Whale of a Good Hike

This week’s article comes from dear Stroller Hiker, Xerry.  Here, she candidly shares the joys of an autumn beach hike at Melanie’s weekly jaunt at Seabright Beach.  My family was so inspired that we will make a Sunday visit, to see this rare assembly of whales! Click through the link to see the full article online, and you can see Xerry’s photo of the whale.  It’s graininess reminded me of those of Loch Ness… but I am certain we’ll see the real thing ourselves!  Thanks Xerry!

– Debbie

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I thought I’d send you some pictures from yesterday’s Seabright Hike.  We had a fairly large group of people, although I didn’t take pictures of everyone before they left.  I remember at least six families, including a set of grandparents, who came along for the hike.IMG_2848 (Large)

 The day started out very overcast and cool, but ended up sunny and warm — typical for a fall day at the beach in Santa Cruz.  We wore layers and shed them as the temperature warmed up.  No jackets were necessary by the time we left the beach.

 It was a great day to see ocean wildlife. We saw a couple of pods of dolphins (from baby to adult), at least three sea lions (including one who caught a fish and was attempting to eat it while fending off some persistent seagulls), lots of pelicans and seagulls.  

 As an extra treat, just as the last of the Stroller Hikers were leaving the beach, Gabriel and I saw a feeding frenzy of humpback whales and seabirds unfold right in front of us. Glenn and his twin girls, Riley and Brooke, saw a few of the spouts as they were leaving the beach.2013-10-11-whale

 The grainy picture of the two ships shows the head of a humpback whale emerging from the ocean, surrounded by a few birds overhead.  I couldn’t tell if it was a spy-hop or an enthusiastic lunge-feed from where I was sitting on the logs by the entrance to the beach, but it was spectacular, nonetheless.  I wish I had a better camera, or was closer to the action, but Gabe wanted to stay closer to the entrance of the beach, rather than right by the shore where the pictures would have been better.

 I was treated to a whale watching expedition for my birthday last month, out of Monterey, and the marine biologists stated that anchovies are filling the bottom of the ocean as thickly as 200 feet deep and a mile long in some spots.  This is a cyclical event which brings hundreds of humpback whales to the Monterey Bay.  I saw at least 75-100 whales on that trip, but have seen at least 20 from the shores of Capitola and Seabright in the weekends since then.

 Yesterday’s feeding frenzy occurred between the Santa Cruz pier and the area of the beach in front of Seabright’s entrance.  It was easy to see the whale spouts as well as their bodies emerging from the water.  I did see a couple of breaches by some calves as well as a whale tale which was twice as wide as the boat on the left side of the picture.  The view must have been spectacular from the pier or the Seabright overlook from the road.

 Whales this close to the beach are uncommon, but I think that they may hang out at least until November, when they leave for breeding and feeding grounds in other parts.

 Here’s a link which describes how infrequently this phenomenon occurs:

 http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_24091445/whale-time-anchovies-bring-record-numbers-humpbacks

 Gabe, Seve, and I had seen a similar feeding frenzy after last week’s Stroller Hike, so the humpbacks may be feeding there on a regular basis for the rest of the month, depending upon how long the unexpected bounty of anchovies remains in the area.  It’s possible that, after next week’s hike at Seabright, if Stroller Hikers can stay a little longer, they may be able to view this rare and amazing sight as well.

 -Xerry

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