Weekly Report ~ July 31, 2023 – August 6, 2023
With 5 Species of Whales ~ Blue, Fin, Humpback, Brydes, and minke, plus 3 Species of Dolphin ~ Risso’s, Bottlenose & Common, this week certainly exemplified why Dana Point is the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World! In just one day, we experienced what we like to call a “Whale Grand Slam Day” with Blue, Fin, Bryde’s and Minke Whales! This week we also saw both a Blue Whale cow/calf pair and a Bryde’s Whale cow/calf pair. During the summer months, these huge marine mammals travel north to cooler waters to feed, we and our passengers are always delighted to see new life.
A Blue Whale cow/calf pair is always exciting to encounter. There were times this adult Blue Whale was clearly feeding while the calf stayed at or near the surface waiting for “mom” to return from her dive. Feeding almost exclusively on krill, these massive Blue Whales can eat up to 12% of their body weight in a day. Eventually, the duo continued their journey north. More single Blue Whales were observed, often stopping to feed and rest. One Blue Whale was possibly “sleeping” or “napping” as we watched as this whale lingered on the surface for several minutes. Scientists believe all whales, dolphin and porpoise sleep by resting one half of their brain at a time and closing the opposite eye. With one half of the brain awake, this ensures sure the whale continues to breathe and can alert the whale to any potential danger.
We watched the same Fin Whale on every trip for an entire day. This fin whale was matched to one first recorded off the Dana Point area by Marine Ecology and Telemetry Research in June of 2022 as their field team was returning to the Dana Point Harbor from San Clemente Island. It was observed feeding close to the same area as last year’s sighting. With a dive time of 10-12 minutes, this Fin Whale never moved far from our initial sighting from 11am through our last encounter about 4pm. More Fin Whales were also spotted throughout the week in singles and pairs.
The sighting of a rare Bryde’s Whale cow/calf pair was confirmed by our drone footage showing the three prominent ridges in front of its blowhole or on the whale’s rostrum. These Bryde’s Whales were swimming side by side and other times the calf seemed to follow close behind. There were several more sightings of Bryde’s Whales on other days this week. Bryde’s whales are named for Johan Bryde, a Norwegian who built the first whaling stations in South Africa in the early 20th century and are typically found in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters which makes them rare visitors to the waters off our coast in the Southern California Bight.
So many dolphin calves were with all our encounters of Risso’s, Bottlenose and Common Dolphin, plus feeding frenzies and Common Dolphin Stampedes! We also saw multiple tuna feeding frenzies and even spotted a rare Nazca Bobby bird not far from the Dana Point Harbor!