Spring Rain, Whale Songs and Good news! Sept 17-Oct 1


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Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Yeppoon
October 1st 2010
Published: November 30th -0001
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A frog that lives in our bathroom!
So much has happened in these past few weeks, but once again, I have been extremely busy with little time to work on the blog! Since I last updated, the area has fully come into Whale season. Humpbacks are everywhere! We have had quite a few encounters that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. Spring has come and gone and now we are in the summer season. In a few days I leave for Sydney, and after that new Zealand! My plan was to stay in Sydney for a few months, then come home for Christmas. However, this morning I got a call about a position working with ORCAS in New Zealand. Now, if you need to know anything about me, it is that I have dreamed of working with Orca's for forever. I even have a tattoo of one! For me, this position is a complete dream come true, and I count my lucky stars. I have SOO much work between now and when I fly over to arrange paperwork, buy flight tickets etc. but all day I was bouncing off the walls 😊

So here is what I have been up to for
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The spider...
the past few weeks!

Sept 17.
Daniele headed off to Uni real early in the morning because it is pretty windy out. Now that we have the computer back I worked on tranfering all of the data from my computer to it and worked on sorting tons of photos and entering a bunch of data.

Sept 18.

Today was an amazing day. When we left the harbor, the sky was grey and overcast and we weren’t even sure if we would see a single dolphin. I’ve said they don’t like overcast days and for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. The waves were pretty choppy until we got to the river, but once there the conditions were gorgeous. Amanda and I took our places at the front of the boat and the spotting began. We drove around for about an hour before Daniele spotted a few dolphins a bit off. It actually wasn’t a few dolphins though, it was jack pot. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Daniele must have drunk liquid luck last night/this morning. He was on fire and was able to land 3 shots and get three samples within 45 minutes. The dolphins didn’t
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One of the many geckos.
seem to mind us at all, and after a while we realized that there were two large pods of about 10 animals each. At some times during the sighting the animals were so close to us that I spent a good amount of time in neutral, something I rarely do. They were rolling and socializing all around us, allowing Daniele to line up shots perfectly. Unfortunately, after a little while one dart got stuck in an animal, and even though the pictures later on proved that it did not snap at impact, it disappeared. We spent a bit of time driving around looking for it, but that did us no good. We went off again to find the animals, and got the second pod this time, and were able to land another sample within a few minutes. Although I threatened him, Daniele finished the sentence ‘I think the dolphins are sick of us’, and we left them, celebrating only a little bit. When I say a little bit I mean I was super excited! Those four samples brought us up to a total of 12 samples. 3 of those samples are only a tiny bit of skin and most likely
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The frog that lives in the bend in the toiled. He does not like it when we flush...
won’t be used for toxicological analysis, but it was a great success! Now just to finish the rest of the bottlenose in the area and we will be golden ☺
Although we easily could have turned around and headed home, it was only 9 in the morning and we wanted to keep working while in such a great mood. As it was high tide, Daniele said that the bottlenose will most likely be offshore feeding, so we headed out towards the islands. It took us quite a while to get out there as the offshore winds and waves had picked up a bit, but once at there the weather was gorgeous. Going south around Great Keppel Island we saw a mother humpback and her calf meandering slowly along the coast. We worked our way around the outside of the islands then cut in between and headed further north. At this point we found another mother and calf, this time resting in 3 m water. It was gorgeous and I could see right down to the reefs below us. There were two pods of bottlenose hanging out with the mother and calf. As we can’t get close to the humpbacks
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Red sky in the morning.
we were trying our best to get the bottlenose to come to us, and luckily their interest was piqued enough. Daniele, the sure shot that he was, got 3 samples from the bottlenose, all the while we got a show from the mother and calf who happened to be rolling and resting in the shallow waters. At one point we looked over to the pair and the mother had surfaced under the calf who was half in the air, flopping around. At the same time, I was busy oogling at the reef below. I reacted quickly when I saw a few shadows below the boat I took the be the dolphins. Turns out I was way wrong though. We had some visitors of the gilled form. A group of black tipped reef shark and giant trevale were following the boat in hopes that we were fishermen. I tried to tempt them with a few crackers, and although it obviously didn’t work, I swear it made them stick with us for a little longer. After getting the three samples, we tried for a few more before heading in. Our spirits were really high, and now the total is 6. Back at
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Amanda loves Orange night!
the house we cleaned everything up, put stuff away and downloaded the data. That was when I realized through the pictures that two of the bottlenose samples were actually from the same animal bringing the total to 5. Still, it was a really successful day!


