Traffic is increasing in Southern California coastal waters and nobody is complaining because the commuters are gray whales en route to Arctic home waters.
This is the peak period for the northbound migration and sightings this past week have ranged from so-so, to exciting, to spectacular.
Orange County boaters on Sunday were treated to an incredible spectacle as two courting whales performed their mating ritual for hours and paid close visits to those aboard smaller vessels. (Top photo shows two boaters learning first-hand that whales have very stinky breath.)
On Monday, volunteer spotters for the Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project on the Palos Verdes Peninsula tallied 27 northbound grays, but also two humpbacks, including one that breached at least 18 times. On Tuesday the spotters tallied 18 northbound grays.
If this whale parade isn't enough, several larger fin whales and even a blue whale or two have been spotted feeding in Southland waters.
Those interested in viewing whales--along with dolphins and sea lions--should consider booking trips during the next few weeks, as this is prime time.
Most trips last 2-3 hours but those really interested in immersing themselves can join an all-day voyage being offered Saturday out of San Pedro by the American Cetacean Society's Los Angeles chapter.
It's double-billed as the Ultimate Whale Watch and Floating Fiesta and runs from 8 a.m.-5-p.m. aboard the First String out of L.A. Harbor Sportfishing.
The boat will cross the San Pedro Channel and skirt the west end of Santa Catalina Island and will feature naturalists who will narrate the trip and identify marine mammals and seabirds.
At the time of this post there were still openings at the bargain price of $72 per person, or $62 for ACS-LA members. Those who'd like more information can telephone (424) 266-0516. Those wishing to sign up can do so online at www.acs-la.org.
The weather forecast looks favorable, with temperatures in the mid-50s. The whales, of course, will be out there regardless of weather conditions, bound for Alaska.
--Images are from Sunday's incredible gray whale encounter off Orange County. Top image is courtesy of Shane Keena Photography. Second image is by Kayla Causey/Dana Wharf Whale Watch