Well this mid-August update is a bigger one than expected thanks to the arrival of a handful of Humpback Whales, two of which decided to hold breach-a-thons right off of Newport Harbor! Hope you enjoy this lengthy series as they are without a doubt two of the best Humpback encounters Orange County has ever witnessed!
We also had an exciting visitor...our first confirmed southbound GRAY WHALE of 2018/2019! The whale didn't appear to be out of the ordinary other than the time of year although it did have a relatively heavy infestation of lice.
It has been a very long and busy summer. At the time of writing this post I have been on 254 whale watches since June 1st in Orange County waters. During that time we have documented four different species of dolphin and five different species of baleen whales. In those 500+ hours on the water I have had some incredible experiences.
Notable at this point (August 11th, 2018) is that I have recorded 28 days with Blue Whale sightings this year, my highest recorded total since 2015 (35 days with a recorded sighting). This is still a far cry from my first year of whale watching with 91 recorded days with at least one Blue Whale in 2013. Hopefully the ocean is on a healthy cycle and we will one day have one of those amazing summers again when it is time. Still, I always have that slight fear that the changes to the local ecosystem could one day become permanent if we don't start acting more strongly in the interest of long term environmental conservation.
After a major site update you might notice a lot of additions to one of the less represented species I have documented. Recently a surge of Bryde's Whale sightings have provided the opportunity to document this lesser known member of the rorqual family. One thing I did not know about this species was that the Bryde's Whale was a last resort for the whaling industry once the Blue, Fin, and Sei Whales became protected worldwide as stocks crashed and depleted. My personal experience is that the personality varies a lot between individuals and no two behave similarly. The one thread I do see in common is that none of the individuals I have ever seen react well to having too many boats around. Two or more and the experience changes drastically.
160+ new images have been added in this overdue update. The most recent Blue, Humpback, and Minke Whale photos are a much welcome addition.
I have booked a trip inn September to Alaska where I am hoping to document the cetaceans of the 49th state along with birds and terrestrial mammals, could this be the start of a new section? Only one way to find out!
Also, take a moment and head over to www.cheesemans.com and browse the selection of world travels available to book! The company is owned by esteemed whale scientist and all around good guy Ted Cheeseman and his Dominican Trip is the one I booked this past winter. If you have any ambitions for global travel and are looking for experiences unlike any other with a focus on conservation and sustainable tourism these trips are a great way to go!
Two pairs of cow/calf Blue Whales and a handful of individual other adults have made the latest site update one to remember! I really hope you enjoy viewing them. You can also quickly navigate to all Blue Whale photos with the "Search by Species" tab or by using the following link:
It has been a while since the last update but that has because this month has been incredibly busy! The first half of May saw a large number of cow/calf Gray Whales which would persist for many days longer than last year's last sightings of the season, while the second half of May has seen the welcome arrival of may Blue Whales back to our zone!
I had only ever seen Blue Whales in Gray Whales on the same date only a handful of times before but have managed to see them on the same two hour whale watch three times this month! I hope you all enjoy the recent update which has nearly taken up the entirety of the front page.
New update for April mostly featuring photos from a quick day trip to Monterey. The Orcas eluded us in the thick fog but the Humpbacks were out in force near Moss Landing. Two of them were well known including an old friend "Check" who was one of the first Humpback Whales I ever documented in person during a trip in 2014. Nice to see that whale doing so well 4 years later!
There were also some of my favorite shots from a trip to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. I've never been more enamored by trees before! You might have noticed some new updates in the bird album as well.
Looking forward to moving on into May and improving how tough that month was for encounters last year!
I just posted a nice update primarily featuring Gray Whales, including some of the most fantastic breaches of my career. See these photos and more of my best photos featuring Gray Whales using the following link:
Check out photos from my recent encounter with a Gray Whale deep within Newport Beach Harbor! This little Gray Whale swam into the far back of the harbor before the low tide prevented it from going under the bridge that makes up part of Pacific Coast Highway. The whale meandered through moorings and startled a lot of smaller boats before nightfall came and spotters lost track. It has presumably left the harbor and has not been relocated in over 24 hours.
I am happy to be back in California after a 10 day trip to the beautiful Dominican Republic, home of the Silver Bank Humpback Whale Sanctuary. Never in a million years did I think I would ever be part of such an incredible trip with so many amazing encounters. Along with the numerous Humpbacks I was also graced with my first ever pod of Spotted Dolphins!
