching pod of orca… it wasn’t Neo’s, he was infront of us. Who could it be? Low and behold it was SPLIT TIP! The big boss lady and her family in tow. They came from our stern surrounded us on either side and passed closely. Two juveniles zoomed in with the swell while Split Tip and the other females swerved in alongside us. Wonks was back and not too far away! If we could match this with human emotions – it truely was like having a big hug from the orcas. We left them to their afternoon activities and headed for the dunes!