The year began strong and ended with a relative whimper. Gray Whale season is off to a slow start and my fall sightings were tough to come by.
I'm not going to use this platform to sugar coat things. I am ready for 2020 to begin and not a moment too soon. A special project of mine is set to begin this spring and I look forward to sharing it with you soon.
Species seen in December: Gray Whales, Minke Whales, Common Dolphin, Pacific White Sided Dolphin, Risso's Dolphin, and Bottlenose Dolphin (Including PATCHES!).
We're off to a very slow start to Gray Whale season here in Southern California this year. Not much to report out at sea. On top of that the weather has cut into the trips I've been able to make it out. But I do have some exciting plans for 2020 I hope to be sharing, including a couple of projects I have been slowly developing over the last two months.
One thing worth noting is that for the second or third consecutive year the Gray Whales seem to be starting late again compared to year's past. It is too much of a coincidence that this happens at the same time their population appears to be decreasing and the bering Sea is not freezing over as it has in the past. I am hopeful these resilient animals continue to survive the ongoing effects of climate change.
Cetacean Species Documented in October: Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin, Pacific White Sided Dolphin, and Risso's Dolphin eating squid!
There's been a nice run of Humpback Whales here in Orange County this November, and it has allowed me to make a nice handful of contributions to Happywhale.com and the extensive catalog there. If you haven't yet looked at this website I strongly recommend it. The data being collected by this website is a major effort towards understanding the movements of Humpback Whales from year to year and makes sorting through the mountains of data far easier.
I also saw my first Gray Whale of the season on October 30th! Early, but not alarmingly early, the slow trickle has begun but I don't expect consistent sightings for the 2019/2020 migration until mid to late December.
It has been a very long year, and though I've not found much time to travel in the second half of 2019 I still endeavor to make this year as productive as possible on the water. The 2020 Calendars are more than halfway gone and I expect to be out before January 1st! If you haven't gotten yours yet email me at email@example.com for more information. Price is $20 per calendar, $5 for shipping and free shipping on three or more calendars anywhere in the United States.
In the meantime I just want to revisit one phrase that has been very important to me since early in my career and grows in in importance with each passing year. The phrase in the original Hawaiian is "Hanau ka palaoa noho I kai" and it comes from the Kumulipo Chant, which is the Hawaiian tale of creation. The phrase translates to "Born is the whale, living in the ocean."
The page is part of the site of the late Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., a website I discovered when researching Humpback Whales as part of Hawaiian lore. I came across this story years ago and it still freezes me in place when I read it. I think about these things when I ponder why it is human beings seem to have this deep connection with the dolphins and whales that are simultaneously so much like us, yet so amazingly different. As my career moved on I learned that more cultures had similar deep connections and experiences I have had on both sides of the Pacific Ocean have had greater meaning as a result.
Hopefully in 30 days when I'm ready to write the next monthly installment I'll have more to report.
*Credit and gratitude to www.moolelo.com for sharing this page and the story contained within.
Cetacean Species Documented in October:Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Risso's Dolphin, and the first Gray Whales and Pacific White Sided Dolphin of the 2019/2020 Winter Season!
Trips weren't frequent for me this month, and it was definitely a far more lackluster month than this time last year. However there were two absolutely epic encounters that would stand out in any year. Another productive trip with my friends in Moss Landing allowed me to briefly document a Great White Shark along with Southern Sea Otters and some of the best lunge feeding I've ever documented up that way. I was also very fortunate to be part of an encounter with a pair of Bryde's Whales that leapt in a spectacular series of breaches. To my knowledge it was the first documentation of breaching adult Bryde's Whales in California.
Hopefully the rest of the fall is more eventful, especially with the 2020 Dale Frink Calendar going to print as we speak! I'll tell you more about it in the next post. If you are interested in a calendar this year I am doing a preorder special. All preorder calendars are 10% off (normal price $20) and shipping for three or more is free (normal S&H $5). Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with PREORDER2020 in the subject line to secure yours. It's a limited run this year due to some time off I am taking this winter so get yours while they are available.
