Sunday, 11 December 2011

Orcas encountered in three Southland counties in three days

The killer whale watch is on off Southern California after 12 transient orcas made dramatic showings off Ventura on Friday, Rancho Palos Verdes on Saturday and Newport Beach on Sunday, before vanishing early Sunday afternoon. They were last seen headed offshore.

That's three counties in three days for the visiting cetaceans, which were seen preying on California sea lions during at least two of the three rare local encounters.

Researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who was off Palos Verdes on Saturday, said the 12 orcas included four moms (one a grandmother) from three family groups, and two calves that are less than a year old. She provided the accompanying image, which shows one of two brothers—estimated ages 13 and 8—performing what looks like a headstand.

The video below was filmed Saturday by Phil Garner from aboard a different boat.

On Saturday and Sunday the older orcas, after sea lion kills, appeared to be teaching the younger orcas how to attack the pinnipeds. The 12 orcas have been photo-catalogued and are most commonly seen off Monterey. They also have been sighted off British Columbia.

Luke Dutton, an Island Packers employee, witnessed the killer whales off Ventura and posted video clips of 39 and 22 seconds to his Facebook page. In the 22-second clip, a killer whale calf can be heard vocalizing (pay particular attention to the 4-second mark).

Only a handful of whale-watching boats are operating at this time —most landings wait till the day after Christmas to begin their gray whale excursions — but they'll be on orca-watch Monday, weather permitting

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