Sunday, 26 August 2012

Balenoptera Edeni: Bryde's Whales in the Gulf Of Thailand

Bryde's Whales, Bang Tabun, Gulf of Thailand

My phone call last week to Phil Round about the mystery wader was rather fortuitous. Phil kindly extended an invitation to join his family and friends whale watching in Bang Taboon bay, to the north of Pak Thale. I needed little encouragement.

So this morning out into the watery world we went at 08:30h and after three reasonably uneventful hours we finally located the leviathans in the Meklong area. To be precise 4 Bryde's Whales and they put on an excellent show for us. I have only ever seen a dead whale back in the early 1970s beached on the island of South Uist in Scotland's Outer Hebrides; what I recall is the size and stench. These whales were simply majestic making themselves visible by opening their mouths at right angles and keeping the lower half in the water; apparently they can filter out the water, retain the fish, and then swallow. It was impossible to digiscope and the above is my best effort on a boat that was really swaying; I think you can see a mother and calf with their mouths open for feeding. Notice the commensalism with a tern to the left hoping to scavenge some of the small fish which you can see in mum's mouth: I learned that word from teaching G9 science earlier this year! Indeed the whales attract White-Winged Black Terns of which there were plenty and we also spotted a couple of Bridled Terns too.

In the end I gave up trying to get a digiscoped image and got a couple of shots of the whales using 14-45mm MFT zoom, probably equivalent 35 mm DSLR of about 100 mm. In real terms I was happy to watch the spectacle. What truly beautiful, graceful creatures. The couple of Irrawaddy dolphins we saw on our way out seemed insignificant and the birds, too, were almost secondary: in the region of 70 Great Crested Tern, 20 + Great Cormorants, abundant Whiskered, White-winged Black and Common Terns and a migratory Grey Wagtail.

Click on this link Bryde's Whale for a very helpful summary of information about Balenoptera Edeni.

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