Experiencing Chaos


WC recently spent some time on Monterey Bay, where the Humpback Whales are moving through, munching on the schools of anchovy.

Humpback Whales lunge feeding on anchovy

Humpback Whales lunge feeding on anchovy

There were ten to twelve whales in this particular group, doing some cooperative feeding. They were joined by just about every other fish-eating species in the neighborhood. No, it’s not a very good image; it’s photobombed by a Shearwater. But the reason WC included it is pretty clear if you zoom in.

Zooming in on the baitfish spilling out of those giant mouths

Zooming in on the baitfish spilling out of those giant mouths

You can actually see the small fish in the overflow from the whale’s jaws. You can also see the head and neck of a California Sea Lion snacking on the escapees.

Still more Humpies working the school of baitfish

Still more Humpies working the school of baitfish

The scene was genuinely chaotic. Whales breeching and fin-slapping; whales blowing spume all over; the calls of hundreds of birds; dozens of Northern Fur Seals and California Sea Lions barking; Risso’s Dolphins zipping through.

Birds working the footprint from the whales

Birds working the footprint from the whales

And birds. If you look at the last photo carefully, you can see Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Northern Fulmars, Western, California and Heerman’s Gulls, Elegant and Caspian Terns, and Double-crested and Brant’s Cormorants; to name just a few. All squabbling, fighting and gorging.

It was a privilege to be there, even in two meter swells with cross-chop.

(This occurred about 2.5 miles off shore. It looks closer because the photos were taken with a 500mm lens. It’s a form of perspective distortion called lens compression.)

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