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Tag Archives: California

Grey Whale Blowhole

Identifying wildlife can sometimes be challenging when you can see the entire animal, but that rarely happens when whale-watching, unless you’re lucky enough to witness a breach.  Most of the time, you’re probably looking at less than 5% of the whale at a time as it swims below the surface.

One identifying characteristic is the blowhole.  Did you know that toothed whales (e.g. sperm whales) have a single blowhole, while baleen whales (e.g., grey whales) have a double?

In the above image, you can clearly see the double blowhole, which helps to identify this as a grey whale.


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.

Dannell Powell 3

If you’ve been following my posts for the past couple of weeks, you might think that this is yet another one of the interesting creatures I met in Namibia.  Not exactly…

I’m going to bring you back to the USA for a day or two, to California, to Santa Rosa specifically, to meet a fascinating, creative, prolific and “outside the box” artist named Dannell Powell.  No, that isn’t her above, but it IS one of her creations, Scary Bunny.  Bunny may look like a couch potato in that image, but believe me, the girl gets around!  She’s even been spotted in the company of a late, great Hollywood heart-throb!  Dannell has proof!

“What kind of proof?” you ask.  Photographs.  Dannell worked as a PI–yep, we’re talkin’ Magnum without the ‘stache–for 32 years, so I think she knows a thing or two about documentary photography.  I’ve seen the photographs.  I want to believe.

Photography is just one of the media that Dannell is adept at working with.  Here’s one of her fine art pieces, which is a digital blend of some paintings and some photographs, or photographs of paintings, or something like that.  How many photographs?  I think she said 15.  A lot.  I think it’s pretty cool.

Dannell Powell 1

Here’s the back side (pun intended) of one of her assemblage piece titled “The Bunny Guard.”

Dannell Powell 5

Yep, Dannell has a thing for bunnies (as well as a great sense of humor)…but also dolls, animal parts, tools, trolls, toasters…the list is long!  Too long to include in this post.

Dannell Powell 12

Dannell is also a writer.  She’s written 15 books that feature the adventures of a group of mannequins in San Francisco and environs.  The Mannequin Chronicles are filled with Dannell’s photographs of the mannequins in a variety of settings, including riding in a convertible (above), window shopping (looking through the plate glass windows at–you guessed it–other mannequins!) and even visiting Alcatraz!  For a sneak peak, visit

If you happen to be in Northern California this weekend, you can meet Dannell, as well as many other talented artists, at the final weekend of Sonoma County Art Trails, an Open Studio tour that takes place the second and third weekends of October, from 10 AM to 5 PM both Saturday and Sunday.  Here’s the link to Dannell’s page on the Art Trails site:

For an online catalog of the other 160 artists participating this year, as well as to find out where to pick up a paper catalog with map guides to the studios, visit

Temperatures this weekend are supposed to be in the mid-70’s, perfect for browsing both outdoor and indoor art studios.  I’m planning to go back myself.

And if you stop by Dannell’s studio, tell her RPRT Photo sent you!

Great Horned Owls

Since I subjected you to dead baby whale posts two days in a row (no more, I promise!) I thought I would share an image today of a baby wild critter that’s alive and thriving.  Less than a mile from where the humpback calf washed up a few days ago, there is a pair of great horned owls that are raising two offspring.  Although the owlets can fly, the parents still keep close tabs on them when they’re away from the nest, and continue to feed them.

The tall eucalyptus trees make a perfect nesting site, as well as a good perch from which to survey the area.


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!


San Francisco 06.30.13

“This following program is dedicated to the city and people of San Francisco, who may not know, it but they are beautiful,and so is their city.  This is a very personal song, so if the viewer cannot understand it, particularly those of you who are European residents, save up all your bread and fly Trans Love Airways to San Francisco, U.S.A., then maybe you’ll understand the song.  It will be worth it, if not for the sake of this song, but for the sake of your own peace of mind.”

From “San Francisco Nights” by Eric Burden and The Animals

Thank you to all my readers.  I hope you and your friends and families have a great Thanksgiving.

Another view of the Golden Gate Bridge, this one with San Francisco in the background.