Those who have been waiting for the best time to watch gray whales off Southern California this season should note that the northbound migration period has begun to peak.
On Monday, volunteer spotters with the Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, tallied 50 northbound gray whales. That's the highest count since last March 21, when 64 gray whales were spotted. That represented the highest count in more than 10 years.
(The highest count, since the project began in 1984, is 152 during the northbound migration on March 2 in 1988.)
About 20,000 whales are en route from Baja Calfornia breeding grounds to summer feeding grounds in Arctic waters.
The northbound migration is spread out — some whales have already passed San Francisco and at least a few have entered San Francisco Bay — but this is the peak period off Southern California.
Most landings are sending boats out daily or on weekends for trips lasting 2-3 hours, but those who'd like a longer adventure might consider joining the Ultimate Whale Watch journey Saturday aboard the Monte Carlo out of 22nd St. Landing in San Pedro.
The trip, a fund-raiser for the American Cetacean Society's Los Angeles Chapter (ACS-LA), is from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m. and will include a visit to the west end of Catalina. Cost is $71, or $61 for ACS members. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (424) 266-0516.
Those who live closer to Orange County might consider ACS-OC Around-Catalina adventure on April 1 aboard the Catalina Flyer out of Newport Beach. It'll run from 9 a.m. to about 6 p.m. Departure is from 400 Main St. 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.
Both trips are timed to coincide with the peak period of the northbound migration.
-- Gray whale image is courtesy of Alisa Schulman-Janiger