August 2018 Safari Sightings – Bryde’s whales join the party!
August has been a relatively short month for us as our beautiful Dolphin Explorer had some routine maintenance over the first two weeks.
When we reopened were all keen as beans to get out into the Hauraki Gulf to see if our Winter guests, the pygmy blue whales, were still hanging around.
You can imagine our joy when we could see the unmistakable tall blow of these giants on one of the first trips back!
In addition, the Bryde’s whales have been well within our search area over the past couple of weeks and in good numbers. All the whales are feeding on plankton at the moment, which means that the Bryde’s whales are displaying their characteristic head slapping behaviour which they only tend to do when feeding on plankton or krill. We have been collecting plankton near to where these whales are feeding, and the majority of the sample has been made up of salps.
The head-slapping gives us a chance to see the whole head of the whale as it lifts it out of the water and slaps it back down to pull in the dispersed food into a smaller area.
Not forgetting our dolphin encounters for the month, we have seen common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The bottlenose dolphins have been close in during the Winter months and in one encounter we had up to 40 animals all socialising and putting on a show for our passengers!
Visits to HoruHoru (Gannet) Rock have seen more and more adult Australasian Gannets starting to return to the colony ahead of the upcoming breeding season.
To round it off, we also saw the third type of marine mammal we can see here in the Hauraki Gulf – seals! In fact, we saw two species – NZ fur seals AND our first recorded ‘on safari’ sighting of a leopard seal. Lucky passengers caught a glimpse of ‘Owha’ the leopard seal as she swum past the boat on one of our afternoon departures. Owha has made a name for herself over the past few years as her residency in Auckland has sparked a massive nationwide study into leopard seals. Lead researcher Dr Krista Hupman completed her PhD on common dolphins from our vessel in 2016 and is now at NIWA, where she continues to study Owha and the other leopard seals spotted around the coast.
New Zealand is starting to leave winter behind and transition into spring, which means there’s likely going to be some seasonal changes out in the Hauraki Gulf. What they will be, we will find out over the coming weeks and months!
Things you can do
– Check out our August highlights video over on YouTube
– Use the hashtag #aucklandwhaleanddolphinsafari to share your safari photos and videos with us