Whales and Condors on the California Coast

Last spring I took a trip to California to see whales and condors. I hadn't seen either in the wild before, and was excited to add these animals to my sightings list!

Monterey Bay is teeming with gray and humpback whales during the spring and summer months, as they hang out to feed on the abundant krill creating huge oil-spill-like patches in the water. Humpback whales are almost a guaranteed sighting, as the whale-watchers know where the local pods are and can lead you to them with minimal disturbance to the pod. I went out on one of the smaller boats and wasn't disappointed!

A pod of Orcas frolicked playfully around the boat and in the water. Very dolphin-like, these whales are social and playful, and it was pretty amazing seeing them being their natural selves, slicing through the waves on this perfect day. There was a family of five who came quite close to the boat to check us out.

Next were the humpbacks! Peeking in and out of the water and riding the waves, they swam in search of food in the form of dead seals, led by large groups of gulls and other sea birds hungrily feeding on floating carcasses.

Getting good photographs is hard when your boat is going up and down on each wave, and you've got to hold onto the railing for dear life in order not to fall off the boat! With the aid of dramamine and ginger chews, I managed to keep myself and my stomach contents out of the water.

An otter with two gull stalkers

Once land-bound again, I made my way to Pinnacles National Park, a release site for California condors born and raised in captivity (due to their critically endangered status). Before releasing them, the birds are marked with numbers so they can be tracked by biologists. Each bird has a story, and you can read their stories by looking up their tag numbers.

It was pretty emotional seeing such a rare and endangered bird soaring above my head, and in such a beautiful place. It was well worth the entrance fee and the six hour hike in the blinding heat to be able to add this bird to my lifer list.

Beautiful views at Pinnacles


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