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From Blues to Grays

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Whale Watching

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Julien

Well, our blue whale watch has slowly come to an end and gray whale season is officially starting on Friday November 16! The trips will leave daily at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. The last few weeks of our blue whale season during the end of October and the beginning of November have unfortunately not been filled with blues, but still have been full of activity. The last blue whale sighting was a beautiful one with a mom and a fairly large calf (probably 7-8 months old) on October 18th. Like mentioned before, the unusually warm waters this season was not the kind of nutrient rich chilly water that these blues come here for feeding! They have traveled on to more krill-rich waters on their mysterious next leg of their journey. Our photo ID interns helping us collect data for the Cascadia Research Collective on board our recent trips have been hard at work interpreting the data they received throughout this season and photo identifying each individual blue that we encountered.

Since our last blue whale sighting, we have seen some amazing common dolphin action and some super pods that included thousands of dolphins! Since we observe mating bevavior throughout the year, we have also been seeing many healthy looking calves as well. We have also had a few days of Risso’s dolphin sightings possibly due to the recent increase of surfacing squid. Some of these pods have been quite large with over 40 Risso’s and a few bottlenoses mixed in as well. Sometimes we spot what look like hybrids that are part Risso’s and part bottlenose!

The most exciting day that we have had in recent whale watches I was luckily enough to be a part of. There was a sighting of large whales off of point Vicente on Sunday November 4th and our goal was to get there fast on the first trip of the day. Once we got to the site, there were two adult fin whales, one minke whale, and thousands of birds all feeding at the surface! Since minke whales and fin whales are found off of our coast all year round, they are not dependant solely on krill like the blue’s are. They eat a mixture of plankton and small fish that they filter through their hairy baleen plates. The fins were displaying amazing lunge feeding behavior right at the surface and several times they came up right next to the boat. The minke was busy feeding around the boat as well. For the most part, the weather has been gorgeous and we have had some beautiful evenings and sunsets out on the water.

We are hoping to see gray whales during the end of November all the way through May. In fact, a few have already been sighted. So come on out with the Aquarium of the Pacific to see the incredible Pacific gray whales during their 12-14,000 mile migration past our coast during these next months. See you then!

From Blues to Grays
A large pod of over 40 Risso's dolphins surfing in the wake of the boat  | Aquarium of the Pacific
From Blues to Grays
Lunge feeding fin whale at the surface off of Terranea, ventral pleats and all!  | Aquarium of the Pacific
From Blues to Grays
Incredible shot of a feeding fin whale, you can see the the whale turning on its side to take a gulp of food right under the water!  | Aquarium of the Pacific
From Blues to Grays
Side profile of a local minke whale with a view of the mouth, eye, and saddle markings  | Aquarium of the Pacific

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