(Video link courtesy of CBS 8 News and reporter Marcella Lee from Jan. 27,2014) A very small and young gray whale has been stuck in the San Diego Bay since January 26th, and according to CBS News 8, Hornblower Captains and SDNHM Whalers’ daily sightings, the calf is still in San Diego Bay. With the knowledge that a gray whale calf usually nurses for about 7 months, and stays with their mother for up to 9 months, there is definitely a growing concern about the fate of the whale. Everyone hopes this gray whale calf, who is only about 2 weeks old, will find his way back to the migration path.
During the Fall Migration, the pregnant female gray whales take the lead on the southern migration, in a hurry to reach the warm birthing and nursery lagoons. Soon to follow are the males and other adult females. Juveniles, of course join this incredible journey, but some often don’t ever reach Mexico before turning around and heading back north.
Eventually the Northward (Spring) Migration occur. This is usually from January – June. During this migration route, the adult male gray whales and juveniles are the first to head north. The newly pregnant female gray whales, mothers and babies stay in the lagoons a month or two longer than the others so that the babies can gain blubber and strength before making the long journey back north to Alaska.
Photo by Ken Shelby, SDNHM Whaler of Mom and Baby whale tail
Photo by Keith Jones of Baby Gray Whale Calf
San Diego Whale Watching continues to be successful each day with reports of sightings of tons of whales and dolphins on Hornblower Cruise right off the coast of San Diego. The most exciting reports come directly from the Captains, like Captain Nick Kriesel who has been leading whale watching cruises for years on Hornblower Cruises. Many of his regular crew members say that Captain Nick has excellent “whale karma” since on a majority of his trips he sights spectacular gray whale behaviors. These whale behaviors include breaching and mating.
Here’s Captain Nick’s whale watching report from yesterday 1/22/14:
The a.m. Whale Watching trip on Adventure Hornblower, we saw three ( 3) gray whales one of them being a newborn gray whale calf, no more than 2-3 days old. We saw 60 white sided dolphins and common dolphins. It was a great trip.
The afternoon Whale Watching trip on Adventure Hornblower, we saw seven (7) gray whales, a group of 4 swimming very fast in a south direction at 8 knots! Another great showing!
More info on Gray Whales:
Gray whale breeding occurs mostly in the winter to early spring while near the surface and in warm waters. The gestation period is about 13.5 months and the calf is born head first (unusual for cetaceans) and near the surface of the warm, shallow waters. The newborn instinctively swims to the surface within 10 seconds for its first breath; it is helped by its mother, using her flippers. Within 30 minutes of its birth the baby whale can swim. The newborn calf is about 15 feet long and weighs about 1-1.5 ton. Twins are extremely rare (about 1% of births); there is almost always one calf. The baby is nurtured with its mother’s fatty milk (53% fat) and is weaned in about 7-8 months. The mother and calf may stay together for about a year. Calves drink 50-80 pounds of milk each day. Gray whales reach maturity at 8 years. Growth stops at age 40 years old. Mature females give birth every other year in the warm lagoons off Baja, Mexico.
Gray whales have a life expectancy of 50-60 years.
Gray Whale Breach
It’s whale watching season for the Gray Whales in San Diego and the height of the season is this Saturday’s San Diego Big Bay Whale Festival. In honor of this weekend’s festival, we wanted to share some really cool websites we’ve found about the Gray Whales.
The first one is Journey North’s Gray Whale Sightings. Journey North is an organization that:
citizen scientists in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. K-12 students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, gray whales, bald eagles— and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events.
We like their Gray Whale Sightings Map in particular. Observation posts are highlighted with a yellow stars and actual sightings are denoted with a blue circle.
The second website we really like is National Geographic’s page about the Gray Whales. National Geographic shares a lot of great information about the species of whales. They include a map of common areas where gray whales can be found and fast facts about Gray Whales. Some of the fast facts include:
Size:40 to 50 ft (12.2 to 15.3 m)
Weight:30 to 40 tons (27,200 to 36,300 kg)
Size relative to a bus:
The third website we enjoy is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Alaska Fisheries Science Center. NOAA presents a great FAQ about the gray whales, including some very interesting tidbits:
Gray whales used to be known as “devilfish” because they fiercely defend themselves and their calves against whalers.
There are now about 18,000 gray whales in the Eastern Pacific stock. The eastern North Pacific stock of gray whales was removed from the endangered species list in 1994, however they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The gray whale Western Pacific stock was believed to be extinct until 1925 when a few gray whales were seen off the coast of Siberia. There are still very few sightings of these whales
The last site that we love is our friends and partners at the San Diego Natural History Museum. They have some great video, which you can also watch below: