Gray Whale Gathering in Gusty Winds

10 North Bound 0 South Bound 4.75 Hrs

Partly sunny and 54 degrees; stratocumulus clouds for miles. Sustained wind of 18-22 mph with sand blasted, pelting gusts of 25-30 mph making it hard to walk at times and feeling much colder.

A group of eight whales gathered in Pirates Cove, arriving and departing in pairs, until a quad was left and then the four moved on together. Lots of active behaviors including: head lifts, spyhops, tandem spyhops, rolling, back floating, playfully gliding over and under in and out of the surf. There was also several dolphin and sea lion interactions separately and together. The sustained winds and rough ocean with large white caps to the horizon and strong wind made it challenging to track the whales as they moved further north (west) along the transect today.

Two gray whales, migrating side by side, with close up views of their rostrum (upper jaws ). Could this pair be an adult female whale with its yearling or juvenile? The smaller of the pair has visible dimpled depressions for stiff whisker like hairs called vibrassae, but none can be distinguished in these photos. The larger adult whale, has more areas of paleness or whiter areas caused when barnacles fall off, leaving white scars. As the whales age these scars accumulate and some whales end up looking very pale and glow under water with lack of pigment.

Gray whales like all mammals have hair. At birth the gray whale calf rostrums have multiple dimple like depressions or hair follicles for the bristly whisker like stiff sensory hairs called vibrissae, which have nerve endings that may help with lactation or learning to forage on the ocean floor. As gray whales mature, there’s less vibrassea. Juvenile gray whales have some around the mouth, adult whales may have some around the chin. In practical terms, a full head (or body) of hair like other mammals would slow the whales down on their long migrations. The whales high percentage of body fat, insulates to keep warm in cold ocean temperatures and is use for energy or fuel during the long migration. *****Seeing these whales today is motivating me to look closer at the whales I see these deep dimpled areas and compare with photos of emaciated whales with visible loss of the thick layer of blubber/body fat to see if those whales have more visible dimpled depressions and this is another sign of malnourishment or weight loss for some whales. An update will follow .

Pectoral Fin (Flipper) seen as this gray whale was rolling, rake mark scars can be seen on the tip, most likely from killer whales teeth during a non successful attack.
Striped scars along the LEFT side of this whale, most likely from a propeller.

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