Capt. Art's Wildlife Blog

Tour #1 Offshore Bahia Magdalena

Hello whalewatchers: We woke up with nice conditions and it didn’t take too long for us to come across some common dolphin and a pair of humpback whales. We saw a total of 16 humpbacks today with a couple of breaches. We saw a few green sea turtles, a red-billed tropic bird, a large group of sea lions. So we stayed busy until lunch and then we had a slow period.
We ended the day with a very large group of common dolphin, at least 1000 dolphin in the group. Everyone had a great time viewing the dolphins and the photographers filled their cards with images. Looking forward to more humpback whale activity tomorrow.
Team Searcher

Tour #1 Laguna San Ignacio, day 2

Hello whalewatchers: We have had a wonderful morning today with great conditions. Light winds always makes for good whalewatching. We had two trips this morning and everyone had a good time. We had a cow and calf visit us at the Searcher for a short while. The calf was very young. Looking forward to this afternoon. It’s a chance for some folks to go ashore including Capt Art.
Team Searcher

Tour #1 Laguna San Ignacio, day 1

Hello whalewatchers: It is so great to be back in Laguna San Ignacio! I always lament leaving here on the last trip every year, and then each year I get excited with the anticipation of returning. The place is like we never left–there are plenty of whales and it still looks as pristine as when we left.
The conditions are great today with good weather, light winds and partly cloudy skies, so it isn’t too hot. The latest census reported 140 total whales here which seems like a lot for this time of year. Today’s photo is of one of the pangas departing for a trip after lunch. Note the weather.

Tour #1: Islas San Benito

Hello whalewatchers; We had a lovely day at Islas San Benito today. The day started with some clouds and a little rain, and then the skies cleared and there was plenty of sunshine. The island looks like it has gotten some recent rain, as it is green in spotsĀ  and a few flowers already in bloom.
There are lots of elephant seals on the beaches with males fighting andĀ  females with pups. Unfortunately there is some mortality with the pups and as usual they all end up on the same beach. No sign of Guadalupe fur seals in the usual places. There are ospreys on the nest as usual. However, there is some changes with the habitat around the island. There is a shortage of kelp after the warm water last summer and fall. That might be part of the reason the fur seals haven’t arrived yet. The beach at the landing is different as well with less gravel.
Everyone seemed to have an awesome day. We are headed south to Laguna San Ignacio in calm seas. Looking forward to arriving in the morning.
Team Searcher

What a day!

Hello whalewatchers! After a great morning with good weather and plenty of southbound gray whales, we had a nice lunch and the possibility of a little siesta. But then Capt Aaron and the boys located a group of orcas–seven whales total: one male, four females and two calves. They were feeding on something we didn’t get to ID but it sure smelled fishy in the area, with lots of bird life as well. We spent an hour and a half with them and everyone had a good chance at a photo or 200 with great lighting and close up as well.
Team Searcher

Tour #1 2015: Ensenada and Islas Todos Santos

Dear whalewatchers: Yes, we are off and running (south) to Baja! Today is the first day of our season and guests are enjoying gray whales, common dolphin, a green island with nesting seabirds and elephant seals. The weather is beautiful too. Stay tuned for photos and reports from the boat in this space!

Neighborhood Book/Gift Shop has Baja resources!

Passengers preparing for our Baja tours may wish to spend some time at Seabreeze Books and Charts. It’s a short walk from the landing and full of materials for your tour! Open the link for a few suggestions: Resources from Seabreeze

First census of 2015 at Laguna San Ignacio

On 13 January, 114 gray whales were counted: 34 calves and 80 adults. Big numbers!

Whale’s blow

Whales breathe air and when their warmed lung air hits the cooler air above the ocean, a fine mist/vapor is created. So their “blow” or “spout” is not water, though some droplets may be present on the top of the closed blowhole and get sprayed as well. Here’s a great photo by Carla Mitroff, an Orange County whalewatcher and nature photographer, showing the characteristic “heart-shaped” blow of a gray whale as seen on a calm day and viewed from behind the whale.

January 7 census report

Good southern California weather recently makes it possible to even watch our coastal migrating gray whales from the beach or high cliffs. We are ready to meet up with them in Laguna San Ignacio!

GRAY WHALE CENSUS UPDATE, Pt. Vicente: 7 January 2015. Our biggest day this season: 44 southbound, including a cow/calf pair! A pod of TEN GRAY WHALES came within a half mile of shore, followed by a pod of TWELVE whales that showed up while we were watching the ten whales, and came in even closer to shore! The second sighting moved slowly, taking almost two hours to pass by us. We heard blows on both sightings, and saw a bubble blast during one sighting and rolling in the other. Our cow/calf pair came by early in the morning, and passed fairly close to shore. COMMON DOLPHIN swam all around one whale. A pod of five whales were pretty close together when we first found them; then they started to split apart, making us constantly struggle to verify that we did not double-count our whales. One pod of whales produced two BREACHES – five miles away from us. Whales in sixteen of eighteen sightings fluked. A few were frequent flukers; one whale was missing part of its left fluke. At least three HUMPBACK WHALES milled in our viewing area. We also spotted COMMON DOLPHIN, BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN, and PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN. -Alisa
Southbound grays —–44
Northbound grays——- 0
Total grays ————- 44
Cow/calves South——–1
Total grays (since 1 Dec): *587 southbound, 2 northbound

Happy New (Gray Whale) Year!

Our colleagues in Laguna San Ignacio report seeing 18-20 adult gray whales in the last few days. In addition, they’ve seen about 4-5 of those whales with a calf! There has also been some early friendly behavior as well. We can’t wait to bring our lucky passengers down south!

