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Whale You be my Valentine?

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Education | Whale Watching

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Whale You be my Valentine?
Eye See you! A spectacular and rare shot of a gray whale's beautiful eye. Tim was able to capture this shot with a very interesting gray who was rolling around on the surface surrounded by very curious dolphins.  | Tim Hammond

With the presence of so many gray whales this time of year, we are bound to witness some interesting behaviors. As mentioned in the last several blogs, we have been seeing some breaching and rolling behavior which is often time interpreted as courting or playful behavior. In the last couple of weeks, with the influx of so many small groups of whales, playful whales have been spotted frequently. We have seen pairs of whales rolling around each other at the surface. This is so exciting to watch because you really get to see the whole gray whale. Their pectoral flippers, head, fluke, and even belly will often emerge from the depths as they are rolling around at the surface. It’s also a great time to really get to see their interesting markings and get to watch the whales take a break from their exhausting migration and just stay in one place. Most of the time, when we see this kind of behavior, the gray whale is usually with another gray whale, but this is not always the case. This last weekend, during our busy Presidents Day/Valentines weekend, a very packed whale watch boat got to see something super interesting! A gray whale was laying at the surface, belly up, and rolling around side to side as well as ‘doing whale sit ups’ thrashing its head and tail out of the water simultaneously. But, this whale was not alone. There happened to be dolphins (commons and Pacific white sided) joining the whale in this playful behavior! The dolphins were even making contact with the whale while travelling and porpoising. We have seen gray whales ‘play’ with dolphins and vice versa, but this was something that was a little out of the ordinary! The photos show the close proximity the dolphins were to the whale, so check them out! It really makes me wonder; what is going on in their big beautiful brains?

Other than the plethora of gray whales (1,454 counted by the census at the moment), we have been seeing a few active humpbacks, some fin whales, and quite a few Pacific white-sided dolphins. One of the fin whales was very mysterious. The photos taken, and witnesses of the sightings, could not tell if it was a fin whale or not. Fin whales will always have a white lower right jaw, but this whale appeared to not have that or a faint gray right jaw. The whale’s dorsal fin was also very peculiar and unlike most fin whale’s dorsal fins. What whale was it then? Well, we do have reported fin whale hybrids, Sei whales, and Bryde’s whales that have been sighted in the past. Unfortunately, we do not have a photo ID program started for our fin whales, but hope to start this in the near future!

Speaking of photo ID programs, I would like to have you all meet Kadi! She is one of our newest interns and has been a part of the Aquarium family for quite a while,

“I am an aspiring marine biologist currently attending Long Beach City College. I have been a volunteer at the Aquarium of the Pacific since 2014, and have served around 400 hours as an exhibit interpreter. I am proud to be a Marine Mammal Photo ID Intern, because I know that the work I do contribute to real cetacean research. Being an intern has added so much excitement to my everyday life, because you never know what you’ll see next!”

You can check out some of Kadi’s, and some of the other new interns photos in this week’s blog, along with our usual contributors from Harbor Breeze. If you have not gone out on a whale watch this season, I really urge you to go soon! We will be seeing the grays through May but the best time to go out is right now! So get your tickets and some visit us at the Aquarium as well.

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