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Drone Films Dolphins Surfing on Front of Recently Discovered “Resident” Humpback Whale off Dana Point California

(DANA POINT, CA; October, 2014) — Orange County has its first known “resident” humpback whale. A small 30-foot humpback whale nicknamed “Gooseneck,” has been making near daily appearances off Orange County for over nine weeks and counting.

And for the first time, after many attempts, Capt. Dave captured drone footage of this humpback whale along with a pod of common dolphins actually riding the pressure wave that the swimming whale created in front of it. Dolphins often ride the front of boats like this and catch a free ride. But this “whale surfing” is only rarely seen and as far as we know has never been filmed with a drone before.

Whale watchers with Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Safari in Dana Point, California, also had a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up-close and personal with the whale yesterday when the animal chose to come over and have a look at the boat and its occupants. This is called a “mugging”. Capt. Dave launched his drone over the whale on a couple different days. The drone captured aerial footage of dolphins “surfing” the whale and other cameras captured an exclusive underwater view of the humpback from the boat’s Eye-to-Eye Underwater Viewing Pods.

The humpback, nicknamed Gooseneck because of distinctive barnacles on his dorsal fin, is also known as Brutus and Mr. October. Gooseneck is almost always found feeding with the dolphins who love to whale surf in front of him. He recently was joined by another larger humpback.

Humpback Whale Gooseneck Mugging

Gooseneck and Captain Dave’s drone footage will appear in a National Geographic program premiering in 2015 called United States of Animals. “I hope he will stay around all winter, though I expect him to head to mainland Mexico along with the 800 or so humpbacks that spend the summer feeding off of central California. Up until this year humpbacks have been seen only a few times a year off Orange County. However, this is the year of the humpback! We have probably had twenty times the humpback sightings this year! And I don’t think we have had a whale of any species that has been seen this many times for this long! And we see a lot of whales we have year round watching and regularly see blue whales, gray whales, fin whales, and minke whales at different times of year,” says Captain Dave. This humpback is quickly becoming our first resident whale and we are thrilled at the prospect!”

Humpback whales are occasionally seen off Orange County, but this is the first time a humpback has taken up residence in the area. Gooseneck often is seen feeding and playing with our local dolphin population.

Like other baleen whales, humpback whales feed in colder waters and migrate to warmer climates for mating and calving. Humpbacks are seen off Southern California at sporadic times throughout the year when the whales are making their way up the coast in search of food or heading south to Mexico to mate and give birth. About 800 humpbacks are found off California in summer, mostly above Point Conception. It is highly unusual for one humpback whale to spend over two months feeding and playing in the waters off Dana Point.

Humpback whales are known for their friendly and curious behavior towards boats, and this whale is no exception! During the whale’s time here, whale watchers have witnessed kelping, breaching, tail slapping, and more. Kelping is an interesting behavior that occurs when a whale drapes itself in kelp. Scientists don’t know exactly why whales do this and some speculate that the kelp feels good on the whale’s skin.

Humpback whales can reach lengths of around 50 feet with females being slightly larger. They can weigh up to 40 tons. There long pectoral flippers can be up to 15 feet in length. Humpbacks eat small fish that dolphins also eat and krill.

Music: “Waves of Freedom” courtesy of David Hollandsworth 

Drone equipment: Aerial Media Pros

All audio, video, and photographs are copyright David Anderson/DolphinSafari.com and may not be used without permission.