NEW book about gray whales!

And signed copies will be for sale aboard Searcher….E. robustus: The Biology and Human History of Gray Whales by Searcher friend and colleague, Dr James Sumich.

December 23 census update

GRAY WHALE CENSUS UPDATE, Pt. Vicente: 23 Dec.2014: TWENTY GRAYS!, including another calf! Our GRAY WHALE COW/CALF PAIR came into the kelp down below us, so we got great looks at them. The mom fluked a few times. Our whales came in pulses again: twice we were juggling three sightings, and once when we were tracking two sightings. We found one GRAY WHALE sighting when one whale BREACHED. A pod of four whales milled and rolled right down in front of us late in the day; the setting sun turned their white blows pink. It took a while to confirm that there were actually four GRAY WHALES in this group. We also spotted COMMON DOLPHIN, BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN, and PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN. -Alisa
Southbound grays — 20
Northbound grays—— 0
Total grays ———– 20
Cow/calves South —- 1 (4 newborns already!)
Total grays (since 1 Dec): 188* (record number of grays for this point in 31 seasons)

December is looking quite gray!

Here’s the daily report from the LA-based census for migrating gray whales:

As of 15 DEC 2014

Southbound Today ————— 14
Northbound Today —————- 0
Total Whales Today ————- 14
Southbound Calves Today ——— 0
Northbound Calves Today ——— 0

Season to Date (since 1 Dec 2014)
Southbound ——————— 89
Northbound ———————- 0
Total ————————– 89
Calves South ——————– 0
Calves North ——————– 0

Message from the observers: FOURTEEN GRAY WHALES! All GRAYS were singles, except for one trio. All came within a mile of shore; eight sightings came within a half mile of shore. We were tracking up to four sightings at one time. Nine GRAY WHALES came along the coast and were spotted just above the kelp line, near Rocky Point. The trio came in from offshore, then milled for a short time by the R10 buoy before coming down to “Whale Rock”. Gray whales fluked on all but one sighting. We tracked two FIN WHALES that came within a mile of shore, and we

First gray whale arrives to Laguna San Ignacio

We received the report we always love to hear–the first gray whale arrived on December 7!

December 8 gray whale census update

GRAY WHALE CENSUS UPDATE, Pt. Vicente: 8 Dec. 2014. SIX MORE GRAY WHALES: all large adults! First came a trio of frequently fluking GRAY WHALES. One split from the group, and another whale turned around and back-tracked to it; then they all rejoined and came so close to shore that we could hear their blows. One of them lifted its head high on one surfacing. The next two GRAY WHALES came by about fifteen minutes apart; one passed about a mile offshore, and the other came within a half mile offshore. Whales in three of our four GRAY WHALE sightings fluked up. We tracked a pair of FIN WHALES that passed us about four miles offshore, until they disappeared into our sun line.We also spotted COMMON DOLPHIN and BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN. Our day ended with a series of three great green flashes, with the last one turning blue as the sun set behind Santa Barbara Island. -Alisa
Southbound grays – 6
Northbound grays — 0
Total grays ———– 6

Sad news about southern resident orca population

As reported by ACS-LA: “Very sad news. The deceased orca in Georgia Strait found earlier today is 18-year old J32, Rhapsody, according to photos sent by Canada’s Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans and identified by Ken Balcomb at the Center for Whale Research. J32 was thought by many to be in the late stages of pregnancy last summer. A necropsy Saturday will reveal if she was indeed pregnant and hopefully the cause of death. A recent generous grant by the Milgard Foundation will allow Ken Balcomb to attend and assist in the necropsy.
J32′s mother was J20, who died in 1998 when Rhapsody was only 2 years old. She was raised by her aunt, J22 Oreo. She is survived by J22 and her cousins J34 Doublestuf and J38 Cookie, leaving only three survivors of the former J10 matriline, and only 77 members of the Southern Resident Community.
We cannot express how tragic this loss is for this struggling, precariously small, family of resident orcas of the Salish Sea.”

Southbound gray whales appearing for LA census

The census watch began on December 1 and volunteers are staffing the LA-based station. Below is their report for December 3! (Census Director Alisa Schulman-Janiger. )

GRAY WHALE CENSUS UPDATE, Pt. Vicente.3 Dec 2014. SIX grays: a big count for early in our season, despite intermittent rain throughout the day that made spotting and tracking cetaceans a bit difficult. Right after we spotted our first gray whale at 6:40 am, we found a pair of grays just outside of our shoreline kelp bed; they both fluked, and left our viewing field within ten minutes. The next pair of gray whales was a little further off shore; both fluked.Our sixth gray whale passed us three miles offshore; we did not find it until it was almost to Whale Rock (past transect). We also spotted bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, and Pacific white-sided dolphin.
Southbound grays – 6
Northbound grays — 0
Total grays ———— 6

Pelagic Birding Trip Sightings List – September 2014

1-Sep 2-Sep 3-Sep 4-Sep Species Name Cinnamon Teal – Anas cyanoptera – 2 – – Black-footed Albatross – Phoebastria nigripes – 5 1 17 Northern Fulmar – Fulmarus glacialis 1 – 1 1 Pink-footed Shearwater – Puffinus creatopus 6 160 55 105 Buller’s Shearwater – Puffinus bulleri – – 8 – Sooty Shearwater – Puffinus [...]

Hurricane Odile hits Baja California Sur on September 15

Most people heard the news about Hurricane Odile hitting Baja California with unprecedented winds and rainfall, causing widespread damage and power/internet outages. Cabo San Lucas was directly in the hurricane’s path and sustained incredible damage, including the airport which had to be closed. There is some good news on the recovery and rebuilding process, summarized [...]