Sept 19-24
It has been raining solidly for the past few days. Amanda and I have been stuck in the house working, and I am just about to go out of my mind. It's not like the rain lets up at all and it is just a constant stream. On the 21st I spent a good amount of the day on the computer analyzing data, sorting, and entering it all into excel. We went grocery shopping and then I drove daniele to the airport. He had to go down to Southern Cross University to pack up his desk. Now that his PhD is finished, they need the space for another student. As it is supposed to rain for the rest of the week he is staying until Saturday. On my ride back I could see that the trucks own the road at night. There were so many lining the side of the road,
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An accurate representation of our frustration with the rain!
and all of the truckers were crawling out of their cabs, preparing for the night ahead.
Amanda made orange night, and after dinner we watched a few romantic comedies. It was real nice to have a girly night. For the next 3 days the rain didn't let up and we continued our work. On the 24th I was able to escape a bit, and headed into town and walked the beach. it was still spitting out but I needed to smell the ocean. All the ocean sports people were out with their sail boats and other gear. It was nice to see, and really relaxed me quite a bit.

Sept 25
It is still raining. I don't know how the sky hasn't run out of water. Did a bit of work, then vegged out and cleaned the house…it was getting pretty nasty. The rain has made this place perfect for mold and mildew and we need to wash everything once it starts to dry up a bit outside. Amanda and I are going out of our skin, so we left here early and drove to Rocky to investigate a bit. The sad part is that most of the shops
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She's dutch, of course she loves potatoe's!
close at 2, so we ended up just wandering up and down a few streets. We goofed off a bit, took a bunch of funny pictures and ended up seeing this spider almost as large as my hand! It was horrible. We got to the airport early, so we hopped out of the truck and wandered for a bit. I saw a few traffic cones so I started jumping over them. The parking lot attendant was an older Aboriginal man and he came over to me telling me to stop. i figured that for some reason I was annoying him, but it turns out that he said my jumping over the cones would turn me into a witch. I guess, the cone represents a witch's hat, and when you jump over it you act as if you are flying. Apparently that night you then dream of very strange things and then POOF! you are a witch. He said I seemed nice and he would hate to see that happen to me. There is a very large statue of a bull by the airport, so when I grabbed my camera to take a picture, he warned me that I would probably
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An accurate representation of our frustration with the rain!
turn into a bull if I took a picture of it. I pressed my luck, and luckily for me I do not have a tail or hooves. Daniele finally came out and we drove home. At the house Amanda and I had tons of energy so we went to the bar. It wasn’t bad, kinda deserted. We sat and drank for a while. Then the band started and it was super loud, so we sat outside and she had two more beers while I nursed my coke. We told drinking stories, people watched, talked and had an overall good time. The guy at the bar asked why we had been in town so long and never stopped in. I guess its because most nights we have no idea if we are going out the next morening or not so it would be too much of a hassel going out then having to wake up real early. When we got back I passed out.

Sept 26
The aboriginal guy was right about one thing, I had a WEIRD dream last night. I cant remember what it was about, maybe something about aliens, but definitely weird. It was gorgeous out. Or
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She's dutch, of course she loves potatoe's!
rather, it wasn’t raining. Still pretty overcast but the shower water was lukewarm, so that was a success. If I haven't explained before, we have a solar hot water heater. We have learned only to take showers on warm days because other wise, its like showering with ice water! For dinner we had lasagna. I am sure going to miss that meal, I can't wait to try it out back home! Daniele said we might go out tomorrow if there is no rain, but we aren't sure from where and how early.


27th
We went out from Roslyn bay. It was really cloudy and windy. All in all we had 3 sightings, but they all really difficult and avoided us. The 3rd sighting was of snubbies that may not be from the area, so we tried real hard to get samples. No go though. Now that summer/spring is here the sea breeze picks up much earlier and we had to head in around 1. On the way back we passed a leopard shark slowing swimming along the surface. It was really cool!

