I didn’t get to see any orcas today, even though the other boat spotted a lone male that disappeared into the fog, but that’s okay. I got to see about 10 humpbacks throughout the day, culminating in an hour-long lunge-feeding session at the end of the day. We also saw pods of Risso’s and Pacific White-sided dolphins. It’s no wonder why Monterey is my favorite place to whale watch - I’ve never been disappointed. 😊
Pacific White-sided dolphins are known to us as “winter” dolphins, since we typically see them in the months of October-May. They are the only Southern California dolphin species known to be semi-migratory, traveling north to colder waters in the summer months.
Biologists often refers to them as “lags” which is short for their scientific name, lagenorhynchus obliquidens.
(Note: “lags” can also refer to other cetaceans in under the genus of Lagenorhynchus, which contains 6 other species closely related to the Pacific White Sided Dolphin).
The Pacific white-sided dolphin has three, monochromatic colors. The chin, throat and belly are white.The beak and parts of the back and dorsal fin are a dark gray. Light gray patches are seen on the sides and a further light gray stripe runs from above the eye to below the dorsal fin (sometimes called “suspenders”), where it thickens along the tail stock:
They are considered to be an “average-sized” oceanic dolphin, with usual adult lengths being 7-8′. Females weigh over 300 lbs and males over 400 lbs with; lags are also considered to be dimorphic with adult males being larger in size to females and having a more dramatically curved and robust dorsal fin:
Pacific White-sided Dolphin are very friendly and playful. They readily approach boats to bow ride, take high leaps out of the water and sometimes are seen with other dolphins and whales; we’ve even witnessed them “playing” with Gray Whales by sliding across the whale’s belly while it’s upside down! We typically see them in pods between 10-100 individuals.
Their range spans over the North Pacific; in cool, temperate waters off the Pacific coasts of North America and Asia. They feed on squid as well as a variety of fish, including hake, herring, cod, anchovies and salmon.
We are excited to see lags in the coming colder months!
Photos/Footage by Steve Plantz, Mark Tyson and Dale Frink
These are some pacific white-sided dolphin photos from an excursion on Monday. The morning was nice and mild but the afternoon winds picked up and really turned it into a “ride ‘em cowboy” offshore boat ride.
Met some Pacific White Sided Dolphins on my whale watching trip. I took some underwater video footage along with pics of their stampede, and I will edit and upload them soon. But for now, enjoy these hard to capture photos of some of the most acrobatic (and entertaining to watch) cetaceans on earth!
Photograph by @paulnicklen for @natgeo // A young Pacific White Sided Dolphin cruises above its mother 90 miles off the West coast of #British Columbia. I love how curious these dolphins can be. This mother kept bringing her young calf over to investigate the intruder in her ocean. #gratitude #nature #wildlife #picoftheday. Please #follow @paulnicklen as we continue to discover additional gems from this little known corner of our oceans. by natgeo
That as Sea World Abusement Parks ™ tries to distract you with prospects of new resorts, roller coasters, and theme park rides, they backed out on their plans to expand Killer Whale habitats following the California Coastal Commision’s progressive decision to phase out the practice of keeping Orca in captivity by banning all captive breeding and importing/exporting of captive Orcas to their San Diego facility, and have lost 5 whales and dolphins over the period of 8 months (An Orca, a Pacific White Sided Dolphin, 2 young belugas, an a Commerson’s Dolphin), none of which died of natural causes.
Sea World is a theme park franchise that focuses on generating profit, and based on legitimate studies performed by certified scientists and backed by empirical evidence, they completely disregard the literally unattainable requirements needed by whales and dolphins to truly thrive in an artificial environment. Remember that.
I gave myself a “challenge” to go whale watching at least once a month over the course of last year; I was able to complete it… 11/12 at least. :P I ended up going twice in November and couldn’t find the time to go in December so just kind of counted the second trip toward December.
Most of the trips were in Dana Point or Newport Beach, with the exception of my Monterey Bay trip.
These photos are some of the most memorable-
First, a breaching baby gray whale! This was before I invested in a zoom lens, so its not that good quality of a photo but I’m still glad I was able to react fast enough to capture a breach. (I saw a couple humpbacks and more grays breach but couldn’t shoot fast enough- it took a bit of practice to kind of predict where they’d come up and be ready to snap). The other gray whale photo is of a northbound mom and calf pair, which were pretty quiet and minded their own business.
All the dolphin shots here are from the 8 hour trip I went on, which was a bit of a disappointment. A) because the reason they put on the trip was to try and find “rare” species that came up with the El Nino warmth (Pilot whales, false killer whales, tropical orca, mobula rays, whale sharks and tons of great whites and hammerheads were spotted the days and weeks before/after) but 6 hours of the trip the water was completely dead B) because the species we did see (with the exception of a 2 second mola mola appearance) were ones that are already common to the area- common dolphin, sea lions and lags. But on the bright side, the time we spent with the dolphins was high quality. The lags were very playful and curious and one of the common dolphin groups we saw was a nursery pod with tons of babies.
The humpback photos and sea otter were from my Monterey Bay trip, which may have been the best trip all year. The water was nice and calm, there were several humpbacks in the area and one of the juveniles was EXTREMELY active and breached over 30 times, chin slapped, pec slapped and did all kinds of fun stuff.
And lastly, the ray. It wasn’t technically a whale watch shot but I found her in the harbor and she followed me around the docks which was pretty cool.