According to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department approximately 18,000 Grey whales will pass by in the 4 weeks from mid-March through mid-April in their yearly 10,000 mile migration from the Baja Lagoons of Mexico to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea. The main body of whales is about 3 miles off shore however; when feeding the whales can be seen closer to shore. During the peak period approximately 6 whales per hour will pass by specific viewing sites.
The Northern migration starts in the spring during the week of March 21 - March 28. Trained volunteers will tell you that the younger whales travel by first followed by adult whales and lastly the mother whales and their calves (see Whale Watching Spoken here website http://whalespoken.org/ for more info).
The Parks and Recreation Dept. website listed below documents a few whale watching tips.
- Gray whales may possibly be seen year-round on the Oregon, Washington and northern California coastlines.
- Winter migration has the highest numbers (30 per hour) but the whales are usually farther off shore (1-5 miles) because of stormy weather.
- During the spring migration (northbound), the whales are more spread out (6 per hour) but they are closer to shore (1/2 - 3 miles), sometimes stopping to eat.
- Summer feeding whales are very close to shore and eat tiny mysid shrimp that live in the kelp beds. They may feed for hours in the same location.
- Bring your binoculars and dress for the weather. Focus your binoculars and have them ready, but watch with your eyes. When you locate a blow, then bring up your binoculars for a closer look.
- Learn the diving and feeding habits of the whales so you will know how often and where they may surface by going to http://www.oregonstateparks.org/images/pdf/whale_watch_center.pdf for the Whale Watching brochure.
- Morning light (with the sun at your back) is often helpful for spotting blows. Afternoon light reflects off the water and makes viewing difficult.
- Calmer days are better whale watching days, by land, sea or air!
They advise that any spot with an ocean view may yield whale sightings, but higher locations like Cape Blanco and Battle Rock Park are better than sandy beaches.