Friday, October 14, 2011

Killer whales off the coast

Preparing for the Society of Environmental Journalists conference next week in Miami, I was at the day spa yesterday. Two of the women there were excited about seeing Killer whales the day before from their windows. Their shop looks right out over the ocean just south of San Simeon pier.

They often gaze out over the waves. Brittany said when she’s shampooing hair, it’s a nice way to occupy her eyes. They are all accustomed to the various critters they regularly observe out there. The kelp forest grows in the shallow area, and where the bottom drops off is where whales often swim.

They noticed unusual splashing in the water. Experienced observers acquire a sensitivity to the nuances of splashing, between otters and whales, sea lions and elephant seals. Judy went out with her binoculars to see if she could tell what was going on. She observed for a while, then returned to the shop. She was confident she saw black dorsal fins. As unusual as the sighting was, she was sure it was a group of killer whales.

Nancy Black, Marine Biologist and Owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, has observed killer whales in the Monterey Bay area for years. She has posted her conclusions online, as well as publishing them in professional books and journals. She identifies three different eco-types of Killer Whales occur in Monterey Bay: Transient Killer Whales (mammal hunting); Resident Killer Whales (fish eating); and Offshore Killer Whales (feeding on fish, sharks, and squid).

Black reports that individual offshore killer whales have been identified and reported as far south as Southern California. It’s possible that what Brittany and Judy saw was indeed a pod of killer whales feeding.

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