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Photo of the Week: Return of the Whales

A humpback whale breaches in Monterey Bay, photographed by Chase Dekker.

The whales are back! It was a tough winter here in California, as far as whale watching goes. The rough seas, torrential rains, and bitter winds made finding whales difficult, especially since many decided to head south for warmer seas. Even though they were slow to return, I am thrilled to see them coming back into Monterey Bay in bigger and bigger numbers. Over the last few weeks, we have been seeing between 10-35 humpback whales per trip as they move around the bay and search the central coast for the best feeding zones.

We have also seen more killer whales as the transients (mammal-eating) are beginning to scout the bay for the migrating mother and calf gray whale pairs. The orca season usually ramps up around April 10th, so hopefully, in a week the black and whites will be putting on quite the show. Of course, the southern resident killer whales made the headlines over the past weekend as they showed up in the bay looking for salmon. The southern resident orcas comprise of three pods: J, K, and L pod. The L pod is the largest compromising of 35 orcas and entered the bay for the first time since 2011. While this was extremely exciting, it was also troubling as these orcas spend the majority of their time in and around the Salish Sea in Washington and British Columbia, making their 1,000-mile journey south only when the salmon population is low. Of course, that has been the biggest threat facing the southern residents as the salmon (mainly the Chinook) have faced noise pollution, overfishing, and habitat loss, much of which has been caused by the damming of rivers and streams.

However, the humpbacks have still been stealing the spotlight as they continue to breach and feed right outside the Moss Landing harbor. Over the last few weeks, we have even found some chronic breachers who perform for hours on end to the delight of all onboard. To add to the fun, multiple dolphin species including Risso’s, Pacific white-sided, and northern right whale dolphins have been making appearances. The dolphins are full of energy and chock full of charisma as they bow-ride, surf through the wake, and jump farther than you could imagine. Whatever we see, it is always a new day out in Monterey Bay and as spring continues to roll on, we should expect to see even more animals off the California coast.


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Hey, I'm Chase Dekker, a wildlife and nature photographer looking to share my stories and expertise with as many people as possible. My blog gives you a glimpse into my life as a photographer - whether it be stories from my travels, or guides on how to make your own trips as successful and special as possible.

I hope to give you valuable insight on everything from travel, to animals, to photography tips and more!


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