Weekly Report ~ March 13 – 19, 2023
Record-Breaking Day Set as Gray Whale Migration Peaks
On Saturday, March 18, our sightings included 29 Gray Whales, 6 Fin Whales, 1 Bryde’s Whale, Pacific white-side Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, and Common Dolphin
On our first trip of the day ~ the Epic 4-hour Whale Watch on the New San Mateo ~ our newest vessel saw six fin whales, three gray whales, and a mega pod of long-beaked common dolphins, including a dolphin stampede heading south off San Onofre! These fin whales were feeding, and we could see the anchovies they were feasting on all around us in the clear water. One group of three fin whales was “sharking” and rolling, displaying pectoral fins and the underside of their beautiful flukes. Another surfaced just feet off our port side. We could see the glow in the water as one fin whale crossed the bow of the New San Mateo on its back, displaying the lighter counter shading on its ventral side.
Gray whales continued to be seen throughout the week as we began to enter the peak season of the northbound migration. Groups of two, three, and four gray whales heading north have been seen ~ spy hopping, breaching, and even possibly courting! Many of these gray whales pass less than a mile or two in front of the Dana Point Harbor, while others are very curious and approach our boats.
Mega pods of long-beaked common dolphins have been feeding on massive amounts of anchovy often visible in the water. Plus, several dolphin stampedes with one mega pod of long-beaked common dolphins were charging right at Ocean Adventures just north of the San Clemente Pier. We watched these dolphin stampedes, which included so many tiny calves ~ sometimes slightly changing direction toward the coast and then back offshore as they passed in front of the harbor and headlands under gray skies. Multiple feeding frenzies of gulls, terns, pelicans, cormorants and these common dolphins have been observed. One pod of about 20-30 very relaxed Risso’s dolphins feeding about 5 miles out would take several breaths before diving for 3-4 minutes and resurfacing. Multiple smaller pods of offshore bottlenose dolphins continue to be seen almost daily, along with several pods of 6-10 Pacific white-sided dolphins close to shore. A school of 20 tiny baby Molas molas, only about 6 to 8 in diameter, were sighted, with some on their sides and others showing their dorsal fins flipping on the water’s surface.