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Gray whales are migrating along California’s coast right now. Here’s where to see them

A baby gray whale, with its head above water, swims near Dana Point with its mother,  who is submerged.
A baby gray whale swims with its mother off Dana Point.
(Associated Press)

The gray whales are back, hugging the California coast while they make their 10,000-mile journey from Alaska to breed in the warm-water lagoons of Baja, Mexico, and back. In January, crew members on a whale-watching boat used a drone to record a baby gray whale and its mom off Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point.

Capt. Frank Brennan of Dana Wharf Whale Watching estimated that the calf spotted Jan. 7 was a day or so old, the Associated Press reported. “You could still see the fetal folds on it behind the blowhole,” he said. (You can watch video at bit.ly/babygraywhale.)

Want to spot a whale on your own? Pacific gray whales are on the move through April along the coast. Here’s what you need to know to see them.

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Where to watch from land

Palos Verdes Peninsula: Every year since 1984, trained volunteers with the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society count the number of whales as they make their way past the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Bring your own binoculars and watch from the same spot as counters mark their daily and season totals on a board for all to see. Number of whales seen as of early February: 392, including 33 calves heading south.

Info: Point Vicente Interpretive Center, 31501 Palos Verdes Drive West, Rancho Palos Verdes; bit.ly/ptvincente

Ventura: The end of the Ventura Pier is a good place to spot migrating grays when they pass between the Channel Islands and the mainland. The pier, built in 1872, is open year-round and it’s free.

Info: Ventura Pier, 750 Harbor Blvd., Ventura; bit.ly/venturapier

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Dana Point: You’ll have a good vantage point at the 60-acre Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. Go to the nature center’s patio for the best views of the ocean and the whales. (The center will let you check out binoculars for free.) You can also attend a free Whale Walk & Talk at 9 to 11 a.m. the second Saturday of the month.

Info: Dana Point Headlands, 34558 Scenic Drive, Dana Point; bit.ly/danapointwhales

For more whale-watching places from land, go to TheWhaleTrail.org, which maps sites from San Diego to British Columbia, Canada.

Where to take a whale-watching tour in Southern California

Tours usually include a naturalist on board to help identify whales plus other wildlife such as dolphins and seals. Most operate until mid-April.

Los Angeles County

Orange County

San Diego

Channel Islands

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Where to see gray whales to the north

Santa Cruz

Mendocino

San Francisco

Moss Landing

Monterey

Tips for whale watchers

Planning is key: Winter is prime time for whale-watching in California, which means trips can fill up fast. Make reservations.

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Dress warmly: Although it may feel warm on land, layer up with a windbreaker or other jacket on top. Temperatures may be 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the ocean.

Carry sun block: Wear sunscreen even if it is overcast or gray. You can get sunburned even under cloudy skies because sunlight bounces back up from the water’s surface.

Take binoculars: It’s the only way to get an up-close look at the whales.

Wear flat, rubber-soled shoes: The deck is likely to get wet, and a wet deck is a slippery deck.

Take seasickness medication before you go: If you are prone to seasickness, take medications at least an hour before you board.


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