Last week was a busy one for the Gray Whale Foundation! On Wednesday, four classes from Crown Valley Elementary (112 4th and 5th grade students!) accompanied us aboard the Dana Pride as we surveyed for migrating Gray Whales. We left the dock around 10:20 under overcast skies but smooth seas. The water temperature was 59 degrees. Here are some photos of the groups, with Capt. Todd providing instructions on data collection and how to use the stopwatches.

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Although we heard there was a gray whale in the area, unfortunately we weren’t able to find it. We did, however, have the opportunity to see Common Dolphins and Pacific White Sided Dolphins. Capt. Todd and the rest of the crew educated our scholars about these species, how they’re similar and different from their mysticete cousins (the baleen whales). Pacific White Sided Dolphins, commonly referred to as “Lags” after their Latin name, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens, are a special treat for us in the winter time off of Southern California. They seem to demonstrate some kind of migration pattern and are observed more often in the summer off the coast of Washington and Oregon. Because our waters are relatively warmer off of Southern California, they may choose to winter here. The group we saw consisted of about eight individuals, which is a typical group size for this species. Common dolphins, on the other hand, are often observed in pods of hundreds, or even thousands!

The scholars also got to see common dolphins and learn about California sea lions. Check out this male hauled out on the jetty. Notice the scarring around his neck? That’s not from outgoing his bling, it’s probably the result of entanglement with fishing gear — a big problem for sea lions. After suffering an entanglement like this, many sea lions die from infection in the resulting wound.

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