Whale Weekend Part Two
We made it to the Santa Monica Pier for the Whale of a Weekend Festivities!
If you read my previous post you will have seen some of my curious photos which spawned a list of questions I had collected based on my morning beach walks.
By the time we reached the end of the Pier to search for migrating Pacific Gray Whales it was late on a beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend and that meant that all the boat traffic out in the Bay sent the whales further out “to sea”. Which meant that there was nothing “to see” from the Pier.
I was not deterred in my quest for knowledge. Thus, the volunteer manning the viewing station got first crack at answering my list of questions. She scored pretty well on my “What kind of dolphin?” pop quiz.
From our conversation I learned there is a resident pod of Bottlenose Dolphins that roam the southern Santa Monica Bay area, sometimes visiting us near the Pier. The Common Dolphins tend to stay further out from shore so I’m going to count this sighting as Bottlenose Dolphins.
From my photo oddities:
What the heck is this we found washed up on shore? And how many are out there?
This is a Thornback, sometimes called a Thornback Ray, although related to Rays it is closer to a Guitarfish. (Something else that is new to me.) Apparently they are pretty common in the area but don’t have commercial value (must not be good eating.) My conclusion – nothing to panic about if I come upon a live one but I may start shuffling my feet in the surf just to be safe.
I found the Aquarium of the Pacific website to have a good overview of the local underwater inhabitants. I also found the Aquarium made it onto my must-visit list after perusing the site.
What crawled out of this shell?
Auntie Katie of Too Good to be Threw nailed this one in the comments. It is a sea urchin and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium has a touching tank full of live ones. It’s funny, I’ve never thought about their internal structure and I’ve never come across a shell like this.
My quest for whales has continued beyond the weekend celebration at the Pier…
Whale Sightings Down the Coast
From December to May each year, volunteers patiently watch for and count the migrating gray whales along the California coast. My mom was visiting recently and we made a stop along the Palos Verdes Peninsula at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center where the American Cetacean Society LA Chapter sets up for the count.
The volunteers are trained by naturalists to identify the gray whales and other marine mammals such as humpback whales and dolphins. They also make note of their various migratory behaviors like breaching. Here’s a little bit of the action we saw and discussion amongst the crew:
The milling behavior they were discussing was a minor let down when I looked it up. I was envisioning an elaborate feeding pattern through the kelp forest. Turns out it’s plain ol’ milling about.
If you want to check in on the 2014-15 season, the most recent reports for the count are found at this link here.