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Our First Few Weeks on the Water of 2013

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Education | Whale Watching

Thursday, January 24, 2013


They started just like 2012…with orcas!

I would say 2012 was one of the best years on the water for me. Why? Because I FINALLY saw orca whales in our waters off of Long Beach with the first time being January 2, 2012 to be exact. A day I will never forget. I had some idea they were on the water because our boats saw them on January 1, 2012 as well. What a perfect way to start the New Year! How did our boats start 2013 this year? Well with orcas again, of course!

One of my favorite groups of orcas are the CA51s. We call them that because the mother of that group is CA51. They’ve been nicknamed the friendlies because they will come right up to the boat. I ended up seeing them three different times in 2012 and I can’t wait to see what 2013 will bring. It looks like we’re off to a great start though because they were seen again on New Year’s Day for 2013! Although our boats didn’t see them on January 1, I did, however, see them on December 23, 2012 and got quite a show! We had the youngster, Comet, as well as the large male in the group. Comet is a two year old female. She’s so small compared to the others. You definitely know who she is and she’s absolutely adorable! We had some exciting behaviors with some of the whales coming right up to the boat being “friendly.”

You might wonder how I know who these whales are and that’s because I work closely with Alisa Schulman-Janiger anytime there is a sighting. She heads up the Southern California Killer Whale project and can easily recognize these animals. I’m getting better at identifying them, but she knows so much about these animals including their family history. These animals are truly amazing!

In addition to orcas to start off the year, we’ve also had quite a few gray whale sightings. Right now we’re in a great time to see lots of gray whales, including some babies! The gray whales migrate to warmer southern waters of Baja to give birth or mate. However, there are also births that happen on the actual southern migration and we’re lucky enough to see some of babies when they’re brand new to the world. The babies are pretty small, measuring about 15 feet long and about 1,500 lbs. Some small baby, huh? If they’re very recently born, you can see little wrinkles on them. They will lose these wrinkles relatively quickly. You can also tell that the baby is new because they won’t have barnacles or a lot of whale lice yet, so they look all gray. They’re so precious and will stay very close to mama.

One of the other gray whale highlights I’ve had this year already is watching a gray whale interact with a large pod of common dolphins. We had a gray whale that was traveling south when this pod came racing over to the gray whale and started “bow riding” off the mouth of the whale. A lot of times we see the dolphins get a little extra push from our boat, but this time they got that push from the whale. This is actually where the bow riding originated from! I’ve only ever seen that happen two other times. It was so awesome!

Our count to date since January 1st for gray whale sightings is 68 with one cow/calf pair and 63 for fin whales! We also had an incredible once in a lifetime day on Sunday January 20th with a mega-pod of 23 gray whales all traveling together! This type of sighting is very rare and not many pods of this size are ever seen. Usually they travel in small groups of up to 2-3, and many travel alone! It was so amazing to see the multitude of spouts and they were even fluking simultaneously! We have also been seeing the seasonal pacific white sided dolphins as well almost every trip, along with the common and bottlenose dolphins.

If you didn’t make it out over holiday break, there is still plenty of time to see whales! We’re in the heart of gray whale season and are hoping for lots of sightings this year.

Our First Few Weeks on the Water of 2013
One of the juveniles named "Comet" from the CA51 matriarch pod seen December 23, 2012  | Kera Mathes
Our First Few Weeks on the Water of 2013
Common dolphins bow riding a gray whale.  | Kera Mathes
Our First Few Weeks on the Water of 2013
A fin whale showing us part of its head.  | Aquarium of the Pacific Photo ID
Our First Few Weeks on the Water of 2013
Incredible shot of the elegant and seasonal pacific white sided dolphins porpoising alongside the boat.  | Aquarium of the Pacific Photo ID

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