Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) migrate about 10,000 miles a year. According to information from the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, during a lifetime every gray whale swims the equivalent of a trip to the moon and back. In the north are the whales' hunting grounds, where they feed on crustaceans and other animals on the sea floor off the coast of Alaska. They head south to reproduce, then north again with their newborn offspring in tow.
Bodega Bay sits on a section of the California coast about 70 miles north of San Francisco. The Bay is tucked behind Bodega Head, a sheltering peninsula that curves out and down to parallel the coastline. The steep, rocky bluffs of the Head give those willing to make the journey a sweeping view of the ocean and the annual migration of the gray whales.
Gray whales follow the same schedule every year, allowing humans interested in seeing them to accurately predict the best times to watch. Viewers in Bodega Bay can spot whales headed south in late December through January. The pregnant females go first, then the adults of breeding age, then the immature whales and finally the yearlings. Heading north it’s the single whales that go first, and the mothers with their calves follow about a month later. Northbound whales reach their peak around the middle of March, but mothers and babies will keep passing by Bodega Bay until the first part of May.
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