28th
Today was one of those days that made me realize that this is why
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The spider...
I do what I do. When we left in the morning it was horribly shitty. There really is no other way to explain it. It was overcast, foggy and windy. There were no dolphins in site and even for the rest of the day we didn't see any. We saw some much cooler stuff though! First we tried to go south to the river, but the fog was too dense so we turned around and headed back. We ALMOST went in, but decided to try a quick trip to Coorio Bay. On the way up we saw so many humpbacks resting and going along slowly. Then we saw a whale pretty far off in the distance. At first it didn't look like a whale, because it was hunched over with its blowhole and fin underwater. As we got closer I realized what it was but then became very worried because I thought it was dead. The closer we got, the more we realized that something was up. Then all of a sudden, we noticed a near newborn calf resting on the mother's head. Sometimes when the calves are very small the mothers hold them up as it is very difficult
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The bull outside the airport. Rockhampton loves it's beef.
for them to maintain buoyancy. This particular whale was worrying us though, because we realized we hadn't seen her breath. After a few minutes of idling on its right side, we moved around to the left to get a different view. All of a sudden a whale larger than a school bus surfaced within feet of the boat. It had been just under the water the whole time and we hadn't noticed it. A few minutes after that the mother took a huge breath. We were really relieved and at this point, gave them some room and relaxed and just observed. Daniele cut the engine on the boat and that is when the fun began. After a few moments of sitting in silence we started to hear the whales moaning and groaning. It wasn't just every few minutes. It was constant whale chatter for about 15 minutes. In the meantime we watched as the calf floated around the head of the mother. The whole time, the mother took breaths only at about 15 minute intervals, and the one that surfaced near us stayed just under the surface. I have never personally heard whale songs and know that I will remember
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Me going hard core trying to get a picture of our toilet buddy.
that for a long time. I almost think the calf joined in every few minutes because we heard noises that sounded almost like a small dog yapping. It was so amazing to witness! We left them alone after about a half hour and headed all the way north, saw tons more whales then headed home. During dinner Daniele said he wanted us to get 15 samples of bottlenose within the next few days. Although its a really high goal, if we are lucky we can make it!

29th
Today is the annual FBA whale watch for the employees of the organization. We are in charge of finding tons of whales for them to check out, so we had to head out really early. We were up at 4 and out on the water by 5. The weather didn't look too good so we were a bit worried. Went north to coorio bay. Although we saw tons of whales, there were no dolphins in site so it is a bit worrying. At 730 we picked Shane up from the marina and headed out towards the islands. We saw a group of bottlenose on the way out and were able to get a sample of mostly skin. On our way out to the islands it started to drizzle a little bit. Once we got to great Keppel Island the weather unleashed itself on us. The winds picked up like crazy and it started to rain harder. We cut on the Eastern side of the islands and in the distance saw a whale breaching! We kept going a bit to see what else we could find. On the easter side of the islands the scenery is gorgeous. Amanda said it reminds her of England. The island broke off into ragged cliffs of rock with a high smooth area of yellow scrub grass. Amanda said that if the cliffs were white it could pass for Dover. The weather certainly looked like England though, overcast and gray with a warm rain.

We headed back and went towards the animals spy hopping. It was two adults and one calf like yesterday. The mother was teaching the calf a few things while the other kept leaping in the air. It was almost magical. We stood in the rain, soaking ourselves to the bone while the whales did their thing in front of us. The larger adult kept breaching and the mother and calf were both on their backs. The mother was teaching the calf how to slap its pectoral fin on the waters surface. You could hear the sharp crack of her fin hitting the surface and the tiny whack as the calf followed suit. In between all of this the other animal hitting the surface sounded like lighting, and the sea spray was huge! After a bit the mother and calf flipped over and you could tell the calf was very young. It hadn't quite learned how to breath yet and would sit at a 90 degree angle with the water, with its blowhole out of the water trying to breath. As this stage calves usually have trouble with buoyancy and either sink of float, nothing in between. I remember some of the bottlenose calves from last year. Whenever they surfaced, it was like a cork popping to the surface and they would almost leave the water completely in their attempt to breathe.

