This Week - Thurs, Dec 26, 2008- Wed, Jan 1, 2009
Marine Biologists explain that most Gray Whales spend the summer and early fall months in the arctic waters of the Chukchi and Bering Seas. Around mid to late fall the whales start their 6000 mile journey south to their mating and calving lagoons in Baja California, Mexico -- one of the longest migrations on the planet. The whales return north in the spring, when it is possible to see mothers with babies, as well as courting and mating adults.
According to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department approximately 18,000 Grey whales will pass by in the 4 weeks from mid-December through mid-January in their yearly journey to the Baja Lagoons of Mexico. The main body of whales is about 5 miles off shore because of stormy weather however; in fair weather the whales can be seen closer to shore. During the peak period approximately 30 whales per hour will pass by specific viewing sites.
The Northern migration occurs 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.