Capt. Art's Wildlife Blog

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 [...]

A terrific blog about recent pelagic birding tour

Many thanks to John Schwarz for his blog posting about the pelagic tour: He includes short video footage of the Baird’s beaked whales too.

September 4 (day 4) Pelagic Birding tour

Hello all,
Today we started in the Tanner/Cortez bank area. There was a tremendous amount of birds there starting at daylight. Black-vented shearwaters were everywhere which is significant because they generally are closer to shore. Todd, John and Dave all mentioned they haven’t seen this amount of black-vented shearwaters ever in all their trips. Maybe the warm water conditions have something to do with it. Several blackfooted albatross appeared this afternoon. We had common dolphins. Risso’s dolphin , blue whales and California sea lions in the marine mammal department. Great weather and a great day again.
Today’s picture is a group of four albatross in our chum slick at sunset.

Team Searcher

September 3 (day 3) Pelagic Birding Tour

Hello all,
We had another good day a long way offshore. We spent the day in really deep water– 2000 fathoms and deeper–off the shelf. We started on the Rodriguez Seamount and then went SSE to the San Juan Seamount late this afternoon. We were over 200 miles west of San Diego all day. There were lots of birds to look at at various times during the day and some whale sightings as well.
Pink-footed, sooty, black-vented and Bullers shearwaters, black-footed albatross, red-billed tropicbirds, jeagers, loads of storm petrels (ashy, Leachs, black). Arctic, elegant and common terns, western and Sabine’s gulls. There wasn’t too much time spent without birds today.
We saw Risso’s and common dolphin and a very large blue whale. It is interesting to think about seeing blue whales within 5 miles west of San Diego and then seeing them over 200 miles west of San Diego too! I think it means there is more and more blue whales in the Eastern Pacific. Great news!
Today’s picture is a Risso’s dolphin at the surface with more just under the surface in the foreground.
Team Searcher

Pelagic Birding Tour, day 2 (September 2)

Hello all,
Another great day with lots of birds. The highlights are south polar skua, pomarine and parasitic jeager, black-footed albatross. We had plenty of storm petrels and pink-footed shearwaters all day, lots of common dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and the highlight was a group of 20 Baird’s beaked whales. The weather cooperated with light winds all day and not much sea or swell. We are headed into San Miguel Island to have dinner and get some rest before heading west to the Rodriguez Seamount to start tomorrow.
Today’s photo is Dave Povey (chummed extraordinaire) in white hat and some fellow birders at the chum station.
Team Searcher

Pelagic Birding Tour: September 1

Hello all,
We had a fantastic day with a great start to our pelagic birding trip. We left San Diego harbor and within the first hour we started seeing black-vented shearwaters and we saw them through out the day. There were a few pink-footed shearwater as well.
Probably the highlight for the day was Craveri’s murrlets. We had some really good looks at these birds after the breeze subsided late in the day. Another high light was Sabines’ gull. We saw multiple storm petrels with the majority being blacks. We did see several Ashy’s and a few Least, a lifer for  a few people. We saw lots of Elegant and Common terns, Western gulls, and  a few California gulls.
We saw some marine mammals today with a good look at a bue whale, fin whale, and lots of short-beaked common dolphin. We also saw two northern elephant seals at the surface getting air. We had a very busy afternoon.
Team Searcher

Seabird report June 20

Hello all,
We have had a great day offshore northern Baja today. We are 100 miles south of San Diego. We have seen 20 black-footed albatross, black and Leach’s storm petrels, northern fulmars, pink-footed and sooty shearwaters and the highlight has been 6 Cook’s petrels. We also had a report from another boat 30 miles to the west of us. They were seeing multiple Cook’s petrels today.
Team Searcher

Just a few spots left…

Our September 1-5 US pelagic birding tour is filling up rapidly! Let us know if you’d like to reserve a spot soon and have your chance to see a Craveri’s murrelet!

(Photo by Larry Schott)

Documentary on modern-day whaling by high school students!

You’ll see some familiar Searcher faces in the interviews. We are really proud of our High Tech High neighborhood students and this accomplishment!

Sad to see 2014 Baja Whalewatching tours come to an end…

…but already excited for  2015 tours!


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