Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Can a blue whale be upstaged?

6th March

More blue whales today, as amazing, beautiful and humbling as yesterday's. As we sailed back from our morning with these giants, news came that ahead, around a group of small fishing boats, was a pod of spinner dolphins. It doesn’t seem possible that anything in the sea could upstage a blue whale but this morning I think the dolphins pulled it off. Let me set the scene: half a dozen puny fishing boats in a cloud of terns – whiskered, gull-billed, little and bridled – and two pomarine skuas floating nearby, waiting no doubt for a foolish tern to pass with a fish in its bill. All around the boats, under the maelstrom of terns were spinners, dozens and dozens and dozens of them, right at the water’s surface. They kept in tight groups of twenty or thirty, rolling over the water with their long beaks, their inky-dark backs and their sharp dorsal fins. Occasionally a dolphin, often a youngster, would leap from the sea and spin or cartwheel dramatically. All the while our crew whistled to them as this, they believe, attracts the dolphins’ attention. For minutes on end we watched astounded and delighted until, when it was clear the spectacle wasn’t stopping soon, we thanked the dolphins and sailed for home.

This afternoon we visited Galle, a port town with an imposing fort occupied and modified by successive colonial powers. Over the eighteenth century Dutch church flew an Indian swiftlet, in company with a house swift. On the ramparts were house sparrows, the first I have seen in Sri Lanka.

It’s late and I’m shattered. Time to climb slowly down from the dolphin high (is that what they call endolphins?) and sleep.

Quoting Roger Payne:
Whales have an important lesson to teach us. Whales have a large and complex brain but show no signs of threatening their own destruction. They haven’t reproduced themselves into oblivion, they haven’t destroyed the resources upon which they depend, they haven’t generated giant holes in the ozone, or increased the earth's temperature so that we might end up with the greenhouse effect. The lesson whales teach us is that you can have a brain of great complexity that doesn't result in the death of the planet.

Diane Ackerman
The Moon by Whale Light

New Sri Lankan beauties from today


Gray’s spinner dolphin
Stenella longirotris longirostris


pomarine skua
Stercorarius pomarinus
little tern
Sterna albifrons
Indian swiftlet
Collocalia unicolor

2012 Totals
Mammals: 37
Birds: 366
Reptiles: 8
Amphibians: 3
Fish: 2

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