October 2019 Whale Watching Highlights
This month we saw at least 1 marine mammal species on all of our trips – a 100% sightings rate which is above our normal average of 90%!
The month started with another sighting of a pygmy blue whale and then later on in the week, a juvenile humpback whale – our first humpback since December 2015! This animal who we understand, from talking to research experts, is likely to be a recently weaned juvenile (probably born in winter 2018).
Unfortunately, it had recently been attacked by orca which we were able to determine through the fresh rake marks along the dorsal surface, flanks and flukes (tail).
We also had a couple of visits from some orca, including one very special group who we had not seen since September 2015. This group are quite different from the orca that we see often as they are a pelagic (open water) group that are rarely seen in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
The last time we saw this group, we discovered an adult female mourning the loss of her recently deceased calf. Upon this discovery, we notified Dr Ingrid Visser (Orca Research Trust) who went on to monitor the grieving process. This adult female’s group continued to hang around in the Hauraki Gulf and once the female had completed the mourning process, she rejoined her group and we then observed them hunting common dolphins.
This time around we didn’t see any hunting in action, but we did discover that the adult female had a new calf with her, which is fantastic news!
Also during the month of October, we watched several multi-species workups involving the common dolphins, Bryde’s whales, Australasian gannets and more! This is always such a sight to see and one we never get tired of – it’s like it is straight out of a David Attenborough documentary.