Friday May 31, 2019 in a press conference NOAA declared an unusual Mortality event with over 70 gray whale strandings (washing up dead) along the West Coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska. In an article published in USA TODAY additional resources will be given to investigate the cause. According to several news reports it seems most whales appear malnourished but others suffered injuries from ship strikes. Scientists are looking at whale necropsy reports as well as studying effects of how climate change has effected the availability of food sources for the whales.
According to NOAAGray Whale Strandings (as of May 31, 2019)
USA Alaska 5 Washington 25 Oregon 3 California 37 TOTAL 70
It was a busy day counting gray whales marching forward and backward, some resting a few minutes enjoying the surf, others hurried through on their journey north to Alaska to feed. Today there were two sonic booms and one kayaker that chased whales, especially sad because one was very thin and had been feeding. Sea lions were out rafting and in the surf with dolphins traveling north and south. The weather went from sunny clear skies over head to dark and gray with light rain at times as the clouds came and went.
Cloudy with limited visibility, rain and drizzle at times, but that did not stop the whales from migrating. One thin whale with sunken cervical neck area traveled through with a buddy. Sighting #5, a pair, one BREACHED just once in a back flop style but not captured on camera. Bottlenose Dolphins were abundant today heading both north and south. One whales fluke was edged in orange lice. Sighting #7 included four whales observed feeding in the surf, spy hopping, sharking, rolling and head lifting in alternating patterns. Th last sighting slowly traveling through after a very cloudy sunset.
The full moon brought a spring high tide and a spyhopping gray whale in close to shore. A dolphin displayed tail lobbing behavior. Eight whale sightings included: 11 whales, 1 harbor seal, 1 sandpiper, half a dozen harbor dolphins, a handful of sea gulls, a trio of pelicans and cormorants. One pair of whales traveled through with frequent alternating blows. One whale displayed feeding behavior in the surf as is made its way through the transect. Another whale seemed to be having a spa day, resting in the murky tide with flippers up, alternating with belly rubbing along the bottom with simultaneous head lifts and fluke lifts.
The skies were bright blue with large white cumulus clouds moving south. The cold N NW wind was strong and gusty at 25 +mph, nearing 7 on the Beaufort Wind Scale. Despite the rough choppy ocean, 5 gray whales were spotted in 5 sightings over three and half hours. The whales were all within 200 yds of shore and traveling at a steady pace. A few bubble blasts but not much milling today. The water was murky after the recent rain and with foam along the tide line. The gusty wind and blowing sand made it hard to track the northbound whales past the transect.
February 6th, 2019 2 Northbound 3 South Bound 1 calf 3.5hrs
After four days of heavy rain and low temperatures today’s clear sky revealed SNOW covering the San Gabriels Mountain with a view of Mt Baldy seen across the Santa Monica Bay while tracking the 1st sighted south bound cow/calf pair of the season! In four sightings today there were 5 whales including one southbound calf. At sunset the sky south lit up a beautiful shade of pink.
The rain came down heavy for 3.5 days causing mud slides along the Pacific Coast Highway. The rain also filled local creeks creating rivers of mud that swept debris from the Woosley fire burned hillsides. The debris flow coming from miles away ending at the ocean. The surf was muddy in areas up to 300 yards out from shore. The swash line was filled with plastic bottle caps, broken plastic toys, pipes and general trash. Erosion from the storm surge was evident at the rock climbing wall. Standard*** Rain Advisory in effect for public safety issued by the LA Department of Public Health. The whales however continue to migrate south and north despite deplorable ocean conditions. Today the whales kept to the outside of the muddiest layers as evidenced by the photos below.
***From the LA Department of Public Health:
Ocean Water Quality Rain Advisory A rain advisory is issued when there is significant rainfall that may cause bacteria levels in ocean waters to increase. Bacteria levels can increase significantly during and after rainstorms, as contaminants within the runoff enters the ocean. Bacteria levels may remain elevated up to 3 days depending upon the intensity of the rain and the volume of runoff. Elevated bacteria levels in ocean water may cause illness, especially in children and the elderly. The Department of Public Health recommends that beach users avoid contact with ocean water for a period of 3 days after significant rainfall, especially near flowing storm drains, creeks and rivers.
Confirmed identification sighting of gray whale known as Scarback, an older female gray whale in her mid 40’s was sighted traveling north with another adult gray whale. Injured by an exploding harpoon in 1985-88, she has a large scar covered over in lice on her dorsal hump area. The lice that live on gray whales are helpful not parasitic, feeding on dead and decayed tissue. Scarback is a local Summer Resident gray whale of Depot Bay in Oregon. Summer Resident gray whales are those that stay for more than 2 days and up to a few months to feed, each whale returning year after year. Scarback has birthed several calves over the years. One was born in the mid 1990’s and others include Scarlett in 2001 , Milkyway in 2004 and another in 2008. I last saw her with a calf in 2016. The Summer Resident Gray Whales stop along the coast of Oregon to feed cutting their migration short but still migrate south for birthing and come back again in the summer to feed.
Hazy at horizon, no islands visible north or south, sunny, 63 degrees with flat,calm ocean changing to brisk cold breeze late in the afternoon/early evening. Three hours until the first sighting, an active mother and calf pair. The calf took a short cut through the kelp bed fluking as it caught up to the mother which was partially glowing under the water, covered in barnacles and scars. The second sighting was a single whale followed by the 3rd sighting another mother and calf pair which stopped three times along the transect area for 12 min or more each time to roll, back float, bubble blast, spyhop and head lift with feeding behaviors as well. In other news OTTERS were spotted in Ventura Ca ! I will be on the look out for any sightings as well.
During a 12 minute stop along the migration route this gray whale calf had several direction changes south then north, east then west before settling on north and traveled close with its mother to the next stop to do it all over again for another 12-15 min before traveling through the transect area.
Mother gray whale back floats while nearby calf rolls in the opposite direction with pectoral fin up.
Clear skies, sunny at 60 degrees, hazy horizon, no visible islands north or south, steady brisk cold breeze with choppy water and white caps. Not one sighting in 3 hours or known observations from several reliable eyewitness’s on the look out through out the day until finally a pair of whales were spotted passing the transect at 6pm !
The Mourning Dove (Zenaidura macroura) the most common species of dove found in North America. Diet: Seeds and grain.
Call: Mourning doves give a mournful oowoo-woo-woo-woo.
Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.