Southern California whale watchers might take note that the next couple of weeks, weather permitting, probably will be the best time to witness the northbound migration of Pacific gray whales.
The first significant push of whales through Southland waters seemed to occur Monday. Volunteer spotters with the Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project on the Palos Verdes Peninsula logged a count of 64 whales and even witnessed mating behavior, which is not common during the northbound trip from Baja California to the whales' Arctic home waters.
The daily count was the fifth highest in 21 years for a project run by the American Cetacean Society's Los Angeles chapter. The tally might have been higher, director Alisa Schulman-Janiger said, had rain not hampered viewing conditions from the South Bay promontory.
The previous high count for a single day this season was 16.
The project's aim, obviously, is not to count the actual number of whales involved in the migration. It's merely to detect trends during a migration period that involves about 20,000 gray whales. Spotters watch the ocean from dawn to dusk seven days a week and take note of sightings and behavior.
The timing of the peak northbound migration period off Southern California coincides with the ACS-LA's annual Ultimate Whale Watch adventure, which is scheduled Saturday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. out of L.A. Harbor Sportfishing in San Pedro.
The voyage, aboard the First String, will include travel to the west end of Santa Catalina Island and feature naturalists who will identify mammals and birds encountered throughout the trip.
Cost is $69 for non-ACS members and $59 for members. For reservations or to inquire about details call (310) 847-0516.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo courtesy of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching