Wednesday 7 October 2009

Canada: Gray Whale

One of the highlights of the entire trip came on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just outside Ucluelet. Early morning, we were wandering along a stretch of the Wild Pacific Trail , enjoying the stunning scenery in what feels like ‘the end of the world’. I’d stopped to look at some warblers and sparrows for quite a while (nothing new there!), when a German couple came past. They asked if we were whale watching… and then a moment later casually pointed out a large whale surfacing only about 100m offshore! Initially we thought it was a Humpback, but after watching it for about 15 minutes and speaking to an expert at the local visitor info centre, we’ve revised the ID to a Gray Whale – a relatively common species off the Island.

The animal’s behaviour was almost completely predictable after a while (though no less impressive for that). It would surface and ‘blow’ three times in pretty quick succession (showing a small pointed fin, ahead of a row of even smaller ridges along its back), on the third occasion rising a little higher up out of the water, and then diving with a prominent upward flap of the tail. It would then stay down for about 2-3 minutes before repeating the same sequence. The photos aren’t amazing… but it’s not exactly an everyday sight in the UK!

graywhale3 graywhale4 graywhale2 gray_whale1

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