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First baby gray whales spotted with moms off Orange County waters

DANA POINT   The first gray calves of 2019 have been spotted off the Orange County coastline.

Two cow-calf pairs were seen in the last couple of days just outside Dana Point Harbor.

The first pair was observed by Capt. Frank Brennan, with Dana Whale Whale watching on Thursday, Jan. 10. Brennan saw a second pair in the same area on Friday, Jan. 11, In both cases, the calves were estimated to be just a couple of weeks old, said Donna Kalez, who manages Dana Wharf,  the areas oldest whale watch charter.

Thousands of gray whales are on their annual migration now. Local whale-watch charters begin tracking gray whales on Nov. 1.

The whales travel from arctic waters near Alaska, where they feed, to the warm lagoons of Baja, Mexico to mate and give birth. During their approximately 12,000-mile round-trip journey, gray whales face threats including orcas and entanglement in fishing gear.

Nearly 300 children from Mission Hills Elementary School in Escondido were on board Friday, Jan. 11, when Brennan found the pair by using his drone.

The mom and calf pair were traveling at the same speed, Brennan said. That gave the baby a chance to draft off the mom — catching a free ride along the southern-bound journey.

Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who runs a gray whale migration count, at Point Vicente as part of the American Cetacean Society’s Los Angeles Chapter Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, looked at photos of the pair spotted in Friday.

The calf was estimated to be about 15-feet long. .

“Alisa believes it was a  week to two weeks old, ” said Kalez. “She determined that by how the calf  was swimming and how it was taking  taking breaths its breaths.”

Schulman-Janiger also reported see her first newborn gray whale on Friday, Jan. 11.

“Our cow/calf pair milled in front of us,” she wrote in a Facebook update on her census count. ” The very young calf still had fetal folds, and kept turning around and swimming in the opposite direction. The mom fluked, and her calf rolled and displayed its pectoral flipper. We watched one whale swim under water, and another zig-zag toward us.”

Schulman-Janiger has counted 104 southbound whales. She also counted  and four northbound-swimming whales.

Source: Orange County Register

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