Killer Whales Play and Pose for Pictures Off Central Oregon Coast
(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – There is so much to look for these days on the beaches, it's hard to keep up. Weird, smelly jellyfish, tsunami debris that may have invasive species on them. Even baby seals are something you're supposed to keep an eye out for. (All photos were taken by Edith and Kent Hitchings).
Now the biggest attraction of them all: killer whales. And this group of annual – but mysterious – visitors stopped to put on a show at the end of March. Indeed, not only did they hit this coastline earlier than usual, but some stunning photographs were taken by Whale Watch Center volunteers at the beginning of the month.
Volunteer Edith Hitchings and her husband Kent snapped this series of jaw-dropping shots on March 29. The photos here are extremely rare. This group of transients is hardly ever photographed. It also shows the distinctive, pointed look to them. Most Orcas have a rather rounded face.
There's some amount of mystery surrounding them, as scientists aren't sure where they came from, and they have a different look than other Orcas that sometimes travel here from the northern Washington coast. These are a bit more beaked in appearance than other Orcas.
Hitchings' photographs of them off the central Oregon coast recently show them quite active, a bit like Vikings preparing for battle.
Indeed, that's what they were up to, according to Hitchings' descriptions of the encounter. She and her husband spotted six of these transient killer whales off Boiler Bay on March 29 at about 5:45 p.m. They were a half mile from shore, and it soon became apparent they were on the hunt.
“We watched them for an hour and a half during that time we saw them attack and feast on two sea lions,” Hitchings said.
She and her husband were part of the Whale Watch Spoken Here program during spring break, working as volunteers. She said they've also been on several whale watching trips on the Puget Sound area. But they'd never seen anything quite like this.
“Today was the most spectacular whale watching we have ever encountered,” Hitchings said. “The deliberate and calculated behavior of the orcas was phenomenal. In addition to attacking the sea lions we watched them breach, fluke slap, head lung and gracefully surface to breath.”
Hichings said there was a baby Orca among the group, adding to the evening's surprises.
“After we left Boiler Bay we went south to Depoe Bay to see if we could see them going by,” Hitchings said. “We spotted them just north of Depoe Bay and watched them swim south and beyond the buoy markers at Depoe Bay. We last saw them going south around 7:30 pm.”
The Whale Watch Center said that if you're going to try and see an Orca, it’s best to shoot for spotting Gray whales first. Take along a lot of patience and get to a high vantage point.
Luckily, Gray whales are still being spotted in great numbers right now as well. One visitor noted seeing nine of them playing together in the surf off Yachats earlier this week. Other residents have reported seeing them just about every day.
Calmer conditions are needed too. If the waves are too large, it will hide the whales from sight, a bit like a trench next to a highway.
The Whale Watch Center is currently closed for renovations, so call the Beverly Beach State Park office for more information on whale watching at (541) 265-4560. More on Oregon coast whales here.
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