Cetacean Species Documented in September: An extremely rare Sei Whale, Humpback Whales, Bryde's Whales (including breaching), Minke Whales along with Bottlenose Dolphin and Common Dolphin. A short trip to Monterey produced Humpback Whale sightings along with Harbor Porpoise.
It's been a long and difficult year with high highs and low lows, certainly not the worst year any of us have had but I am eager to move out of the busier season and get on the road again. There will be a cetacean related trip or too but my newfound desire to see more of America's National Parks will also play a role in my travels. I'll tell you more about it when it happens, there will probably be some whale watching also. Safest bet there is!
Species Documented in August: Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, and Risso's Dolphin!
One of the things that makes Southern California such a strange place to whale watch is the fact that we reconcile some of the world's largest and most prominent megafauna with congested freeways, thick population density, and the uniqueness of American culture. Case in point, I was recently documenting this blue whale and during the editing process I noticed the very clear sign of Bloomingdale's department store from the local shopping mall visible in the background.
Where else are you going to see this?
My first reaction was humorous, my second was visceral. What are we doing trying to enjoy nature in a place like this? What appreciation was possible in a place where the smartphone is as ubiquitous as the sunshine and sand at the beach?
Thankfully rationality kicked in. The battle to protect nature needs to be fought on all fronts, if people aren't listening to the message then the presentation needs work. Do I defend nature passively or do I fight on behalf of it? A lot of questions that definitely need answering.
Also, let's see if I can start a new feature of this blog and just do a quick list of animals recently documented? If this doesn't stick feel free to call me out on it.
July Documented Species:Blue Whales (including Kinko), a single Humpback Whale (Felix), cow/calf Bryde's Whales, Minke Whales, a lone northbound Gray Whale, Bottlenose Dolphin (including Patches), Common Dolphins, and Orca (ETP)
It's been a month since I have written on here, and I've kept this blog relatively informal but also have kept the topics strictly to what I've been documenting here at home and on my trips abroad. Over thousands of miles in the past two years though no journey has been longer and more difficult than the one I have been dealing with lately.
I get told every day, "oh you have the BEST job" and "you must LOVE your job". I honestly can't argue with that, but that doesn't mean there aren't hard days, even downright bad ones that nobody would envy. Working on a boat with the general public involves a colossal set of challenges most people are not prepared for. It's also important to remember that this job is still a job. It is a career I love but I endeavor to have a life of my own as well entirely undefined by my animal encounters and documentation.
The past 30 days or so have not been easy on me, and recent events have led me to eschew putting too many thoughts out there and to avoid spending time on vanity projects because I honestly needed to focus on the bigger picture of where I am going. I also needed desperately to keep life as simple as possible.
I recently put a plan together for my biggest adventure yet and I look forward to sharing more about it with you in the days to come, but for now all I can say is that I am back.
I need to take some time off for personal reasons from my social media and website updating. Contact email@example.com with any inquiries regarding the photography on this website. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will be silent until August 1st.
Blue and Fin Whales have persisted and we have now reached the month of June. I look forward to sharing more updates as we document the continued presence of the world's largest animals along our Southern California coastline.
I also have been given the honor of speaking at the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles meeting for the month of June. Head on up to the Cabrillo Aquarium on June 25th at 7:30pm if you are interested in attending. I'll be talking about how ACS has helped foster my interest in cetaceans into a successful career in whale watching along with the opportunities I have been given to contribute to science. Hope to see you there!
I've been getting some really interesting stuff on the Blue and Fin Whales lately and I know there's a lot of value in this data. It's been really hard to wrap my mind around all of this and also live life at the same time. There is just never enough time in the day! What I can tell you is that a lot of these Blue Whales have some bite marks and damage that almost have to be Orca related. Where between Costa Rica and California are these battles occurring and how many times are these Blue Whale hunts successful for the Orca to be willing to risk injury?
The variety has been absolutely amazing lately and I hope it continues past Memorial Day and on into the summer.