Luckily the rain was warm and we stood and watched for a while. At this point, the whale watch boat had left the harbor and we called them our way and pointed out the activity. At this point we headed south to try and see what else we could find. We saw some dolphins, got one sample and then headed to the west side of the islands for some protection from the weather as the wind had drastically increased. After about an hour or so the wind and waves forced us to head in, and the ride was bumpy!! There were a few times I thought Amanda and I would be better off sitting on the floor, but we would get soaked from the wave spray.

Back at the house, Daniele called his friend about the whale activity from yesterday and he said that it most likely was this scenario: Soon after a female gives birth she goes into estrous for a short amount of time. Males will at this time attempt to mate with her. It could be that we saw a mother that was nursing a new born calf while a male was guarding her. However, I talked to Ginny later and she said often the mothers give birth at this time of year and it could just be that we were witnessing that. Either scenario is amazing, and I am just so excited we got to witness it!

Shane came over for a bit in the afternoon and talked business with Daniele for a while then left at 2. Tonight Amanda flies out, so she spent the afternoon packing and I took a nap. At 530 we left for rockhampton and met Shane at the Heritage Hotel for dinner. Although Rocky is not an old town, some of the architecture is made to look that way. The hotel is just like that, with balconies for every room. the balconies are adorned with a gorgeous wrought iron flower and swirl design. Dinner wasn't the tastiest but there was huge tv screens with 80’s music, and we talked and had a good time. After dinner we dropped Amanda off at the airport 😞 It was hard saying bye to her, and I will definitely miss her. She is off to Brisbane for a few days, then on to Wellington, New Zealand. After 10 days in Wellington she heads further south then hops on a sailboat to the Antarctic! She's working on tagging Albatross there for the next three months. Its going to be an amazing adventure, and I'm sure she will have a really interesting time.

Today was probably the last day Daniele and I will be out on the water as a storm front is coming in. That is good and bad. I have so much work to finish up before I leave and the time is definitely needed. Unfortunately, we only have 4 samples from the Sousa in Gladstone and only 6 (and a chunk of skin) bottlenose samples. For the toxicological analysis Daniele needs a good amount of blubber to analyze, so even though we have a few other skin samples from the bottlenose, they wont be much good besides for the DNA.

30th
This morning I woke up to daniele folding laundry! He is a nice guy and all, but (no offense men) like most other guys I know folding laundry is just too much of a hassel. Haha. Anyways, I cleaned up, had breakfast, and then went with him to uni for the day. We have to work together to go through the catalogues to try and get rid of any doubles, and clean out bad pictures. All in all I think there were over 70 solidly identified snubfin and maybe around 30 pictures of animals that I haven't been able to identify. That kept us busy until 3, and I now have so much more work ahead of me! My eyeballs are ready to fall out of my head. We had to head over to the FBA headquarters so Daniele could get some data about the river. While he was doing that I wandered the shops. After he as all done, we headed home, did a bit of grocery shopping then made taco's for dinner 😊

1st
So a few weeks ago Amanda and I did a bit of investigative work. I was looking for jobs at the time and me being the orca nut that I am, i started looking at different researchers. I talked to a few people, but no one seemed too serious about being willing to take on someone. However, this morning as I was reading my email and flipping through my music for something to listen to, I got a call from one of them! She and I talked for a bit, and she said she has been extremely busy with orca sightings, whale strandings and entanglements and other issues for the past few weeks. She has a place open for a volunteer willing to do some real hard work in turn for some amazing experience! I of course jumped at it. I spent the rest of the day bouncing off the walls. I started to come down from my high when I realized just how much work I have to do to get myself over there. I booked a flight back home, and a flight to spend New Years in Ireland with my friends. I had to finalize things and cancel those flights, try and get my money back, get myself a visa to work in NZ, book myself a flight.... It never ends! I also had to finish all of the work Daniele and I started yesterday. For now I fly out to Sydney on Sunday and hopefully will be heading to New Zealand ass soon as I can after that!!!






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