Humpback whales returning to Hawaii for the winter season

by B. N. Sullivan

We're at the start of Humpback whale season here in Hawaii. Every autumn, large numbers of Humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the north Pacific to the waters around the Hawaiian Islands, where they then spend the winter. Those of us who live in Hawaii tend to feel a bit possessive about the north Pacific stock of Humpbacks, because they are born and bred in our waters.  Over the course of their winter stay in Hawaii, the big cetaceans mate, and the females who became pregnant the year before give birth to their calves.  In spring they all migrate north again

Although we haven't yet seen this year's Humpbacks here on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, the first whales of the season were spotted recently near Maui. That means we can expect to see them here on our coast any minute!

Earlier this month some lucky folks on an Oceanic Society whale watching boat near the Farallon Islands, 25 miles west of San Francisco, had an amazing encounter with some Humpbacks. Four friendly whales "approached the boat and for over an hour circled the boat, nearly brushing up against it, and seemed to make contact with the 45 passengers on board."

Here is the Oceanic Society's video of that exciting encounter:

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Honaunau Bay, Hawaii

by B. N. Sullivan

Here is a large image of a Hawaiian Green sea turtle (Chelonia midas) -- posted back-to-back with our previous post of a Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), so that our readers can compare the features of the two species. Like the Hawksbill in the previous photo, this Hawaiian Green also was photographed at Honaunau Bay on the southeastern coast of Hawaii's Big Island, however the photos were taken on different days.

A Hawksbill at Honaunau

WHAT: Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) - Hawaiian name: Honu'ea

WHERE: I photographed this turtle at Honaunau Bay, on the southeastern coast of Hawaii's Big Island.

Hawksbille Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

We see this species of sea turtle infrequently in Hawaii, so it's always nice to cross paths with one. Hawksbills have been known to nest on the eastern coast of the Big Island, but they are not plentiful. Seeing one on the western coast of the island always is an event worth noting.

Unlike the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, which are primarily vegetarians, Hawksbill turtles eat sponges and small invertebrates in addition to algae.  We  have not observed Hawksbill feeding behavior in Hawaii, but elsewhere we have seen them munching soft corals and sponges.  We once spent most of a dive watching as a Hawksbill turtle methodically devoured a tube sponge, gnawing it and pulling away hunks until there was nothing left of the sponge but a stub!

For more information about this endangered species, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hawksbill Sea Turtle Fact Sheet.

Allya, a captive Beluga whale that blows bubble-rings

Meet Allya, a Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) who lives at an aquarium in western Japan. Like the dolphins at Orlando's Sea World, Allya has learned to blow bubble rings.

The YouTube blurb for this video notes:
Allya clearly loves interacting with her audience. She aims the bubbles at spectators as they peer in through the glass.
To learn more about this species, visit the Beluga Whale Fact Sheet on Web site of the American Cetacean Society.

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.

Thanks to the folks at for this video.

Gray Angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus)

What: Gray Angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus), a common angelfish species in the Caribbean Sea.
This adult specimen was approximately 40 cm (16 in) long, from nose to tail.

Where: I photographed this Gray Angelfish at Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Helping kids learn about the ocean

by B. N. Sullivan

We began publishing our photos and stories on The Right Blue back in mid-2007 primarily as a means to share them with our family and friends. Since then, we have acquired a much larger audience than we ever imagined. These days, our regular readers are divers, marine scientists, and ocean buffs of all stripes -- including children.

From time to time we hear from kids -- or their parents.  They thank us for an article about something they were studying, or ask if we know where to find more information about a certain creature .  Sometimes they want to know if they can use one of our photos for a report or a school project.  We're always glad to help if we can, because we believe it's important to share with children our  fascination for all things ocean.  We like to foster young people's  interest in the sea and understanding of marine ecosystems.

Earlier this week our fellow ocean bloggers over at Deep Sea News came up with a great idea. They proposed that we, along with a number of other ocean and nature bloggers, join together to sponsor ocean and waterway science education in K-12 classrooms. We're doing this by publicizing and promoting Donors Choose, a charity that allows individuals to directly fund educational projects proposed by K-12 teachers themselves.

The teacher-chosen projects we are sponsoring are all worthy. Teachers at  participating schools in seven states around the U.S. are asking for things like materials for classroom projects; a salt water aquarium; gear to help them collect field samples; subscriptions to a student science magazine; and transportation for a field trip to learn about what sailors and explorers did 'back in history'.

We are joining the guys at Deep Sea News, Southern Fried Science, Blogfish, Oyster’s Garter, Echinoblog, Cephalopodcast, Drop In, The New Blue, Natural Patriot, and Malaria, Bedbugs, Sealice, and Sunsets in asking our readers to help fund these educational projects for young people by making a donation. The requests from the individual teachers are modest, so even a $10 donation will be helpful -- but of course more generous donations also are very welcome!

Follow this link to Donors Choose to have a look at the individual projects. You can specify which project you'd like to help fund, or you can make a general donation via the "Give to the most urgent project" button near the top of the list.

One more thing:  If you have a blog or a website and would like to join our group in supporting and  promoting these projects, let us know.  We'd love to have you on board.

Threadfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga)

What: Close-up photo of a Threadfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga), an Indo-Pacific species

Where: This fish was photographed at Honaunau Bay, on the west coast of Hawaii's Big Island.

Click on the photo to enlarge so you can see the details.