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Far East Russia Orca Project expedition 2012
Expedition on Bering Island started June 12 - not as early as we wanted. This was preceded by time-consuming, but necessary preparation of boat for the season, as well as some of the delivery of cargo and fuel to the island. Getting to the field camp and the first phase of work took place over a small staff of two people - Ivan Fedutin and Olga Filatova. In late June, more participants arrived - students oceanographers Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don - Gennady Korsakov and Kiril Cherevaschenko. And in July, a volunteer Olga Titova joined us for three weeks, but her main work was later with Arctic foxes and sea lions. Also, as a permanent member with us again was a cat Yamaha safely overwintered in Nicholskoye.
Season 2012 was rather cold, and the weather did not favor us. There were no major storms, but quiet days with calm seas were very few. June and the first half of July were surprisingly poor in meetings of killer whales, the lack of which we were able to catch up in August, when they came several times a day. Perhaps part of the whales we missed because of bad weather and fog, but the relatively low numbers of salmon this year on the Commander Islands could also contribute to it.
July 15 we met a group of killer whales, which included a male with a big bullet hole in the fin. Rather, he got this injury, stealing fish from longlines. Fishermen often shoot killer whales in an attempt to protect their catch.
Commander orcas are often quite shy and do not let us close, but sometimes there are exceptions. This year, one young male keenly interested in our boat and for fifteen or twenty minutes went straight in line, periodically surfacing right next to the board.
Interesting behavior of killer whales we saw on August 13. In the evening, in front of our bay, we met several groups of killer whales, which are slowly walked back and forth, the whole shifting to the south. It seemed like they could not decide where to go next - one male went to the south and hung in place, waiting for her, a few animals were circling around, and all accompanied by loud impatient calls. In the end, the winning coalition, was inclined to move to the south, and killer whales went, gathered in several tight groups. Then we went to photograph them. Killer whales have been good - easy come near us and gave himself off. Posterior group consisted of several females with children, and went ahead a few males. When we began to catch up, they suddenly went quickly and began to go out together, in sync, and we saw that there are quite a few males - five or six, a young male, and only two "other." When we came very close, they went even faster, almost jumping out of the water - orcas do so sometimes when moving at high speed. They did not turn away from us, as always do when they want to avoid convergence - no, they flew parallel to the boat, as if suddenly remembering about their relationship with frivolous dolphins. When we caught up with them, they slowed down and went quietly, a little faster than usual, and gave himself shoot. What was that? At first glance it looked like a race to race the boat - making sure that we are faster, they lost interest in the game. But it is possible that we here have nothing to do with it, and to craft it was not at all the case. Evening at the camp, watching pictures, we found that in this group were males from different families. Who knows - maybe in this mad race, they solved some of their serious male issues - for example, who are the fastest, or just fooling around.
Second half of August familiar groups were more likely to appear. First, we met a group of August, first photographed a few years ago in Avacha Bay and since then several times noted that in the Gulf, on the Commander. Then one of a large aggregation came another Avacha-Komandorskaya group - a group of Albatross. It was the only time during the season when we watched a long feeding aggregation across salmon (apparently, coho) near the entrance to the bay Gladkovskaya. Usually on the Commander piscivorous killer whales feed at depth, what exactly - we have not been able to find out.
In the same aggregation, we met with a killer whale completely falling on his back fin. This phenomenon is often observed when the content in captivity, but sometimes occurs in nature, apparently, in the animals with a damaged fin or unhealthy.
Again we have repeatedly encountered a single male transient ecotype Rambler, which we are seeing is the fourth summer. Other carnivorous killer whales have not been recorded, although our colleagues in the North rookery repeatedly observed the transient orcas hunting seals for this year.
But again we have witnessed the fun of young fur seals interact with a group of fish-eating killer whales. These seals accompanied a group of killer whales, climbed into the thick of them, stuck to cubs, offering them frolic together.
Number of meetings humpbacks this summer was consistently high. It is true that such monstrous tight clusters, as we observed in the anomalous 2010, have been recorded. Most often, the whales were kept in small groups or scattered form large aggregations. In June, we repeatedly observed surface feeding humpbacks krill, and filmed it on video. Most of the whales that we met were already familiar to us from previous years, but still there are also new. One day, one humpback surprised us with his scrutiny. He showed unusual for these whales interest in our boat, and, perhaps, to ourselves. Usually they do not react to the close presence of the boat or, more rarely, weak attempt to get away from him. But this time, when we were in the drift of a dilute feed concentrations, the whale threw everything and tried hard to get acquainted with our boats closer he came to the very board, took upright and highly exhibited his head above water, staring at an unfamiliar object under water and in air. He seemed to want to look over the side of the deck. This happened in total silence, and each time was a surprise. We were passionate about taking pictures of other conspecifics, and suddenly found again and again that there, a few meters astern or under the board emerged from the water a huge knobby head of the animal with the chin, covered with barnacles and sea ducks, deep pink folds on the throat and attentive dark eye . All this could be viewed by a random curiosity, but then we have three more times during the season met with such an unusual behavior of the fish is in relation to us. Strange feeling - to be the object of someone else's research.
Last summer, we continued the study of food items humpback whales. To do this, we regularly sea plankton samples were taken, and then the students Gennady and Kyrill determined their species composition, studying samples under a binocular microscope.
In early August, a few days of the expedition was joined by project directors - Alexandr Burdin and Erich Hoyt. True, the weather these days do not complain, and managed only three times to go to sea to work with humpbacks.
