July is just around the corner and marine mammal enthusiasts are beginning to wonder whether blue whales will arrive off Southern California and put on a long-lasting show like they did the last two summers, beginning in June.
The Santa Barbara Channel remains the closest destination for Southland whale-watchers to have a reliable chance at seeing the planet's largest creatures.
But thank goodness for dolphins, which are found most days, and which are considerably more active and playful than blue whales.
I embarked on noon excursions Saturday and Sunday aboard the Ocean Adventure out of Dana Wharf Whale Watching in search of blue whales, which have shown only sporadically off Orange and Los Angeles counties during the past few weeks.
No whales. But the high-speed catamaran was visited by about 400 common dolphins not far from the harbor, and the crew later discovered a much smaller pod of much larger bottlenose dolphins. One bottlenose dolphin dazzled the crowd with an acrobatic display of the type that might be choreographed at a marine park (see video).
For several minutes these sleak mammals rode alongside the vessel and beneath its bow, and at no time during this encounter was anyobody inquiring about blue whales.
It was much of the same the next day -- common dolphins galore, this time in a feeding display that also featured pelicans diving after sardines chased to the surface by dolphins.
As for the blue whales, they could just be a little late, or they have found greener pastures -- much larger quantities of krill -- elsewhere off the West Coast.
At least one was spotted Monday evening off Dana Point. Hopefully it found lots of food and called for others to join the feast.
But if, like the others, it moves on, there will always be the dolphins.
-- Pete Thomas
-- Image showing comon dolphin off Dana Point is by ©Pete Thomas. Video showing a leaping bottlenose dolphin also was filmed off Dana Point