Before setting out on my adventure to Mendocino, I wanted to do a little coastal whale watching in the Bay Area. So I met Grasshopper Sparrow (he has wheels now!) in Half Moon Bay and we headed south to Pigeon Point and turned our lenses west.
We found a point overlooking the ocean just to the north of Pigeon Point Lighthouse. It was a beautiful, clear day and the seas were calm with a lot of bird life flying both north and south. Perfect conditions for land-based whale watching.
We scanned the horizon looking about an inch below, to see if any blows were visible. This is the telltale sign of a whale. Blows happen when their warm breath makes contact with the cold air and the white exhaust can be seen from a long ways away. We were looking for a short bushy blow which is a sign of a migrating gray whale.
I wandered off a few yards to the north to get a look at some roosting surfbirds when Grasshopper exclaimed, “Whale!” I turned my bins to the horizon, scanning about and inch below. Near the horizon I picked out a white blow in the middle of a flock of birds on the water and circling above. These attendant birds are also a great sign of cetacean activity.
Now we just needed to identify the whale by its unique blow. Grasshopper noted that the whale he saw through the scope had a dorsal fin. Now this would exclude grays because they do not have a fin but a dorsal ridge. Also the blow looked taller than the heart-shaped gray whale blow.
After a few more observations, with a few of the whales showing their pied flukes, I knew we where looking at a group of three humpback whales!
I later headed south down Highway 1 towards Santa Cruz. I pulled off just north of Davenport to have a little lunch and scan the Pacific for whales. I didn’t have to wait long before I saw my first blow with the naked eye. I put a scope on the whales and identified a few more humpbacks but I did not see any grays.
I would have to drive north to meet them “halfway”. Well, that was the plan all along.
Mendocino, here I come!