I've put up all of the new photos and will post a trip recap soon, in the meantime you can also see the updated "Search by Species" page reflecting the addition of Spotted Dolphin.
There is a lot that can be said as 2017 moves into 2018. But I'd like to use this post to let everyone know that one of my favorite whales made a new appearance in 2017 after a 3 year hiatus! Thanks to my friends at Happywhale we were able to find out that Brutus, the young Humpback that made whale watching headlines in 2014, did return as part of our late run of 2017 Humpbacks from late November to mid December.
As some of you might remember Brutus was nicknamed after the great dane surrounded by dachshunds from the movie "The Ugly Dachshund" as the whale was continuously int he midst of a pod of Common Dolphin and the 2017 did little to dispel that notion! When Brutus disappeared after November of 2014 I was hoping he or she (yeah I know its a bummer of a name if the whale turns out female) would return one day. That whale was the first Humpback recorded spending significant time in Orange County Waters and was first in a line of whales including Wally, Wilma, Felix, Tejon, and others who spent weeks within range of Newport Beach and Dana Point harbors.
Normally I wouldn't label October and November as a prime whale watching window but this year that has definitely been the case. Humpback, Fin, Minke and Gray Whales plus Orcas, Bottlenose Dolphin, Risso's Dolphin, Common Dolphin and the enigmatic Risso's Dolphin all over a very short stretch of time. If only we could have seen one Blue whale it would have been all TEN of our annually seen species in a six week stretch.
It's been a little overwhelming at times juggling so many different projects and there's a lot I'd like to write about. I am hoping I will put out a better effort in 2018.
I am proud to announce that the 2018 Dale Frink Photography Calendars have arrived and I think they look great! It has taken a long time to collect the images contained within. If you enjoyed 2017's "Welcome to Newport Breach" I think you will appreciate the new theme. The animals are still local, but we now focus on a wider variety of marine mammals as well as the unique behaviors that make them stand out.
I worked with a new vendor this year to keep the price the same while still offering a quality product I think you will enjoy for all 12 months of 2018. Each calendar is $20, and shipping is just a flat $5 anywhere in the United States. You can qualify for free shipping by ordering five or more calendars, and residents of Orange County, California can have their calendars delivered for free as well!
It was an interesting experience whale watching in Cape Cod, arguably the most popular whale watching destination on the US East Coast. I did see some new birds and while I didn't see any new species of cetaceans I was privileged to see Minke, Fin, and Humpback Whales including some friendly animals. The boats I travelled on were two of the largest whale watching boats I had ever seen and the Asteria out of Boston Harbor is enormous! I look forward to trying out new destinations.
Also of big importance to me are the first pictures of Great White Sharks I am able to post to this page. Nothing too mind blowing but it is nice to feature such an amazing animal on this site.
It was arguably the toughest stretch of whale watching I have ever worked in my career. Technically it is still ongoing but for the sake of this article let’s just talk about the summer season. In the whale watching business here in the US it is Memorial Day through Labor Day that is the crunch time.
May was really difficult, with a very low number of whales sighting. A quartet of Humpbacks and a handful of other animals made June very exciting but July and August fell quite flat from usual. I blame the warmer waters we had locally which kept the krill elsewhere but I would be lying if I said that was the only possible reason. There are so many factors we may never know.
The upsides to this summer were nice however. My first documented Sei Whale sighting, a plethora of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin sightings (with PATCHES too!), a rare pod of Southern California Risso’s, and some of the best dolphin calf photography I have ever experienced made it so that I will still have plenty of fond memories for the season.
I can’t stress enough though that when sightings are tough, it is just as tough on the captains and crew of a fleet as it is for passengers who might be disappointed when nature doesn’t live up to their expectations. Along with happy passengers being important for a successful season the people who work on the boats genuinely want to see these ocean spectacles just as much, if not MORE, than the folks who book passage. I admit that there are things that wore on me, even grated me to the point where I had moments where I did not want to be at sea any more.
“Why don’t they just call it dolphin watching?”
“When is the best time?”
“Do you ever see whales?”
It is so frustrating to hear this because when times are good I will still hear:
"Why didn't the whale breach?"
"I wanted to see (different species) instead."
