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Weekly Report ~ April 3, 2023 – April 9, 2023

By-the-Wind-Sailors Along For the Ride!

This week’s sightings include Gray Whales, cow-calf pairs, Fin Whales, Bottlenose, and Common Dolphin, plus By-the-Wind-Sailors or Velella velella and a Blue Shark.

With the recent red tide, we saw hundreds of By-the-Wind-Sailors or Velella velella in our local waters.  This organism is actually a colony of many polyps that live on the underside, similar to the Portuguese man of war.  They float through the ocean using a translucent “sail” that sits upright on a flat, oval body to catch the wind.  This sail and platform are made of chiton.  On the underneath side are tentacles that hang down containing stinging cells.  Within two days, they were washing up on beaches all over Southern California.  Several days later, we saw what might be another bloom with many of these tiny creatures from just outside the Dana Point Harbor to several miles offshore.

Seeing our first northbound Gray whale cow-calf pairs, we are anticipating the arrival of many more as these are the last of the gray whales to leave the birthing lagoons as they begin the long journey returning to their feeding grounds.  Some whales traveling alone or in pairs have been spotted up to five miles offshore, while many others are very close to shore.  Fin whales are moving in and out of the area feeding.  The long-beak common dolphin have been in massive pods sometimes in feeding frenzies, and even several dolphin stampedes have been witnessed.   Various size pods of bottlenose dolphins, including those with many tiny calves, have been encountered, and we even saw a blue shark resting on the surface about 12 miles out.

Early one morning, under cloudy skies, as soon as we left the Dana Point Harbor, Captain Tommy turned north.  While we were traveling up the coast, hundreds of pelicans were passing the Dana Pride, also flying north.  Soon, we began to see an enormous feeding frenzy with long-beaked common dolphins, and hundreds of birds, mostly pelicans feeding together.  At one point, the massive bait ball tried to take refuge under the 95-foot Dana Pride.  Suddenly, we were in the midst of the frenzy, with birds swirling in the air above and alongside us.

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, and each year, more than a billion people celebrate to protect our planet.  This annual celebration raises awareness and encourages others to protect the Earth’s natural resources for generations to come.  Dana Wharf will be hosting two special Earth Day whale watch trips.  The first will be on Saturday, April 22, 2023, from 5p-7p with Vicki Patterson, the founder of Stand Up to Trash, an organization dedicated to keeping our beaches and oceans clean.  On Sunday, April 23, 2023, an Earth Day Inspired Ultimate 8-hour Whale Watch led by Captain Todd Mansur will be from 8a-4p. Captain Todd was born in Laguna Beach and, for more than 30 years, has had a career on the ocean and is a founding member of the Gray Whale Education and Preservation Foundation.

a bird flying over a body of water a man riding on the back of a boat in a body of water a whale swimming in a body of water a close up of a bird a whale jumping out of the water a dog in a body of water a whale jumping out of the water a hand holding a fish