Monterey Bay Season: December through May.
The California Gray Whale (Eschrictius robustus) annual migration brings them through Monterey Bay twice each year. During the peak times we are surrounded by geyser-like blows and graceful flukes, which is a real treat. Southbound grays are seen December through mid-February. Northbound grays come through mid-February to mid-May. Mostly they are single-minded in their trek and we see them surfacing, blowing and fluking as they move along. Sometimes we are treated to a rare breach, spyhop or even some breeding behaviors. Other times they are downright stealthy in their behavior, barely clearing the surface to take a breath. An unforgettable observation is when a pod of orcas are on the hunt for gray whales. This happens each spring here in Monterey Bay when the mother grays and their calves are traveling north.
Gray Whales are Bottom Feeders
The image above of a gray whale skull shows how the baleen plates hang down from the upper jawbone. These baleen plates form a broom-like inner surface for filtering invertebrates from the bottom sediment.
Check out the American Cetacean Society's California Gray Whale Census Data Page for up-to-date California Gray Whale information.
Conservation Concerns: Plastic Garbage in our Oceans is Bad News
This excerpt is from an article written in the fall of 2011 by David Todd of Puget Sound:
Cascadia Research's renowned cetacean researcher John Calambokidis explored the contents of a beached gray whale's stomach. He noted there was a significant amount of algae with little evidence of food. He reached his hand inside the whale and removed a piece of plastic. Then, a length of rope, a golf ball, a plastic bag, a piece of cloth. Another piece of plastic, more cloth. Duct tape. A towel. Electrical tape. Fishing line. More rope. A surgical glove. Plastic funnel. More plastic bags. A huge piece of fabric (it was half a pair of sweatpants). Work around us stopped and everyone gathered, stunned. Over twenty plastic bags in all were removed from the whale's stomach. John shook his head. In 20 years examining over 200 whales, he said he had never seen anything like this.