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Tag Archives: Calf

Grey Whale Calf Spyhopping

As I watched this grey whale calf play in a cove yesterday evening, I got the feeling that it was practicing its moves.  For example, in yesterday’s post (“Watch the Birdie,” 03.17.15) the whale is lunging out of the water, and I watched it do this several times, but it never did a full-on breech.

Likewise, I watched it spyhop several times, but it never came up out of the water far enough to actually look over the surface of the ocean.  It came up very, very slowly–over perhaps 10 seconds, to the height in the image above, hovered there for about five seconds, and then very, very slowly sank straight down again.

It really seemed to me that the calf was trying out these new maneuvers, and they weren’t yet second nature to it.  I imagine there’s a learning curve to whale ballet, and while the adults seem to perform it quite effortlessly, maybe the young ones’ muscles aren’t developed enough, and/or their coordination is still lacking.

If you’re reading this and you know more about whale behavior than I do, I welcome your comments.  I still have much to learn.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to shameless anthropomorphize until someone sets me straight!


Grey Whale Calf and Gull

How else are you going to get a grey whale calf to smile for its portrait?

I watched this calf play in a cove for about an hour this evening.  There was no sign of mom, though I’m sure she was in the vicinity.  The calf made several leaps out of the water, and also practiced spyhopping.  It put on quite a show.

Grey Whale Calf Leaping

Grey Whale Calf

The grey whales are migrating just off the coast of California right now. The moms are heading north with their calves, and they come much closer to shore on their way north than when they’re heading south to give birth in the lagoons on the west coast of Baja.

The calf is resting on its mother’s back.  This scene reminded me of taking a walk with a toddler:  they’ll run circles around their parents, then insist on being carried!

I took this image this evening about an hour before sunset, from land.  Yes, they were THAT close:  inside the surf zone.  Unfortunately, heavy overcast didn’t make for the best light, so the image is soft…but too sweet to not share.

Sable calf

Sable calves are much lighter colored than the adults.  If you look at the images of the adult sables from the last two days, you’ll see that they’re a very dark brown.  But this calf is more auburn-colored, so that it blends into the grasses and brush better, because it doesn’t yet have the formidable horns of an adult with which to defend itself.

Dead Humpback Whale Calf 2

Like a bad penny, the dead humpback calf that had washed out to sea returned again to a beach north of Half Moon Bay.  And so did the spectators, in droves.  News reports, word of mouth, and of course Facebook posts drew more people than the previous day.

While I’m still fact-checking, it seems that the whale did finally get examined by marine scientists, who determined that it was a female, but did not (could not?) determine a cause of death.  And it seems that afterwards it was pulled out to sea behind a boat.

RIP, young one.

I sincerely hope that many of the folks for whom this whale-viewing was a first will be inspired to go whale watching on a boat.  Those of you who have gotten close to whales on the open ocean know what I mean.  It’s there that you can appreciate how big they are, and how quickly yet elegantly they can move through the water.

May all your whale sightings be live ones!


Late spring and early summer are calf season.  It’s a great time to travel through the countryside if you’re looking to photograph baby animals.  As I was meandering through the backroads of the Palouse on a mostly rainy day, I passed a ranch and spotted this very young calf with his mother.  I pulled to the side of the road to get some shots, and was noticed by the (human) residents, who graciously invited me onto their property to get some closer images.  I readily accepted.

I got to go into the field where the cows were gathered, and this was the youngest calf, just a couple of days old and cute as can be.  He’s barely taller than the grass.  Momma-cow kept close tabs on him…and watched me like a hawk!  She wasn’t too sure about letting this stranger get anywhere near her or her precious baby.  Thank goodness for telephoto lenses.  They’re not just for wildlife.  These images were shot with a 200 mm which allowed me to stay over 20′ away.  I didn’t want to get any closer than that, since I’m sure those horns are as sharp as they look.  Also, since I was squatting so as to be down at eye level with Momma, I knew I would need an extra second or two to get to my feet if Momma decided I was a threat to her calf and I had to sprint for the gate which was only a few steps behind me.  Fortunately Momma was cool, and tolerated my presence in the field as long as I kept my distance.

By the way, these are Corriente cattle, which come from Mexico.  They’re descendants of the cattle that the Spaniards brought to the “New” World over 500 years ago.  In the US they’re mostly used for rodeo events like roping and wrestling.  I hear their meat is very lean and healthy.

After a couple of  minutes of shooting, I could tell that Momma-cow was beginning to lose her patience, and my equipment had been out in the drizzle long enough.  I knew I had some good shots, and I left the field so that my more than cooperative subjects could relax.

The cordial human residents of this beautiful land also invited me to have a quick tour of the barn, which was a real treat since 99% of my barn photography takes place from outside the structures.  The land has been in this family for several generations now, and it was a patriarch who had built the barn many, many years ago, along with a beautiful farmhouse nearby.  I really appreciated hearing about the history of this family and their multi-generational ties to this beautiful land.

I promised to send the gracious humans some jpgs when I got back to my lodging that evening, which I did.  I believe in keeping my photography karma clean.  And I know I never could’ve gotten these shots from the road.

It’s people like that who make it easier to be in the right place at the right time.

A Roosevelt Elk bull and one of his calves.