It is Whale Worth the Trip!
Fwoosh! A puff of white water on the horizon catches your peripheral vision and forces you to snap your head around. You turn just in time to see the wide-blue-gray-barnacled tail of a humpback slap the water. You find yourself participating in the oo’s and aaahs’ of your fellow boat goers and grip the railing tightly as the boat captain's voice comes over the loudspeaker.
Glad you got to see the Humpbacks tail splash!
“A pod of humpbacks, maybe even a mother and her little one are feeding a few hundred yards west.” The motor hums and the boat starts to slide over towards the whales. Water sprays again as the massive mammals exhale through their blowholes and slowly spin through the water, seeming to wave a fin in your direction.
Just a second before they slink under again
These giant creatures of the sea are joined by many others in an unlikely location. If you venture through Ventura harbor and the surrounding marshland areas, you can see fascinating birds, feeding and courting one another. In this time of late spring, early summer, Southern California lights up, and its nature explodes.
The Northern Shoveler makes sure we see his bright green cheeks
The warm weather mixed with sea breeze and fog creates breeding grounds for insects, and they supply a surplus of food for birds to capture and feed their newly hatched offspring. They dart through the sky grabbing little insects and bring them back to their hungry babies.
This Savannah sparrow has at least five insects in its hungry beak
Others haven’t had their chicks yet and are deep in a war of courtship, displaying their fresh bright new feathers to potential mates. They not only have to be the brightest boldest males, but also have to nail their dancing skills perfectly. One wrong head bob, and they might lose the duck of their dreams.
Ruddy Ducks having a big party, and forming couples
The sea lions are no slouches on the action. Young fish school in large numbers for safety and the sea lions are ready to come pick them off for breakfast. Any stragglers from the pack and the sea lions are readily taken up by sneaky grebes waiting patiently on the outskirts of the frenzy.
Sea Lions after eating too much fish
The potential for a perfect day lines up if you can find the time to sneak off to Ventura and out to sea. First stop in the harbor and walk around, you can find birds flying near the tall masts of docked boats, or eyeing you from the railing. Then you can follow the egrets as they head to fish in the lagoon nearby, or up to Santa Barbara where you get on a whale watching expedition.
The Eared Grebe always looks a bit on edge
Highly recommended is this Condor Express. (Check here to learn more: https://condorexpress.com/) The sea weathered captain has a keen eye for whales, dolphins, and the other creatures of the deep. This ship cruises out to the Channel Islands, and almost always finds a pod of whales in the channel between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. The channel is flanked by the kelp forests and tidal zones of the two islands.
Quick look at our most recent whale watch!
These hotspots of plant life have an exponential effect on the vitality of the ecosystem, and life explodes in this channel. Plankton multiply in mass feeding off the debris from the islands rocky shorelines. This attracts fish, and ultimately the prize of the journey, big hungry whales. The knowledge of this location is remembered and passed along by the whales from generation to generation, and is a known safe haven. The whales are comfortable bringing their young along, and teaching them about the riches that way.
Northern Shovelers and Ruddy ducks feeding and courting!
So with luck you may even see a number of different species of whales, and maybe even some little (still huge) baby whales! Enjoy the videos and pictures from this exact journey as we took it, and let us know in the comments what you see on your next trip to sea!
Extended video detailing the wonders of this whale watching trip. Full of information on whale behavior and habits!
Photos by Alex Havasi. Videos filmed by Alex Havasi and Isaac Yelchin, and narrated by Isaac Yelchin.
Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions.