Thursday, February 10, 2011
On Saturday January 29, our 3:00 p.m. whale watch boats got quite the sight! While coming up on a gray whale, they noticed very unusual gray whale behavior. The gray whale they had spotted was swimming in circles under the water. They couldn’t see exactly what the whale was doing, but they knew it wasn’t a “normal” gray whale swimming pattern.
As the whale surfaced to breathe, on the back of the gray whale was a brand new baby! When a baby whale, or calf, is first born, it needs a little help getting to the surface for its first few breaths. This seems to be exactly what the boat saw!
When a gray whale is first born, they’re around 15 feet long and about 1,500 lbs. This little one was definitely small! I’ve never seen a calf so small. Normally the calves I see are later in the season where they’ve had a little bit of time to bulk up and grow after drinking hundreds of gallons of their mother’s milk. In the lagoons they can gain between 50-60 lbs each day in preparation for their long migration as they move into the cooler waters for the summer.
As you might have heard before, gray whales go south to give birth in the lagoons in Mexico. However, there are a good portion of gray whales that are born on the way down. Although the idea is to get down to the lagoons, researchers say there are a lot of calves born on the way down. Of course it makes it a little tougher for the calves, but they seem to do better than we might think. Some of the threats of having the baby on the southern migration are that the baby isn’t as strong to be swimming through rough seas, or there might be killer whales searching for them. I’m definitely pulling for “our” calf, and hope mama and baby make it safe down to the lagoons. It looked like they were off to a good start!
If you’re interested in joining us on one of our whale watching cruises, now is a great time! This is by far one of the best years we’ve ever had!
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