Posted by: Sandy Steinman | March 10, 2021

Gray Whale Watch

from Redwood National and State Parks
The watch for California Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) migration is now in full swing! Beginning in January and ending around May, these school bus-sized whales may be seen surfacing just beyond the breaking waves. They are journeying north from their breeding grounds in Baja California to their summer feeding grounds in Alaska.

Gray whales are unique among the filter feeding baleen whales; they do not skim for plankton like right and bowhead whales, nor do they take such massive gulps of plankton, krill, or herring as do rorquals (such as blue, fin or sei whales). Gray whales are mud-grubbers, which kick up mouthfuls of ocean bottom sediment in order to access their favorite prey: amphipods and other small crustaceans. The baleen (comb-like structure used to filter small prey) of gray whales is much coarser than that of other whales because of this. This feeding adaptation is also the reason why gray whales have the only migration that can be seen regularly so close from shore.
The best places to look for migrating grays at Redwood National and State Parks are from our vista points at High Bluff Overlook, Klamath River Overlook, and the Crescent Beach Overlook, although their spouts may be seen while standing on any of our beaches. (*Please note: the overlooks at High Bluff and Klamath are currently temporarily closed due to COVID restrictions on neighboring tribal lands.)

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