Beach Watchers host whale watching cruise
April 5, 2011 · Updated 4:12 PM
The gray whales have returned to the waters around Whidbey and Camano islands, and islanders can get a chance at a close-up view during a whale-watching cruise later this month.
The trip is a fundraiser for the WSU-Island County Beach Watchers program, and will be the only one of its kind to leave from Whidbey during the gray whale season. The cruise through Saratoga Passage leaves from the Langley marina at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16.
Gray whales are annual visitors from March until early June, feeding on ghost shrimp in the sandy, muddy shallows of Camano and Whidbey islands from Langley to Coupeville.
The annual spring visit of gray whales provides an excellent opportunity to view whales from the shorelines of Island County or from the Clinton/Mukilteo ferries, much to the delight of residents and visitors. The whales often feed close to shore by turning on their sides and sucking up huge mouthfuls of sand filled with ghost shrimp, then straining it out through their baleen plates, swallowing the invertebrates and pushing mud and water back out, leaving plumes of mud trailing through the water.
Cascadia Research of Olympia has been studying the population of Puget Sound gray whales for decades, and has photo identified a group of approximately 10 whales that visit this area each spring. The 10 to 12 “regulars” who show up each year are often accompanied by a number of other whales who are not regulars. In greater Puget Sound, from 12 to 50 grays are sighted each year.
The cruise from the Langley marina costs $75 per person and includes appetizers and beverages; naturalists will also be on board to share information about whales and other sea life.
To learn more about gray whales, visit the Orca Network’s gray whale website page at orcanetwork.org/nathist/graywhales.html.
To report a whale sighting, call the Orca Network at 1-866-ORCANET or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Whale enthusiasts can become members of the nonprofit’s Whale Sighting Network and receive emails about the whereabouts of the whales in the region. E-mail Susan Berta at email@example.com or sign up on the website.