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Whales parade close to Bodega Head

  • A pair of gray whales move north past Bodega Head on Thursday as they migrate to their summer feeding grounds off Alaska. (Christopher Chung / PD)

BODEGA BAY — Pairs of gray whale mothers and calves bringing up the rear of the spring migration to northern feeding grounds have created something of a spectacle off the Sonoma Coast in recent days, much to the delight of whale watchers lucky enough to spot them.

Hugging the shoreline for protection, the cows and calves have been numerous, and in especially still, warm weather Wednesday and Thursday were readily on display, regular observers said.

“It was really exciting,” said Larry Tiller, a well-known fixture on Bodega Head, where he sits each day with his camera, hoping to capture the magnificent mammals and add new pictures to his ever-present photo album.

Whale Watching At Bodega Head


“The calves were jumping over the mothers and doing 'spy hops,'” bobbing just above the surface, he said.

The cetacean acrobatics have delighted other regulars at the popular whale-watching spot jutting out into the ocean north of Bodega Bay.

“We had a show — mothers and calves breaching and carrying on very close to shore,” Bea Brunn, a docent with the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, said of her last coastal visit.

The annual spectacle draws a steady stream of onlookers on weekdays and hundreds of gawkers on clear spring weekends.

A couple of cow/calf pairs were seen off Bodega Head on Friday afternoon, as well, though heavy fog, wind and whitecaps may have allowed some to pass unseen.

Many visitors who stopped for a quick look were driven back to their vehicles by the chill without having seen any whales among the plentiful sea lions right off shore.

“Every day is something different,” said Ernie Halbert of Santa Rosa. “I've been out here when two kayakers came out and they played tag with the calves.”

An estimated 18,000 of the massive gray whales — the adults can reach 50 feet long and weigh 40 tons — generally pass off the North Coast twice a year, each time as part of a two-to-three-month journey between Baja California where they mate and calve, and summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas off Alaska.

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