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The February of Fins

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Whale Watching

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Julien

This February has been a fantastic month for whale sightings! Not only have we been seeing the transition between the south-bound and north-bound gray whale migration, but have been seeing fin whales almost daily! From the beginning of the month to Valentine’s, we have recorded 39 gray whale sightings and an even more impressive 55 fin whale sightings. The local fin whales have been putting on quite a show and we have been seeing them lunge feeding and circling their prey. The number of sightings per day of these giant filter feeders ranges from 1 to 11 all in one area! Now, just because they are feeding in the same area, does not mean they socialize like a pod of toothed whales would. Fin whales are a baleen whale, and these types of whales tend to be more solitary. So we have just been seeing multiple individuals, ranging from smaller 40 foot juveniles to the larger 65 plus foot adults, at their favored feeding area of the day. These whales are not krill exclusive and have even known to eat small fish as well. We are suspecting that the nutrient-rich waters have been more prevalent at the surface, therefore allowing us to spot the second largest animals on Earth more frequently, and seeing what they do best: eat!

The gray whale sightings have also been exciting as well, with more courting behavior being witnessed around the boat. We have even had a couple of trips where the gray whales were breaching out of the water several times, and one whale was rolling around by the boat! As Kera mentioned before, we have been witnessing much of this courting behavior that you would usually see in Baja in our waters more than ever this year. Much of the breaching, rolling, and whale one-on-one behavior seems to be correlating with the purposeful mingling these whales know they must do. Along with the giant splashes from the gray whales, we were even fortunate to see a humpback whale making some splashes on one of our trips as well! On February 4, we encountered one of our local humpback whales that seldom pass by. Another great surprise was a lone enormous Steller sea lion sitting on a buoy occupied by several of our local California sea lions. This near-threatened species is the largest of all the eared seals, with males weighting over one ton! This individual was quite large and could have easily weighed over 1,500 pounds. Their usual habitat range is from the central Channel Islands and North of them, so this sea lion was an out-of-towner!

Our oceans have been filled with whales and even more sightings of our seasonal Pacific white-sided dolphins, along with our local common and bottlenose dolphins. So come on out and spend some time searching for whales along our beautiful coastal waters!

The February of Fins
A breaching gray whale.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
The February of Fins
A fin whale about to dive for another gulp.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
The February of Fins
A fluking gray.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
The February of Fins
A rare steller sea lion sun bathing on a buoy.  | Captain Carl Mayhugh

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