Every week, Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching provides the Dana Point Times and San Clemente Times a report on the week’s whale and dolphin sightings from naturalist Laura Lopez, in addition to a weekly log.
Here is Lopez’s report for the past week:
We saw the same juvenile Humpback Whale feeding off our coast four days this week. All week we have seen enormous feeding frenzies several miles out and often north of the Dana Point Harbor. There have been literally thousands of animals feeding over wide areas, possibly miles in every direction including Long-beaked Common Dolphin, sea lions and various sea birds, mostly Black-vented Shearwaters and California Brown Pelicans.
The sheer volume of animals combined with the constant activity of these animals has been incredibly impressive. Often, there have been other smaller feeding groups in the area. Sometimes the Common Dolphin would start to stampede racing across the water looking as if they were racing each other as they porpoised across the surface with their tiny calves alongside!
Late one afternoon, we headed out over nine miles to find another, possibly the largest aggregation of animals in a gigantic feeding frenzy. This time there were three baleen whales joining in devouring anchovies including a Humpback Whale, a Fin Whale, and a Minke Whale. We first spotted the Humpback Whale, and even saw it lunge feeding as it moved across the mass of animals often surfacing and blowing close to the center of the most densely packed area. Next, a Minke Whale was spotted and after blowing a few times off our starboard, it surfaced just off our bow. On the port side of the boat was another blow, a Fin Whale who then moved into the feeding extravaganza. This was an extraordinary encounter!
The Dana Whale Pelagic Bird Trip led by David Pereksta was on a very calm cloudy day providing excellent sighting opportunities. After looking at various shore birds in the Dana Point Harbor, we headed north stopping briefly at San Juan Rock where we saw more California Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, various Gulls, and a harbor seal enjoying the morning sun. Heading northwest we began seeing schools of breaching Yellowfin Tuna with seabirds including Pink-footed, Sooty and Black-vented shearwaters! Early in the adventure we saw pods of long-beaked common dolphin and a Minke Whale popped up off our bow as it was feeding. We had many very cooperative birds land and stay on the water allowing us to slowly approach and great looks including a Pink-footed shearwater, a Sabine’s Gull, and both Nazca and Brown Booby Birds! The Nazca Booby landed multiple times and while in flight made several close passes.
As we moved between these feeding frenzies, we came across a Marlin as it slowly cruised along the surface passing the bow and starboard side of our vessel. We could see its elongated body and bill, as it was likely resting and digesting its food after feeding on the abundant fin bait. More groups of dolphin were seen including a pod of very active Short-beaked Common Dolphin with calves. While watching these feeding frenzies, at times the fish would try to escape using our boat as shelter. This would cause the hungry birds to follow in pursuit surrounding us. As these groups of both Yellowfin Tuna and sea birds would devour entire schools of fish, the water would become calm and we could see the remnants of their prey, blue and silver fish scales glistening in the water. It was very interesting to see the Yellowfin chasing the fin bait with birds following overhead waiting for these small fish fleeing the Tuna by flying out of the water only to be snatched up by the hovering birds.
These astounding encounters went on for hours as we moved from one area to another, we could see more birds in flight in the distance arriving to find more Yellowfin feeding below!
Here is the latest Whale Watching Log from Dana Wharf Whale Watching:
Sept. 24 – Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Minke Whale, Common Dolphin
Sept. 23 – 2 Minke Whale, Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin
Sept. 22 – 3 Humpback Whales, Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin
Sept. 21 – 3 Humpback Whale, Swordfish, Common Dolphin
Sept. 20 – 2 Humpback Whales, Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin
Sept. 19 – Common Dolphin
Sept. 18 – Common Dolphin
Sept. 17 – Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin, 1 Mola Mola
Sept. 16 – Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin
Sept. 15 – 1 Minke Whale, Risso’s Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin, 1 Mola Mola