If you’re familiar with whale watching in Southern California you know that Blue Whales show up in the summertime. In fact, in my entire career as a professional whale photographer I have only recorded a combined 8 days with at least one Blue Whale sighting prior to May 1st.
While the log I keep comprises only my personal trips on the days that I work, I feel it is strongly reflective of the seasons our animals are typically sighted in. I also record if that species was seen on that day and do not attempt to estimate the number of individuals which I feel opens the door to inaccuracies. All I am attempting to document is what I have seen. I
Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when we saw a Blue Whale feeding near my current home and workplace of Newport Beach! Imagine my further surprise when that animal showed up again! Now realize that this pattern has repeated itself almost every day since April 20th! While most of the sightings we have recorded can be attributed to one very prevalent individual there have been at least two or three other individuals this season. (Two confirmed, unable to tell if the third was one of those two or a separate individual.)
At the end of the day on April 30th , 2019 I had documented at least one Blue Whale ELEVEN DIFFERENT DAYS. Three more than the combined total seen prior to May 1st from 2013-2018 combined! I’m not sure what this means yet for the rest of the year. Are the Blue Whales responding to our warming water temperatures locally by feeding here earlier in the year? Is this an aberration? Are we on the cusp on an incredible season? I look forward to sharing more in the days to come.
Along with a Minke Whale and a smattering of remaining Gray Whales there has been a nice influx of Fin Whales, our first "Finvasion" of 2019 as I like to call them. Expect more updates featuring the immense size and incredible elegance of the Fin Whale as May progresses!
I've created a new page to replace the temporary header where I would feature my latest trip. This new page is called "World Tour" and highlights all of the special trips I make throughout the year specifically to document nature and wildlife. Beginning with my first trip to Hawaii in 2013 at the bottom of the page and working up towards my most recent (New Zealand at the time of this writing), you can easily find all of my specific collections. Use the following URL to get started:
Also, please continue enjoying regular updates, featured on the front page. New sections have been added lately for Sperm Whales and Dusky Dolphin and some nice images have been added for False Killer Whales from March and April of 2019. A False Killer Whale video that I recorded (not posted on this site) reached national news outlets. I encourage you to check out the albums dedicated to Birds, Reptiles, Terrestrial Mammals and Scenery also.
I am pondering the big question in 2019 of what to do with the copious amount of video I have been recording as of late. Hosting it is a little bit of an issue as is copyright protection and monetization. For now I am very happy but I am always looking for feedback. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any ideas of something you would like to see!
It has taken longer to write this than I would have liked but I felt some time needed to pass. I visited the city of Christchurch just days before the terrible violence that occurred there. I was nowhere near where that happened, I was not in the country when it happened, my life and person were never threatened. So why bring it up in an unrelated article?
The City of Christchurch hosted me for 3 nights as I made my around a small portion of a very beautiful country. The only thing I was more impressed with than the natural beauty of the land was the kindness of its people. On one tour I took the guide made it a point to show us around town briefly to show the damage that had been done by a pair of recent earthquakes. Earthquakes are a part of life in New Zealand but Christchurch was one of the areas hit particularly hard in the past ten years and the city still feels the lingering effects from those natural disasters. The terror of last month by one deranged individual shook locals to their core wondering why yet another traumatic event had to happen in their beloved city, and to the neighbors and friends they share that city with.
New Zealand's tourism industry is a big part of their economy and you will be hard pressed to find a more hospitable place anywhere in the entire world. Everyone who lists and it greeted with a warm "Kia Ora!" is helping that great nation. Despite tragedy, and despite natural disaster, the people of New Zealand will welcome you with a customary grace that will leave you humbled and grateful that you took the time to do so.
I look forward to visiting again at my first opportunity.
Just a quick site update with about 40 or 50 images that have been sitting on the back burner while I have been in Australia and New Zealand! Stay tuned for a big update to a lot of different sections of the website. Along with the addition of Sperm Whales and Dusky Dolphins to the site there will also be a plethora of new mammals, birds, and reptiles (including the massive SALTWATER CROCODILE) and some underwater shots of the Great Barrier Reef. Time permitting I'll write some more about all of these experiences but until then, please enjoy!
