Tag Archives: Hervey Bay

Pelicans

Shaping to land

Shaping to land

It’s actually pretty easy to get a half decent photo of a pelican. They’re such majestic birds, floating through the air on those massive wings, hardly bothering to flap. Or soaring on an up draft. They’re so big they don’t worry much about humans, either. In fact, returning fishermen are sought out, particularly while they’re cleaning a catch.

Pelicans are everywhere. They frequent lakes, beaches and rivers – and they’ll fly thousands of miles into Australia’s dead heart when the inland rivers run and the salt lakes fill with water. I shared a couple of photos of the thousands of birds on Lake Eyre last March. Nobody knows how they know the lake is full.

But while it’s exceptionally simple to catch a nice photo of a pelican bobbing on water, reflected in a calm surface, I like to capture birds doing what they do. Burrum Heads, the mouth of the Burrum River, which is a short drive north of Hervey Bay, is a great place to see pelicans, and a great place to catch them landing on the water, or taking off. But we do get them down our beach at Torquay, or hanging around the Urangan pier watching the fishermen.

Here’s a few of my favourite pelican pictures.

A light pole on the Urangan pier is a favourite spot

A light pole on the Urangan pier is a favourite spot

Waddling out to the water at the beach Hervey Bay

Waddling out to the water at the beach Hervey Bay

Take off in formation

Take off in formation

Landing in formation

Landing in formation

Bundaberg botanic garden

Bundaberg botanic garden

 

 

The whales are back

Whale season is a great time here at Hervey Bay. The whale migration, when the whales swim north from Antarctica up to the warm waters of the Whitsundays and beyond, then back down to the feeding grounds in the icy south, happens every year. The whales appear in late July, with the first arrivals being sub-adults which haven’t yet reached sexual maturity. They’ll motor along at about eight knots up the Queensland coast – quite a clip. But some, in fact rather a lot, drop into the calm, shallow waters of Hervey Bay for a spot of R&R. They’ll stay for a day, or a week, depending, I suppose, on what their fancy takes them. They relax, slow down, play. Do a spot of people-watching. And we people are just as pleased that they drop in to meet us.

I took my first whale watch cruise for the 2015 season on the big yellow whale-watch boat, Spirit of Hervey Bay. (That’s a link to their Facebook page, where you can see lots of lovely photos.) Unlike our usual clear, calm winter days, the weather was a bit ordinary, with a turbulent sky and choppy seas. But there’s always a plus. It seems when the weather’s a little rough, the whales tend to put on a performance. And this day was no exception. Here’s a few shots for your edification. And put it on your bucket list. Sure, you can see whales in lots of places. But there aren’t too many where they’ll hang around and play.

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I had a whale of a time

Every year, between late July and early November, the whales come into Hervey Bay on their great migration north from Antarctica, where they seek the warmer waters to have their calves and mate. Sometimes they stay for a while in the calm waters of Platypus Bay off Fraser island, and watch the humans on their floating, moving islands. And the humans on their boats watch them.

In the mid-seventies, when whaling was finally stopped, humpback numbers on Australia’s east coast were down to a few hundred. Now, it’s back to around seventeen thousand. Something like five thousand of them will stop in at Platypus Bay for a few hours, or a few days. It’s shallow and safe, a great place to fatten up the newborns before the long trek south. So over the season you’ll see mums and bubs, randy males and curious sub-adults.

Yesterday I made my first trip out to Platypus Bay for this season, camera ready, sunblock applied and warmly covered against the chilly breeze. August is a great time to meet these gentle giants. The population is mainly juveniles, young whales not yet sexually mature. They’re the humpback equivalent of teenagers; cocky, sure of themselves and very curious. So join me on a virtual visit to Platypus Bay. We’ll start with the rainbow over Fraser Island as we journeyed along the island’s coast to Platypus Bay.

This young whale is sky hopping – poking its head above the surface to look at the people on the boat. It can see perfectly well through the water. The man is holding an underwater microphone, not a pike.

The same young whale pictured above came to say hello to us

Just the nostrils above the surface. The long white pectoral fins and the whale’s white belly are obvious. As you can see, the whales come in very close, circling the boat or swimming underneath

Further along, things became a bit more active. At one stage I saw five different whales breaching – flinging themselves out of the water. Once, two whales together breached at the same time (no picture, sad to say)

They'll breach quite close to the boat - too close for this shot

They’ll breach quite close to the boat – too close for this shot

What goes up, must come down – with one helluva splash and a wave for good measure.

I go whale watching several times every year. If you’ve reached this point, you might be interested in this article. It will tell you a little bit more about the whales.

Dawn at the beach #photo

Summer’s on the way and I tend to wake with the sun. Early morning light and low tide – what could be better? So I went to the beach. The first morning, I left my Canon 550D at home and took out the little Sony Cybershot compact. This is about the best photo I took.

Sony shot

I was pretty disappointed. The Sony is capable of taking a good picture at 18Mp resolution, so I’ll admit one problem was my lack of familiarity with it. But the biggest issue in my opinion is the lack of a view finder. So the following day I took along my Canon 55oD. Here’s the result.

