Thursday, July 23, 2009
Just the other day I was talking to Alicia, my whale watching partner, and we were discussing how I haven’t seen any Risso’s dolphins this summer. Risso’s dolphins are usually here all summer long, and it’s not uncommon to see them on a trip when we’re looking for blue whales. Well I guess the Risso’s dolphins heard me because that’s all I’ve seen the last couple of days. More than I’ve EVER seen, and even better, they were mingling with bottlenose dolphins!!!
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there used to be a lot of pilot whales off of our coast. I’m told they were seen a pretty good chunk of the time. But now they aren’t here anymore. Instead, we have Risso’s dolphins. Back in the 1980’s, there was a El Niño year that brought a lot of Risso’s dolphins into the area. They eat the same thing as pilot whales…squid! So because these two animals were competing for the same food, one was going to overpower the other. As it turns out, the Risso’s won and have been here ever since.
Knowing that it was Risso’s now instead of pilot whales, I always get excited when I see them, especially since they haven’t been here all that long. They look like a mini pilot whale, but just travel in larger pods. I was pretty disappointed that I hadn’t seen any yet this summer since I think they are so much fun to watch. Like I said before, they must have heard me because I’ve seen so many the last few days. I mean like in to the realm of 100’s! Okay, to be honest, I think the real reason we’re seeing so many is because there have been a lot of squid in the area. I’ve read a couple of articles about how fishermen are catching Humboldt squid off of Huntington Beach. Since the Risso’s eat squid, it would only make sense that they would come to where the food is. They don’t necessarily eat the larger squid, but if the larger are here, perhaps the smaller squid species are too. I know a lot of the time they are found on the backside of Catalina Island. So thankfully the squid decided to come closer to us!
On Sunday, July 19, I had a very cool sighting with the Risso’s. When we saw them in the water, I of course got excited because well, they’re Risso’s dolphins! But then I saw something else mixed in with the pod; bottlenose dolphins!! There have been documented cases of bottlenose dolphins mixing in with Risso’s dolphins and even mating and have hybrid Risso’s-bottlenose babies! There were about 8-10 bottlenose just hanging out. They mingled with the Risso’s the whole time we were there with them which was about 15-20 minutes. I did see some baby bottlenose in that group and who knows, maybe it was a hybrid. Of course there is no way to know without DNA testing. To think that maybe I got to see a very rare sighting is still pretty exciting!
I hope we continue to see Risso’s dolphins for the majority of the summer. They are one of the coolest dolphins I have ever seen. If you’re interested in joining us for our daily blue whale and wildlife trips, click here!
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