Tag Archives: Santa Cruz

Flying Over Humpbacks

I saw this news article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel this morning talking about how active the humpback whales have been near shore off of Santa Cruz and Aptos these past few weeks.  So Darlene and I grabbed the drone and dashed down to Seacliff State Beach.  I’ve been wanting to try flying the drone to get nice, aerial views of the whales.  (A lot of the coastline is protected via the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary but flying in this area is allowed.)

There were probably a dozen of them near shore – you could see them popping up every which way!  The lighting wasn’t great (completely overcast) as the marine layer had yet to burn off but it was still very fun to hang around with the drone waiting for them to appear.

It’s quite the challenge to find them and stay with them using the narrow view of the drone’s camera – even when you can easily see them from shore.  Darlene was helping by watching the feed with the goggles because it’s also hard to see small/distant details on the iPhone or iPad screen, particularly when you’re outside. It’s much easier to see with the goggles but then of course all you can see is what the drone sees.

It was hard tracking them too because once they go under it’s hard to predict where to be looking when they come back up. You want to get closer for more detail but if you’re too close you won’t see them at all when they resurface off camera (which happened repeatedly) – and of course not so close as to harass them.  I should point out that the limited view angle of the drone’s camera makes them appear closer than they really are and yet I still had to heavily crop every one of these clips to make the whales appear large enough in the frame – even in the most distant shots.

I did put a polarizer on the drone camera to try to cut through the reflection of the water surface but it didn’t work that well with the diffuse overcast light so it might work better in directed sunlight.

Need more practice! ;-)

Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hoan and Quyen’s Family Visit

Hoan and Quyen returned with their kids to visit over the 4th of July weekend.  This time we visited the surfers and sea lions along Cliff Drive, the juvenile elephant seals out at Año Nuevo, the lighthouse at Pigeon Point, the sea cliffs near Pescadero Beach, the whale skeletons at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and the crabs and sea stars in the tide pools near Natural Bridges State Park.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures and videos:

     


Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cindy and Travis Visit

Darlene brought over Cindy and Travis to visit for the weekend again in late May.  We played around with the drone, visited Seacliff State Beach in Capitola, went out to Año Nuevo to see what the elephant seals were up to and found a hidden park nearby on the edge of Scotts Valley while geocaching.

Click through for the gallery of pictures and videos:

      

Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Gray Whale Threesome

Darlene and her mom and I took a whale watching tour out of Santa Cruz on March 23rd with Stagnaro Charters.  (I didn’t know whale tours were available out of town here in Santa Cruz – super convenient as opposed to driving down to Monterey.)  We were very lucky to get to first come across a threesome of gray whales in the midst of their courtship/mating – something that apparently gray whales do in groups of three or more:

What appears to be mating, however, is simply an elaborate courtship in which two males can be seen attempting to mate with a female.

Christopher Fitzsimmons, an education specialist at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explained that mating in pods of three, with two males and a female, is entirely common among gray whales.

“This rolling and rubbing we see is believed to be the whales familiarizing themselves with one another and making sure the female is receptive to mating,” said Fitzsimmons.

Gray whales engage in often elaborate courtship practices before mating. Males will use their pectoral fins to coerce and align females into mating positions. Females have even been observed avoiding the attempts of males for days.

And then later we came across four more gray whales, one of whom did several breaches in front of us. All very cool!

    

Also tagged , | Leave a comment

Monarch Butterflies at Natural Bridges

Some pictures and video from a December visit to see the Monarch butterflies wintering at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz:

They winter here from November through February, depending on the weather.  If you go, choose to get here during the warmth of the middle of the day or they won’t be very active.  And bring binoculars and a long telephoto because they’ll be mostly way up in the eucalyptus trees.

Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

Polynesian Festival and Races

DSC04762

Darlene and I dropped in to see the Polynesian Festival and Outrigger Races at the Santa Cruz Wharf on Sunday morning.  Apparently anyone can sign up as teams in advance and compete in the races.  We also stopped into the free Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center.  It’s a small center with some nice exhibits and videos, including a tank where you can drive around a remote-operated submersible.

IMG_4865 DSC04764 IMG_4871 IMG_4869 IMG_4873 DSC04765

Also tagged , | Leave a comment

Whales at Moss Landing

There’s been loads of humpback whales in Monterey Bay this summer and Darlene and I finally had a chance to go on a whale-watching tour by kayak out of Moss Landing this past Sunday with Dave of Venture Quest Kayaks.  Thanks once again, Dave!  We had a great time and encountered numerous humpback whales diving and feeding together, once even coming up between our kayaks, as well as saw plenty of others off in various directions, blowing, diving and even breaching in the distance.  After a snack break back at the boat launch, we headed in to the Elkhorn Slough with the aid of some handheld kayak sails.

In addition to all the whales, we also saw plenty of other wildlife: lots of harbor seals, sea lions, otters, egg yolk jellyfish, starfish, porpoises, pelicans, gulls, terns, sandpipers, cormorants and even an egret.  A couple of people saw a mola mola pass under, but we missed that. D’oh!

However, our kayak was boarded in the slough by a sea otter “patrol” – apparently inspecting us for goodies… or contraband?  (Check out the video below.)

We had so much fun on Sunday that we decided to sign up to come back the very next morning. On Monday, the entire bay was incredibly calm but we really had to work to find any whales. We had to paddle out nearly three miles into the bay to find them, but find them we did! Or perhaps they found us…

A short video montage of our two days of kayaking (4.3 minutes, 70 MB)

Click through for the full gallery of images from both days:

  

Also tagged , , , , | Leave a comment