Today was my first day of whale watching and if the spectacular sunrise was any indication it was going to be a great day to make a whale sighting. I made a large pot of coffee, put on my warmest jacket, grabbed the "whale watch bag" that was passed to me yesterday and set up shop out on my balcony. I opened the binoculars we share , Fujinon 7X50's, and gave the ocean a first look. Off in the far distance was a large freighter heading south. You normally can't see them as they travel too far off the coast but with the binoculars you could tell it was a barge and today it helped me connect the importance of this whale watching mission - to communicate whale sightings and their positions so that shippers like these avoid accidentally striking and killing them. I started looking with even more intent.
The seas were abnormally calm and soon the cloud cover took all color out and yet in so doing made it easier to see more details on the ocean surface. There were fishing boats out there as usual but one was further out and larger than I had seen before. Closer in two shrimp boats were dropping their nets. Our whale watch coordinator, Becky, joined me and began showing, with a few pictures from the bag, just what to look for and what we might see if we were to spot a whale. I was surprised that we were looking for smaller, more subtler black images to break the surface versus, well, a whale! But okay, it makes sense, they are just passing by and so the opportunity here is to try to catch them just as they are skimming the surface to take one or two short breaths before they submerge again.
Suddenly every small wave motion seemed to look like a potential black moving object and that's when Becky spotted a black shape that quickly broke the surface and disappeared. Could it be??!! My heart stopped, I gripped the binoculars tightly and tried desperately to find it. And then we both could see that it was a dolphin. Actually it turned out to be a small family of dolphins passing by and that was okay, too. They are fun to watch and always make me smile. Plus, Becky shared that often whales will follow a dolphin sighting and so we stood there, searching with anticipation.
Soon the sky and water were the same brackish grey and green and the rain and fog arrived. Darn. I realized I wouldn't get to see a whale today. But I was able to see many wonderful details more clearly on this cold morning in January. And ocean life is still a wonder and wonderful thing to watch, regardless. Till next time, Java!