"One time in (Alaska/Hawaii/Monterey/South Africa/Australia etc...) we saw a billion whales."
Seeing things in nature is a gift and my frustration makes it difficult for me to understand that not everyone realizes that it can take a lifetime to see some of the things with our own eyes that we see on TV.
Marine life isn’t there to perform on command like in marine parks, and those marine parks are approaching their twilight in the United States as more people begin to understand the difficulties captive cetaceans face.
As more vacationers poured in and more people unaware of good boat etiquette came through I found myself with another frustration, the frustration of waking up and wondering WHY I was doing what I do? There is nothing worse than self doubt of this kind for me right now. I feel like this career of mine is at a critical juncture where I can start making a greater difference, but standing up for personal principles and virtue requires a self confidence born from knowing that the path one walks is right for them.
I know I still possess that spark somewhere. I know because I heard someone say the other day that it doesn’t matter to them anymore if certain animals suffer extinction and I had an extreme feeling of revulsion wash over me.
From that realization that deep down I still cared, a little bit of emotional oxygen fed that little spark.
I don’t consider myself terribly courageous or insightful to admit these deep rooted flaws in my conviction or weaknesses in my psyche. But I’ll be damned if anyone ever accuses me of not caring. I’ll use the upcoming downtime to rest and recharge and resume my role in the battle to protect the planet with improved vigor and a renewed sense of purpose.
Hopefully the next post of this blog is a little more cheerful.
With sightings of a juvenile Sei Whale on July 11th, July 25th, and August 3rd I have now completed one of my life goals! I have now seen every rorqual whale that occurs in the state of California. The rorquals I have not seen are the Dwarf and Antarctic Minke, the Omura's Whale, and the Eden's Head Whale (the latter two only have been recognized as species in the past decade) . It will take many thousands of hours of traveling and searching in farther flung parts of the world in order to ever have even a whiff of encountering those animals!
Add the Gray Whale to that total and I have seen every Baleen Whale that occurs in North American Pacific except for the Northern Pacific Right Whales which are dramatically few. A sighting on one of those rare animals in La Jolla this winter gives me some hope. There are also the Bowhead Whales of Alaska I dream to see one day.
Of the toothed whales that occur in California, the only ones I have not been fortunate enough to see largely fall into the Beaked Whale and Sperm Whale categories with the sole exception being the Rough Toothed Dolphin. It is my understand that Rough Toothed Dolphin occur in California only in 3000 ft of depth or greater!
In September I will be traveling to Plymouth, Massachusetts for a special all day trip that will more than likely bring some additional Humpback sightings, but also slim opportunities for North Atlantic Right Whales, Long Finned Pilot Whales, White Beaked Dolphin, and Atlantic White Sided Dolphin. Adding a new species to the list of those I have seen is quite possibly the biggest thrill I feel I can experience in the world as it is and I am hopeful that more opportunities will present themselves in the years to come.
Dale Frink Photography has managed to make modest contributions this year to Ocean Defenders Alliance and to the Whaleman Foundation. These two organizations are very near and dear to my heart because they provide very tangible benefits to marine life conservation in two equally important ways.
Ocean Defenders Alliance (www.oceandefenders.org) works tirelessly to remove harmful debris of all sizes from the ocean, from the larger and ship threatening ghost nets down to the simple plastic garbage left on the beach. This organization gets the word out about humanity's footprint in the water and not only undertakes the labor to remove it but promotes ways to reduce our impact in advance.
The Whaleman Foundation (www.whaleman.org) is one of the most effective conservation groups that intervenes at the federal level of government worldwide. This organization was born out of the fight to protect San Ignacio Lagoon from Mitsubishi Corporation's attempts to build an industrial salt mining facility in a critical habitat home not only to a wide variety of Mexican desert fauna, but also home to one of the key breeding lagoons of the Gray Whale. Through a combination of lobbying, filmmaking, and ecotourism, Whaleman founder Jeff Pantukhoff and a roster of passionate ambassadors advocate directly to those in power to effect meaningful change.
Do you have to support these organizations? I wish you would and I hope you will! The thing I encourage most strongly is that you find an environmental cause that suits YOUR passion and use that to make a difference. Altruism and kindness are found in nature, and for a human to exercise such qualities is not unnatural. Respect for living beings comes in many shapes and forms and I feel very strongly that the deep sense of satisfaction from making a true difference comes with no price tag!