Humpback Whales Linger Close on N. Oregon Coast, Cannon Beach

Published 09/21/2015 at 5:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – A group of Humpback whales has apparently made themselves at home on the north Oregon coast, with some new sightings of them cavorting quite close to Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock and Needles. (All photographs by Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium)l.

It's been a thrill ride for whale watchers for over a month. In late August, Humpbacks made quite a startling sight as they were seen up the Columbia River, well into Astoria. They also spent considerable time darting in between boats.

This time around, the sightings were of a fairly uncommon sort, with at least eight moving very close to shore.

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium spotted them this week. On Sunday morning, she said she counted eight, including two calves.

“The humpbacks were actively feeding just past the breakers,” Boothe said.

Boothe said Humpbacks can be seen along the Oregon coast during their northern and southern migrations. But they don't usually hang out so near the beach, normally keeping a distance of a few miles.

“During the summer months some Humpbacks stop and feed along the Oregon coast,” Boothe said. “They tend to stay five to fifteen miles offshore, but they will also go where the food is, and right now there seems to be a lot near Haystack Rock. September is the best time to see Humpbacks (especially from shore). This is because typically the weather is nicer and the ocean is calm.”

Sea lions also put on a show in Cannon Beach this weekend, right near the whales. Boothe said they were seen foraging and doing what is called “rafting,” which is where they clump together in the water.

“A number of sea lions will cluster together to rest or sleep,” Boothe said. “They typically do this when there is not a suitable haul-out.”

The Humpbacks weren't interested in the sea lions for food, and the sea lions didn't care about the presence of the whales. Boothe said it was a peaceful scene between the two species.

Last month, Boothe photographed two Humpbacks moving in the waters of the Columbia, feeding on the huge amount of bait fish present – as were the large masses of pelicans. Later sightings by others included at least one baby Humpback.

Last year about this time, Humbacks were seen in the Warrenton and Hammond areas as well.

Gray whales seem to be plentiful on the central Oregon coast right now, with Depoe Bay whale watch tours reporting lots of encounters there. Since September is generally the best time of year for calm weather – usually straight through middle October – your chances of seeing whales right now are pretty good. Bring binoculars and bring your patience, say whale experts.


 

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