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Video: On and Off Run of Humpbacks Has North Oregon Coast in Awe

Published 09/23/2017 at 3:47 PM PDT - Updated 09/23/2017 at 4:47 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Video: On and Off Run of Humpbacks Has North Oregon Coast in Awe

(Seaside, Oregon) - Another round of Humpback sightings was – well - making a splash last week on the north Oregon coast, though this time they made their way to Seaside. (Photos and video courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

Humpbacks have been spotted in heavy numbers on and off for the last month or two around the north coast, primarily in the Astoria area, around the mouth of the Columbia River. The Facebook page Clatsop & Pacific County Whale Sightings has been featuring plenty of photos and reports of them over the summer, noting some spectacular encounters. They've even been spotted on the central coast lately.

These appearances are on and off, it seems. There will be a rush of sightings for a few days and then nothing. Another week or two and there are more popping up.

Last week, Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium caught video and stills of a lot of Humpback activity – but in the cove at Seaside. They don't often congregate that far south as often, so this was a big deal.

As with just about all massive whale sightings, it was all about the food.

“They were staying pretty close to shore while feeding on small bait fish,” Boothe said on September 16. “There was a lot of activity today; with harbor seals, California sea lions, shearwaters, pelicans, and terns. A huge variety of marine life came in to feed on the small bait fish. If the fish stay close to shore the whales may be around for a few days.”

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Humpack whales' official scientific name is megaptera novaeangliae. They have been the third most frequently spotted whale on the Oregon coast, except that in recent years their sightings are up well over those of Orcas, which occupied a distant second in frequency from gray whales.

They usually just during summer and some peak migration periods in the spring. Still, Humpbacks keep about five to 15 miles offshore, which makes them almost impossible to recognize unless you've got a knowledgeable person like a Whale Watch Spoken Here volunteer nearby.

Your chances of seeing them are much better on whale tours – but still rare. They are seen a few times a year from the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay. Even then, Humpbacks are usually only spotted during migration times during summer. If you do see one, it's almost always at about 15 miles offshore.

Most sightings, however, seem to occur on the north Oregon coast in recent years, and mostly around the mouth of the Columbia. Still, some numbers of Humpbacks have been sighted around the central coast this past month.

In 2015, there were unprecedented numbers of Humpbacks marauding around the Astoria and Hammond areas. They were even seen darting between boats with regularity. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

Humpbacks get up to 60 feet long and eat mostly krill and small fish. You can tell it's a Humpback by the obvious hump and knobby head. Tails have black and white markings, and they are known for stunning watery acrobatics at times. Video and more pics below:


Below: Humpback sightings from 2015 around Astoria (courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

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