Kicking off the gray whale calving season, passengers aboard two whale watching excursions caught sight of a whale giving birth off the coast of Dana Strands Beach on Monday, Jan 2.
Passengers of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching’s Ocean Adventure vessel had spotted the mother whale spouting just north of the Dana Point Headlands.
Similarly, when passengers and crew aboard Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari sighted the mother gray whale, they noticed something orange and red in the water that they thought might have been kelp, a media release said.
“For a minute, many of us thought it may be a shark or predatory event,” Capt. Dave’s Drone Operator Matt Stumpf said in the media release. “But, no, instead of the end of life, it was the beginning of a new one.”
From September through December, gray whales migrate to mate and give birth in the warm, protected lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. Pregnant whales give birth from late December to early February.
While the whales prefer to give birth in protected lagoons in Mexico, which offer safety from predators and warm waters for calves that have not yet built up a thick layer of blubber, some calves just won’t wait and are born during the migration journey, the media release from Capt. Dave’s explained.
After the calf was born, passengers saw the mother whale gently lifting the calf up to help it take its first breaths, Dana Wharf Naturalist Laura Lopez said in an email.
Gray whale calves are born at about 15 feet long and will gain more than 50 pounds a day from feeding on their mother’s milk. The calf will grow to an average of 40 to 50 feet in length and weigh 30 to 40 tons in adulthood.
From January through March, gray whales can be seen along the coast of California traveling south as they continue arriving in Baja and north as they begin their journey back to the Arctic, just in time for the Dana Point Festival of Whales, which kicks off this year on March 4.
“Witnessing this gray whale birth was one of the best things I have ever seen,” Stumpf said. “And not that it is just coming to the world, but already from the video, you can see its personality.”
“I wish the best for this pair as they make their way down to the lagoons in Baja and then back up to the feeding grounds,” Stumpf continued. “It’s a long and dangerous journey for them.”
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