Watch for tell-tale signs
The following signs can indicate that there are whales or dolphins in the area: flocks or rafts of feeding birds circling above a particular spot; breaking wave crests or waves appearing to move in the ‘wrong’ direction caused by animals as they travel through the water; big splashes; bursts of spray caused when the animals surface to breath (blow); circular areas of still water or oily slicks caused by the tail fluke when animals dive (footprint). Any discontinuity in the water is worth investigating.
Discontinuity in the water
Oily slicks, still water
Keeping watch on the animals
To help you remember where you sighted the animals if they dive keep a concentrated watch on the animals. Make a mental note of environmental reference points, such as tide lines, exposed rocks and areas of light and dark in the water. Man made reference points such as anchored boats and buoys can also be useful when keeping track of the animals. If there are no reference points present you can create your own using clock and horizon references.
Divide up your survey area in to the hours of the clock; reference in which ‘hour’ in your clock reference you sighted the animals.
Note down how much of the sky is above the horizon in your field of view when looking through the binoculars at the animals.
By using these two imaginary references together you can then identify where in the survey area the animals are. For example in the image below you can reference the star at 10 o’clock, ½ horizon.