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Grey Whales

Gray Whale

I love the southern coast of California.  Where we have the privilege to live next to one of the most diverse whale populations on the planet.

Numerous whales, can be seen traveling up and down the coast.  These include, the Gray Whale – Eschrichtius robustus, Blue Whale – Balaenoptera musculus, Humpback Whale – Megaptera novaeangliae, Minke Whale –  , Sperm Whale – Physeter macrocephalus, Pygmy sperm whale – Kogia breviceps, Brydes Whale – Balaenoptera cf. brydei, Sei Whale – Balaenoptera borealis, Baird’s beaked whale – Berardius bairdii, Blainville’s beaked whale – Mesoplodon densirostris, Ginkgo-toothed beaked whale – Mesoplodon ginkgodens, Perrin’s beaked whale –  Mesoplodon perrini, Stejneger’s beaked whale – Mesoplodon stejnegeri, Cuvier’s beaked whale – Ziphius cavirostris  and the Fin Whale – Balaenoptera physalus.  

All of these whales can be seen at different times during the year along the coast of Southern California.  Several of these whales have multiple thousand mile journeys every year, traveling between the rich feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska in the summer to the warmer waters of Mexico in the winter.

Gray Whales Migration

These amazing mammals can be seen beginning in November when they are heading south to the warm-water lagoons of the Baja peninsula and then again in February and March as then head north to the feeding grounds of the Bering sea.

By late December to early January, the first of these amazing creatures begin to arrive the calving lagoons of Baja. The first to arrive are usually pregnant mothers that look for the protection of the lagoons to give birth to their calves, along with single females seeking out male companions in order to mate.

The three primary lagoons that the whales seek in Baja California are Scamnon’s , San Ignacio and Magdalena. Scamnon’s was named after a notorious whale hunter in the 1850’s who discovered the lagoons and later became one of the first protectors of the Grays.

The California Gray Whales were called the devil fish until the early 1970’s.   At that time a fisherman in Laguna San Ignacio named Pachico Mayoral reached out and touched a Gray mother that kept approaching his boat. The fisherman have been interacting with the whales ever since.  Today the whales in Laguna San Ignacio are protected but it is possible to visit a whale camp and have the same experience that Pachico had.

Throughout February and March, the first Gray Whales to leave the lagoons are the males and single females. The other whales start leaving the lagoons once they have mated.  The whales then begin the long trek back north to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering seas. Pregnant females and nursing mothers with their newborn calves are the last to leave the lagoons. They leave only when their calves are ready for the journey, which is usually from late March to mid-April.

Gray whales appear most prominently in the wintertime, migrating south toward Mexico in the early winter and returning to Alaska in February and March. Humpback whales and blue whales migrate during the summer months, from early June to late September.

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