Like last year, the Gray Whales have waited until the final week of January to be passing Orange County, CA in earnest but there is a steady stream. I have seen a lot more early northbound whales than I am used to this time of year. Warming winters in Alaska are a likely reason that the migration is arriving so late as the Grays have less reason to leave early if its still warm in the Bering Strait.
We are having a lot of luck with Pacific White Sided dolphin this year as well and its a super unique species to be able to observe so regularly, I strongly advise anyone who has never seen that species before to come to the OC and get on a boat!
Great update today with all of the best shots from the rash of Humpback Whale sightings we have had to open the year! I've really enjoyed logging some new individuals for my HappyWhale.com page as well as enjoying the excitement of their behaviors. We have also confirmed Gray, Bryde's, and Minke Whales out there lately.
I am also proud to let you all know that I'll be on my way to Queensland, Australia and the South Island of New Zealand to enjoy the local marine life. I'll be photographing, recording, and writing about as much as I can on what is one of my biggest bucket list trips I have ever undertaken. I have really dreamed about Kaikoura in New Zealand for some time and I am hopeful to see some new species of marine mammals!
2019 is poised to be a very special year so I decided to kick it off with a modest donation to the Ocean Defenders Alliance as well, check them out at www.oceandefenders.org and learn more about their work to preserve our oceans. Their work removing harmful abandoned fishing gear and clearing coral reefs in California and Hawaii is absolutely amazing.
I'm way past due to update this page for Nov/Dec 2018 so I'll get right to it.
You can order a 2019 Calendar by emailing me at email@example.com. I think they turned out great! They were done in the same style as last year's calendar. I have filled all the pre orders so I can now start taking online orders. Only a limited quantity is available for online orders. Cost is $20.00 USD and to commemorate this being my 3rd year of publishing the calendar I have decided to do free shipping this year on all US orders as a way of saying THANK YOU to those of you who have supported me since I began Dale Frink Photography and www.dalefrink.com in 2014.
This is a very large update that reflects a very successful trip with Newport Coastal Adventure (the best whale watching experience in Orange County, CA by FAR!). We identified twelve different Humpback Whales that day on a long range 8 hour trip. This was my second annual trip doing this and I am looking forward to making this an annual tradition.
I have updated the "Search by Species" page to reflect a change made recently. Scientific literature is now once more lumping the various Common Dolphin species into one species with multiple subspecies instead of distinct species on their own. There's some good rationale behind this decision but it could change again one day depending on popular consensus in the future. One of the best things about science is that new research and observation can influence the textbooks! I will still do my best to differentiate between the two subspecies as best I can.
Whale Watching Report:
Still tough on the larger whales and now weather has had an impact on local sightings. Hopefully the Gray Whales return to form by the end of the year so that holiday sightings are much improved! I look forward to sharing images of whatever we see.
Visitors to the site will notice a couple of subtle but important changes here on the site starting today. Most notably is the addition of a terrestrial mammals album to celebrate seeing North American megafauna in Alaska! Bears, Moose, Caribou and more are represented with more to be added in the future! This site will always be primarily dedicated to Marine Mammals but celebrating the diversity of nature is also very important to me. I've also updated the Beaked Whale album by changing it to the "Toothed Whale" album to reflect my first sighting of wild Beluga Whales! For now this album will cover all members of the Odontocete family that aren't Dolphins or Porpoises.
I'm back from Alaska and while I haven't yet finished going through all of the pictures I can say the trip was a great success! I have the first images of what will be a terrestrial mammals section soon with the fauna of the Alaskan tundra and the scenery of Denali National Park providing the first photos. Before I add all of those photos to the website though I have updated the site with my post-Alaska photos including breaching Humpbacks, Transient Orcas, and Risso's Dolphin!
On a side note, in 2018 Southern California has experienced more Orca sightings on whale watching trips than the coast three years combined and the possibility exists that more will occur before the year ends. How exciting!