Of interesting note events meeting in early July, a North Pacific right whale. These slow-moving giants were almost completely destroyed by whalers in the 20th century and is still on the verge of extinction. In the world of the total population is estimated at several hundred. Unusual whale we accidentally discovered near feeding humpbacks and managed to make a few pictures, and then the animal became active to get away from the boat, and soon got lost. Right whale encounters in the Far East in recent years are increasingly common, and it is the hope that their numbers slowly began to recover.
We continued study population Commander Baird's beaked whales. This season, we have repeatedly observed their group from the shore, and twice managed to approach them in the sea. Both meetings took place in the sea at the end of August. In one of these cases, we observed a large aggregation of three dozen Baird's beaked whales who showed social behavior. Of them have been whistles, squeaks and echolocation. Work continues on the Baird's beaked whales photocatalogue.
In Avachinsky Gilf work was held in one boat. The people were a lot: some "old" - Tatyana Ivkovich, Michail Nagaylik, Ekaterina Borisova, and "new" - Kharkiv students Arseny Petrik and Daniel Ostras, graduate from St. Petersburg Alexander Semenov and his compatriot Eugene Kuhtin volunteer. However, later we became even more.
We arrived to the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, made the traditional rituals, dances around yelling collection, analysis, procurement of all necessary and went to the camp at Zeleny Cape.
By establishing a life in the Zeleny and chatted aimlessly for several days at sea, met with our guests, visitors to observe marine mammals. Film about the project and to answer all questions, we wished each other good night and goodbye until the next morning. But the plans for the next day, we mean a joint trip to the south of the Bay Piratkov.
Getting up early in the morning and abandoning the boat minimum required items and products, we have set out. The path was very beautiful and interesting, but very difficult. In the second half of our trip we had a point guard is not only bad weather - the south wind and backward waves, but which grows abundantly in some places seaweed and norovyaschy entangled in a boat propeller. Finally, after 5 hours of driving, we reached the place. Bay appeared before us a heavenly quiet place, not a hint of remaining outside the raging ocean. If it were not for one "but." Bear.
Bear peacefully walked along the beach and did not pay attention to drive up to the bank of motorboats, and only a loud whistle Misha made it a little step to accelerate and hide in the bush grass.
However, in front of us waiting for exciting news - the tourists from a yacht in the bay just saw a few whales. We managed to catch only one male. But the first whale of the season and immediately transient! Rare success. And the tourists were very pleased.
Back on shore, we began to prepare for the night, not knowing that in a fun and easy to sleep we did not succeed. As darkness fell, interest clumsy and maybe even one, to our camp and the boat is clearly increased. Starting from a distance, one or two bears full swing reduces the distance between us, coming from one side or the other, getting closer and closer. With weak response to the whistle, thunder pots and lighted falshveery. Therefore, by midnight after spending all of our ammunition and nerves and not wanting to tempt fate, we retreated in haste to the yacht to tourists. So, by the way, we had a birthday of one of our members. An unforgettable holiday!
The next day it was decided to go back to green. Coming out of the bay and throwing just in case hydrophone, we heard the familiar cries. Soon the family Psaltery seemed in sight. After working for a little bit and go around them tourists, we hurried home.
In the course of the season work in full swing. Although the weather this summer have not been very lucky - were frequent fog and rising in the evening south wind, the remaining time was full of events. Shortly after our return, or rather escape from Piratkov with the second group of tourists come to visit us kayaker from Petersburgh Alexander Kuzmin, who brought not only the kayak and various goodies and homemade box for semi-submersible photography.
Problems this box was a lot ... But the result turned out to be at times a very valuable and interesting. At one of these images he captured orca hunt and fish in front of it! A different picture - with teenager dived in pursuit of salmon - became one of the winners in the competition, "Wild Russia".
In addition, our guests were not over. In late July, we were visited by the founders of our project - Alexander Burdin and Erich Hoyt. Along with them came Ivan Zatevakhin and crew, last year has been on the Commander, but in this year decided to capture it on us, too. Shot a quick little interview in the boat, we returned to our visitors deliver on "Chaika", drank tea and talked with someone who said goodbye and see you soon.
Circle of acquaintances continued to increase. Soon our camp kayakers added another from Moscow - Artem Trifonov. Here it was quite a sin not to take advantage of the presence of two kayaks and a ride in this and every subject - who the fish and who just for fun.
Throughout the summer, various vessels always drove to us, from small to large, with questions of who we are and from where. Often it's just curiosity was a plus - new friends informed us about orcas and other marine mammals encountered along the way.
Yes, and we ourselves regularly frequented the neighboring bay. In one of them - the Russkaya Bay - we bestowed entangled in shark nets, which we gladly taken home and with enthusiasm the prepared on shore. On such a shark feast gathered many willing besides us - except crows and foxes, the smell remains seduced a young bear, one morning suddenly appeared on our shore. Fortunately, there were no casualties on both sides, and clubfoot by our noisy and flashy action had to retire to his home.
Overall, the season was quite fruitful - in addition to sound recording and photography, we continued to collect the scales and skin remaining in the place where the killer whale caught fish; took 21 biopsies. One day, observed an interesting incident - dispersed orcas feeding and resting of several families at some point soon gathered at the group and moved south. Caught in the middle of aggregation, we went to the front of the group, and found that there were transients! By overall impression were clearly running away from residents pursuing them.
In addition to orcas we encountered humpback whales and Dall's porpoises. Porpoises cheerfully accompanied our boat, carefree frolicking in the waves in front of the bow.
The next summer, we hope to spend some time further south - in the area of the Utashud Island. Maybe this will bring us new and exciting discoveries.