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Using the Sony I tried to take a picture of the gibbous moon reflected in a tidal pool but that didn’t work at all. When I had the Canon the moon was too high for a reflection. But I took a picture, anyway. And a few reflections. I love reflections,

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It’s whale time in Hervey Bay

A whale calf practices breaching

A whale calf practices breaching

Those who know me would be aware that I’ll take any opportunity to go out and watch the whales in my own back yard. In August, the youngsters from last year’s crop show up. They’re young, sexually immature, curious and playful, so if you’re on one of the fleet of whale boats taking tourists out to visit, you’re sure to see a show. The boats are not permitted to chase the whales, or come in too close – but the whales are quite happy to approach the boats for a close-up look at the funny little air-breathers on the decks. I’m sure they do a LOT of people watching and as times have changed and they are no longer hunted, they’re happy to share the space with us.

A whale does some people spotting, waving as it goes by the boat

A whale does some people spotting, waving as it goes by the boat

A whale exhales close to the boat

A whale exhales close to the boat

A whale lies on her back at the surface while her calf moves over body

A whale lies on her back at the surface while her calf moves over body

But this year I was elsewhere in August, so now it’s September, which is mums with bubs time. The females stop in Hervey Bay’s warm, comparatively safe waters, to feed up their calves, building their fat reserves for the cold of the Antarctic waters. Whales don’t suckle. Their milk is extremely high in fat (figures vary so much – somewhere between 30% to 50% seems safe) and has the consistency of yoghurt. The female expresses milk into the water near the ocean floor and the calf scoops up the fatty fluid in its mouth. On this rich diet it puts on as much as 80kg per day. In contrast, the adult whales rarely eat on their migration, relying on the fat reserves built up on krill during the summer months, before the annual migration.

In between feeds the mothers teach their offspring how to do whaley things, like breach to find their way around. Baleen whales, which includes humpbacks, right whales, Minki whales and others, don’t use echo location like the toothed whales – Orcas, sperm whales, dolphins etc. Breaching is thought to be an important way the whales locate where they are. (Scientists also think they do it to knock off parasites and maybe discourage predators. What that means is the only reason we KNOW they do it is for fun.)

Later in the year you’ll see mature males chasing females for the right to mate. They don’t care if she has a calf with her, they’ll shove the youngster out of the way for a chance to get at mum. If there’s more than one male, they’ll fight, using their massive size to try to dominate each other. I once watched a group of five males wrestling, blowing noisy threats through their blowholes and damaging each other with the barnacles that soon attach to every whale’s body. They completely ignored the boat in the way.

An adult humpback shows how it's done

An adult humpback shows how it’s done

Humpbacks are noted for their athleticism. Those incredibly long pectoral fins add to their ability to manoeuvre and seeing one of these massive creatures breach is a privilege. A beast the size of a locomotive launches itself into the air with a couple of flips of that powerful tail, performs some aerobatics and then crashes back down into the water. It’s a wonderful sight to see.

One last factoid – these are southern humpbacks. Their bellies are mostly white. Their cousins in the northern hemisphere are basically black all over.

A specially awesome day

Photo of rain over Fraser islandI always take my camera to the beach and today was a specially awesome day with the camera.  We went early, to escape the heat, more than anything. As you can see, there was a shower around.

picture of perched osprey We said ‘good morning’ to the osprey looking down at us from his favourite perch

and waved to the Brahmani Kite high up in the pine tree.picture of Brahmani kite in tree

Then we were treated to the spectacle of an osprey hunting. It came in low over shallow water. Dived so deep it disappeared, then came back up again, fighting for the sky. I say ‘fighting’ – I think they do it pretty easily with those huge wings. The fish caught securely in its talons, it headed back up the beach to find a place to eat.

If you’d like to see more of my eagle pictures, you might like ‘When the universe tugs at your lead’ or ‘photographing Brahmani kites’.

aggregate picture of hunting osprey

picture of Brahmani Kite carrying a fish

Open your eyes and see

picture of beach low tideIt’s photo Friday again. Just lately I’ve had several remarks about my photos along the lines of ‘you’re so lucky to live in a place where you can see these things’. Well, yes, I guess I am. Not everybody has whales playing in the water close by every spring. And Brahmani Kites don’t fly the skies everywhere, or fruit bats. But I can take photos anywhere. When I lived in Victoria I photographed the local kangaroos and sulphur-crested cockatoos and rosellas. In Perth it was reflections in the river, the view from King’s Park, wildflowers in spring.

Sure, not everybody gets to watch a skein of ibis working a thermal. But then, we don’t have storks here. I’ve never seen the sky black with starlings or a robin hopping across the snow or a blue tit raiding. In visits overseas I’ve photographed white swans and squirrels, reflections in Amsterdam canals. And everybody has sunrises and sunsets, rain on roses, beaches, clouds, bridges, trees…

Beauty is where you find it. Open your eyes and see.

This week’s picture is low tide at Hervey Bay early in the morning. In the top right you’ll see a sea eagle. I got a close-up shot of him later.

 

When I’m not writing I take photos

I’m feeling a tad introspective at the moment. Since I don’t have anything wonderful to say, I’ll show you something wonderful instead.

I live near a beach. I go there quite often, always that same piece of beach. And every single time, I see something new, something different. This was one of those times; low tide, near sundown, warm, calm… This is my idea of peace on earth. © Copyright Greta van der Rol

Please enjoy.