Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday - Gray Whale Count

As I left Ventura yesterday, I was still a tad concern about the weather. It was overcast and lightly raining when I left and still so driving through Carpenteria before I saw white clouds, blue sky and some sun peaking out in Santa Barbara.

It was semi sunny, cloudy, and overcast at Coal Oil Point in Goleta, but high hopes that it was only going to get better, and it did. :)

There were 3 Sea Otters just east (south) of the point in the kelp off of Isla Vista. Mostly relaxing and enjoying the warm sunshine. As the day went on, one bathed itself and then went on a sea urchin feeding with an obnoxious bird hanging around.

The first Gray Whale sighting via blow was made by the researcher himself; Michael Smith just west of us and just on the other side of the kelp which is fairly close to shore. However, that was the only time he saw the whale.

About 40 minutes later, the other volunteer saw 3 Gray Whale blows in the distance just east of us. Michael and I both saw some blows and an arched back as it took its deep dive and that was that. Quite bizarre and frustrating, but we are assuming they were feeding which makes it very difficult to track.

That pretty much covered my 2-hour shift... Look forward to next Monday to see what it will bring as we are getting into the northern migration season, and its very unusual and early, but Humpbacks have already been appearing in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Have a great week! :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

1 Gray Whale, 8-10 Bottlenose Dolphins & 1 Giraffe......

I think all this rain we had and being coupe up inside made it very difficult to stay inside this week.....

So today I had a choice of either working at home or going out to Point Dume to see what I can see... Well, it was windy here in Ventura, so I was a little leery of heading out to Point Dume, but did anyway.. I am glad I did as it wasn't windy there. It was a gorgeous day on the coast. :)

I have only driven by there, but never been out of the car to walk on the trails to the point. That was my mission for today and in hopes of seeing some whales.

As I was heading out to the point around 10:40a.m., I thought I saw a splash in the water just east (south) of me, but I thought, no its nothing probably just one of those Pelicans diving... Well, I kept an eye on the area and sure enough, a blow. Small blow, but definitely a blow and a gray back with particles. A Gray Whale on its Northern Migration; 6,000 mile journey back up to Alaska. It was a juvenile gray traveling alone. It came straight towards land and then finally realized it needed to make a turn north (west). It came up a few times, very briefly and not showing much of himself/herself as it made its way over towards the point of Point Dume. I saw it come up one last time just out from the point before I lost track of it. It was definitely heading west (north) towards Oxnard, but was inconsistent with its breathing cycle, so was easy to loose track of.

The photo is not the best as that was the most it showed of itself when surfacing.

It was pretty quiet after that. There were some Pelicans, Sea Lions, Squirrels in the area being themselves. About 11:40a.m. as I was checking out the other trails, I saw a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins heading towards the point from the west (north) making their way down Zuma Beach. They are hard to count, but after watching them for 30-40 minutes, I counted about 8-10 with no small calves. They were foraging, a couple of jumps, traveling back and forth and in circles.

After them, the sun was getting really bright, and I needed to head back home anyway, so I decided to start the journey back to the car. As I was walking back, I happened to notice a Giraffe being led by a lady on the beach. They were walking towards the parking lot from the water across the sand. Earlier in between the whale and dolphin sightings, a young man told me that there was a Giraffe walking on the beach. I asked him if he was serious and he said yes, but still, I was a little unsure. Nevertheless, he was right... There was definitely a Giraffe on the beach. I only wished I would have seen it a few minutes earlier when it was closer to the water, but at least I captured it on the sand still. :)

Hope you all had a wonderful Thursday.

(click on image to see full size)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Orca Residents of WA: Good & Bad News

Good morning, everyone.....

I just heard that there are 2 new calves to J-pod & L-pod this year. They are labeled J44 and L112. According to Ken Balcomb at the Center of Whale Research, they need to have a few more sightings to figure out who the mother, sister, aunt, grandma are. If these calves survive their first year, this will be good news for the population of the pods. YEAH!

Now onto the bad news.... There was just an announcement that L57; Faith is missing. Ken Balcomb said, "We'll wait until our summer encounters before counting him out". I remember this last summer when I was up there on San Juan Island and was out with Jim Maya, he had a call come in with a possible sighting of Faith. He was excited that we were going to possibly have a chance to see Faith if we could catch up to the group. Lets all hope this is not the case and that Faith will show up this year when the Residents make their return to the islands for the season.

An update on the whale count... My shift was rained out last Monday, February 9th. This past Monday, February 16th, my daughter had a holiday, so she was out of school, but come to find out, they were rained out anyway. However, they have had 13 sightings of Northern Migration of Gray Whales so far this season. Great news as last year, the first sighting was not until February 17th.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Anacapa Island

A couple of days after Christmas while Kayla was spending some time at her grandparents, I took advantage of that by taking a day trip out to Anacapa Island. It was a beautiful morning leaving out of Oxnard harbor.

This is a view of Oxnard coastline.

On the way out to Anacapa Island, you have the opportunity of seeing some marine wildlife like the Common Dolphins.

Across the Santa Barbara Channel within the Channel Islands National Park sits Anacapa Island.
The island is located approximately 12 miles off the coast of Ventura, California. It is a small volcanic island made up of three small islets in which are all connected by reefs, and was discovered in 1542 by Cabrillo.

The west and middle portions of the island is closed off to the public except for Frenchy's Cove Beach. The west end is a nesting ground for brown Pelicans, which is protected.

The east end is open to the public and is one square mile in size. Waves have eroded the island, creating steep, towering cliffs, caves and Arch Rock; the forty-foot-high natural bridge.

After climbing 150 stairs to the top of the island, this is the view looking west including the only buildings on the island. To name a few of the buildings; rangers residence, water tank building, visitors center.

Hiking along the well, outlined trail, I came to Cathedral Cove. This is another viewpoint area towards the west.

Coreopsis (below) and iceplant (above) covers the island and blooms in the spring. However, when I was there late December, portions of the iceplant were already in bloom.

At the west end of the eastern part of Anacapa Island is a viewpoint called Inspiration Point. It's a beautiful view of the other islets that make up Anacapa Island. The far distance land in the photo below is Santa Cruz Island. Looks like its perpendicular to the west end of Anacapa.

From the western end of the eastern part of the island, this is the beautiful view below looking east which includes the buildings and Anacapa Lighthouse.

On the north side of the island is a viewpoint called Pinniped Point. Looking east from there is this scene with the California coastline in the far distance.

The United States Coast Guard built a light beacon in 1912 and a light station in 1932.
Anacapa Lighthouse was the last one built by the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Birds, Sea Lions and Harbor Seals have made Anacapa Island their home.

Beautiful kelp forests around the island make it an ideal location for diving, snorkeling and kayaking.

For more information on the island, please visit here.
To see more images from my trip to the island, please visit here.

Hope everyone is having a terrific weekend - staying dry and warm.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Whale Count - First Day...

Hello Everyone...

I have been busy with responsibilities of life..... I can't believe how fast time is flying by... It's crazy!

Today was my first day participating in the Gray Whales count at Coal Oil Point in Santa Barbara. What a fantastic first day we had. The weather was beautiful, calm waters made for perfect viewing, and a handful of nice people. During my two-hour shift, we spotted a Sea Otter among the kelp near shore, about 20 Bottlenose Dolphins, and a nice surprise about 2 miles out from our point, a small pod of Orcas; probably, Transient. They were traveling east just off of Santa Cruz Island. We could determine that a male was included in this pod due to its large dorsal fin. Other than that, the rest of the identification process was impossible from our viewpoint.

From our viewpoint, you can see the 4 islands that are part of the Channel Islands National Park; Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and San Miguel. Here is a photo off the internet that shows the 4 islands I just listed.

If I were to guess, we were located just below the "f" in If.

I also learned a few things today about Bottlenose Dolphins.... They are common to travel along the shoreline and the Common Dolphins are not. In my previous post, I stated just the opposite. From my experience viewing dolphins in the Santa Barbara Channel, this holds true.

Unfortunately, I am not able to take photos during this 2 hour shift, but I do plan to scope out the area and find a nice position to photograph some of the wildlife during off shift hours. From what I understand, the first few weeks are typically slow for whales to migrate through the area, but once they start migrating through, the numbers are endless. :) However, they did have their first juvenile northbound migration through the area this morning just after the first shift started. It is possible that this juvenile Gray Whale did not migrate all the way down to Baja and was just traveling in the route its mother showed him/her last year. From what I heard, it was traveling closer to shore than usual for just a single whale and that also shows it hasn't learned that its okay to travel further off shore like the other juveniles and adults without calves do.

I will be posting my days "Counting" here. It is a weekly shift, but some weeks I am unable to participate....

I am working on my Anacapa Island post, so it should be up by the end of this week, if not sooner. :)

Thank you all for visiting and commenting.

Hope you all are doing great. Have a wonderful week....