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Orcas, Blues, Humpbacks and Baby Grays!

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Whale Watching

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Julien

We have been having phenomenal whale watches the last few weeks of March! Orcas, humpbacks, minkes, fins, grays and more early blue whales have filled our recent trips with excitement. It all started with Bigg’s orca sighting off the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes of a small pod and one of the individuals had never been spotted this far south! The following week we spotted something making an enormous splash in the distance by the oil rigs and it turned out to be a juvenile humpback whale playing in the water! The whale was constantly rolling around, slapping its pectoral flippers on the surface of the water, and breaching! Their pectoral flippers are about 1/3 of the total length of their body, about 10-15 feet! It is suggested that these whales slap the water in various ways to attract a mate and this whale may have been trying to get the attention of any other humpbacks in the area. In the same area were tons of seabirds feeding at the surface on krill along with several fin whales!

Everyday this month has given us some sort of great sighting or surprise! In between the humpbacks and orcas many gray whale calves have been sighted swimming alongside their mothers and in some cases accompanied by another adult. Sometimes a couple adults will travel with a cow and calf pair to act as an extra barrier between the calf and outside dangers like Bigg’s orcas. Bigg’s orcas are the orcas that specialize in marine mammals. Just recently the name was changed from transient orcas to Bigg’s orcas. There is usually no coincidence that we see more orcas during gray whale season than other times of the year. Some of the gray whale sighting highlights have been some breaching behavior and also a couple of playful juveniles rolling around, spy hopping and traveling with a pod of common dolphins.

Right in the mid month, we had several days in a row of blue whale sightings. Of course, as mentioned before, our typical blue whale season does not start until June, but we have been seeing more and more blues feeding on krill out by the contours of the vast underwater canyons that speckle the California Bight. As this is being written, this blue is back and had been spotted a few times within the last few days. We don’t know if this means the season will be different this year, but it sure seems that things may be shifting with the usual blue whale season. Maybe the season will start early and end early, or maybe we will get a longer season. Whatever happens this summer, I hope they stay for a longer period of time because they are a wonder to watch and it is so much fun being with whale watch guests when they see one for their first time!

The sightings to date from mid month to now are 83 grays, 19 fins, 9 blues, 3 minkes, and 1 humpback! Hundreds of dolphins are spotted almost daily including commons, bottlenose, and a few pacific white sided. This means that we have been seeing several animals a day so it is a perfect time to come out with us in search of these incredible ocean mammals. See you soon!

Orcas, Blues, Humpbacks and Baby Grays!
A playful humpback whale rolling and exposing its pectoral flippers.  | Captain Carl Mayhugh
Orcas, Blues, Humpbacks and Baby Grays!
A blue whale circling for krill near other whale watch boats and our own.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Orcas, Blues, Humpbacks and Baby Grays!
A gray whale turning its head and exposing one of its eyes out of the water!  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Orcas, Blues, Humpbacks and Baby Grays!
A pod of common dolphins traveling at high speed.  | Aquarium of the Pacific

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