Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So much to report.... Whales, Dolphins, Birds, Photographer, and so much more....

Feel free to click on each image to see a larger version of it.....

Well, the Gray Whale season has come to an end, which means the Blues are on their way... Like the Humpbacks this year, the Blue Whales have already been sighted in the Santa Barbara Channel... The Blues bring another "strange" occurrence to the channel this year. The first sighting this year was on May 1st by a whale watching company. Last year it was June 1st, and the year before that was July 1st. Hmmmm.....

The Humpbacks were amazing here in the eastern end of the Santa Barbara Channel. Lots of activity; bubble netting, lunging, breaching, peck fin slapping, tail fluke dancing, dolphins over, under, all around them, birds after their food....... One day the winds were up and these two Humpbacks were very active breaching everywhere. I got a couple of breaches on film back lit by the sun. You never know when they are going to breach and where, so you have to be ready at all times. A lot of the “good lighting” breaches I missed. It was almost time to leave and after a deep dive, the one Humpback surfaced and did a “tail dance”. I was focused on the slow, turning tail as it fluked when just 30 feet away from the tail dance, the second one decided to do a single breach and all I got of it was the large splash after it hit the water and of course, it was under beautiful lighting conditions. That was the last of the breaches for the day as it was time to return to the harbor. Other days there were blows all around us... It was amazing to see so many whales out in the channel at once with the question arising: which whale do we check out first??? Then of course, we had days that we didn't see a single whale, a single dolphin nor Ca Seal Lion.

Tail Dance

Bubble Net Feeding

A few times, the Humpbacks would do a surprise visit close to the boat. I know a couple of times it was so overwhelming, unbelievable that it was hard to snap a photo, even when they were in action in the distance. Such amazing animals, that it was just so enjoyable to watch and not through a viewfinder.

On another day when we were heading towards a couple of Humpbacks, off in the distance, in front of Anacapa starting on the east end near Arch Rock a breaching whale appeared out of the water. The Gray Whale breached about 7 times all the way across Anacapa Island. The photos are not the greatest due to being so far away, but here is the series of what I was able to photograph. This was the first time I have ever seen “action” from a Gray Whale. Usually it was always just slow moving, barely appeared out of the water and a tail fluke here and there of a Gray.

click to enlarge:

Due to the fire (traveling from Ventura to Santa Barbara), and other responsibilities, I wasn't able to attend the Gray Whale Count for a few weeks, which led up to the last day; yesterday. My interpretation of reports from the count, there was a lower number than usual of Gray Whale Calves this year. The reason is unknown, but will probably be assessed. The days I did attend, the count was zero during my shift... Quite frustrating for me, but still enjoyed the Otters, Dolphins, Pelicans and just the beautiful coastal scenery of the area. I missed not attending the last few weeks.

Sea Otter just outside of Ventura Harbor

Unfortunately, this year, I didn't get to see any Gray Whale calves, which means no photos of them for my project. So, now the question arises, do I finish my project without the calves or do I wait another year to see what 2010 bring me??? I don't necessarily need a calf photo to complete my project, but they are a big part of the Santa Barbara Channel, so I think it's important to have one.. I guess I just answered my own question. :) However, on one occasion out in the channel, we saw 3 Gray Whales mating; an unusual occurrence during their migration, but I had the opportunity to photograph one of the Gray Whales eyes when it surfaced to check out the surrounding area, maybe to just check us out. It is not the sharpest photo unfortunately, but good enough to still share. :)

So many different types of Dolphins in our channel as well, but so far I have only encountered 3, but hope with months still left this year, I will have encountered several more. Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins both offshore and near shore, and the beautiful Pacific White Sided Dolphins, I have photographed this year. Risso's and Dall's Porpoises have been sighted in the channel several times already this year, but not in my view site.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Pacific White Sided Dolphins

I was out one day viewing some Common Dolphins milling around a feeding Humpback when suddenly the dolphins took off north in a sprint. Sprint doesn't even begin to describe what I saw, but that is the closest I could come to in describing it. It was fascinating and unbelievable. They just took off porpoising out of the water at a fast speed. Lots of splashing, chaos going on. The captain thought the dolphins might of received a "call" from another group of dolphins letting them know they found food.

A rare sighting occured on another day; a Fin Whale out in the Santa Barbara Channel heading northwest. We got a couple of good close looks at it when it came quite close to the boat, but like the Humpback whales, they are very unpredicatable on where and when they will appear. Being so big and having longer down times, they can come up ANYWHERE.

I have finally learned some more about Sea Lions & Seals since we have them here in the Santa Barbara Channel. I knew there were different types of Seals, but didn't realize that Sea Lions were not seals and I have had a hard time distinguishing which were Sea Lions and which were Seals. Now I can. :) YEA!

Harbor Seals

California Sea Lions

2009 has brought a new interest to me in my photography..... Birds... I wouldn't necessarily say all birds, but definitely marine birds.. Cormorants, Pelicans, Sandpipers, and still learning names of others that I have crossed paths with in the last few months. They are not easy to identify even using a bird guide book. Therefore, if any of you see a photo that I have identified wrong or has not yet been identified, and you know the name of it, please let me know. Thank you... :)

Pelicans, Cormorants, Gulls



Feeding Frenzee:

Pelican taking off:

Here is a photo of Anacapa Island (Ranger Station, Water House, Visitors Center), Santa Cruz Island of Prisoners Harbor, and a look at a part of Ventura, California.

Before I end this post, I want to share with you of an opportunity I had in the midst of all this... I had the fine pleasure of meeting Tim Hauf who is a real down to earth nice gentleman. He is a wonderful photographer and has many beautiful books out on the market. You can see some of his photos and a list of his books.

Go here for a list and links to the galleries I added photos too yesterday on my website.

So until next time.... Take care ...

My finest regards,