As the southbound gray whale migration past Southern California wanes to just a few mammals, the northbound migration is becoming increasingly apparent.
Mid-February is the turn-around period, according to researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger, and the small number of northbound whales now being spotted probably were among the first to have reached Baja California lagoons earlier this year.
The lagoons serve as mating and nursing areas for about 20,000 Pacific gray whales.
The northbound migration toward Arctic home waters will peak off Southern California in mid- to late March.
For this reason, the Orange and Los Angeles County chapters of the American Cetacean Society have timed their annual all-day whale-watching adventures for March 18 (Sunday), and March 24 (Saturday), respectively.
The ASC-OC trip aboard the Catalina Flyer includes a voyage around Santa Catalina Island. It'll depart at 9 a.m. from 400 Main St., in Newport Beach, and return at 6 p.m. Cost is $60 for members and seniors, $75 for non-members, and $35 for children 10 and younger. Reservations can be made by calling (714) 375-1192.
The ACS-LA's 33rd annual "Ultimate Whale Watch" will be aboard the Monte Carlo out of 22nd Street Landing in San Pedro. The trip runs from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m. and passengers will cross the channel and explore waters off the west end of Catalina.
Cost for the "Ultimate Whale Watch" is $61 for members and $71 for non-members, with a $5 discount for those who sign up before Friday. Additionally, passengers who present a ticket stub from the gray whale movie "Big Miracle," will receive a $5 rebate at the boat. Reservations can be made via the Internet or by calling (424) 266-0516.
Trained naturalists will be aboard both vessels.
While there are no guarantees, these fund-raising excursions are famous for producing memorable sightings of gray whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions and sea birds.
Pacific gray whales, whose 10,000-mile round-trip migration may be the longest of any mammal, will be journeying to feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas. Some will be calves, traveling with their mothers, making the northbound trip for the first time.
-- Pete Thomas
-- Image showing a a northbound gray whale off the backside of Catalina was captured during a previous "Ultimate Whale Watch" expedition. Credit: ©Pete Thomas