December 12, 2011

The Grey Whales of Baja

Families love the curious grey whales migrating through Baja

Oh, to pat a young grey whale!

Whether you spell it grey or gray, these whales are mighty interesting.

Descended from filter feeding whales that developed over 30 million years ago (30 MILLION!!), grey whales consume ocean worms and crustaceans from the ocean floor and filtered through their baleen.

Growing to 50+ feet long, and weighing as much as 80,000 pounds they are certainly formidable. But curious and friendly too as you can see. Grey whales can live up to 50 years or more, and every year they perform the longest known migration of any other mammal. Their summer feeding grounds are in the icy Arctic waters of the Bering Sea, and in winter they move to their breeding grounds, the warmer waters off the coast of California and Mexico. All along the Pacific coast you can watch their glorious journey.

Thus, thousands of grey whales arrive each year in Baja California. The warm temperature, shallow depth, and limited access to the open sea make the lagoons the ideal places for these marine mammals to mate and to give birth. This environment protects them from the Orcas who use speed when hunting – and speed is hard to obtain in these conditions. A perfect safe haven for the grey whales and their young!

The gestation period for grey whales is 11 – 13 months. The dimply, shortened face is typical of young grey whales, and up close you can see the facial hair on the babies. They can be so curious, they will leap from the water to get a closer look at you – and yes, move in for contact too. A February vacation week is the ideal time to catch this migration in Baja, when the moms and babies are plentiful.

There is someting about the mystery, magic, and curiosity of these giant beings that just makes me want to hug them. How about you?

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