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Humpbacks and Sea Lions Put on Wild Show on N. Oregon Coast, Near Cannon Beach

Published 11/23/2018 at 5:49 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Humpback and Sea Lions Put on Wild Show on N. Oregon Coast, Near Cannon Beach

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) - Last week saw some incredible whale action on the north Oregon coast, as a handful of Humpbacks were spotted just south of Cannon Beach and caught on camera by Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe. It's almost as if they too came out for the great weather, perhaps sunning themselves in the warm winds and calm surf as well. (All photos Tiffany Boothe).

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In actuality, that's what made them so easily spotted, but it was all the baitfish wandering in the area that caused them to linger for a fishy feast.

That wasn't all Boothe documented, as apparently hordes of little fishies like anchovies or herring in the area were the main attraction for other species as well. Three Humpbacks, somewhere between 30 to 50 sea lions and simply gobs of birds were making, well – a splash.

"Joined by lots of sea lions, they could be seen casting ‘bubble nets," Boothe said. "A feeding behavior which involves multiple whales swimming in an ever shrinking circle, blowing bubbles below a school of fish. The shrinking column of bubbles surrounding the school forces the fish upwards. The whales spontaneously swim up through the bubble net, mouths wide open, catching thousands of fish in one gulp. This technique of bubble net feeding can be very helpful to a Humpback trying to consume 3,000 pounds of fish in a single day (the average quantity an individual Humpback eats while foraging)."


It's all part of the big migration that's about to slam the Oregon coast with thousands and thousands of whales. Gray whales will reach their peak migration soon, coinciding with Whale Watch Week at the end of December, where volunteers stand out on high vantage points and help point them out to visitors over winter break.

For now, however, we're seeing Humpbacks.

"These humpback whales are on their way to their breeding grounds some 3,000 miles away in the warmer waters of Hawaii and Mexico," Boothe said. "Gray and Humpback whales are Oregon's most common visitors. Both species migrate up to the Arctic in the spring to refuel on fatty rich krill and then return to the warmer protected waters around Mexico and Hawaii in the fall."

If Humpbacks are in the area, there's usually other creatures around too, generally because they're all feeding on the tiny fish. Adding to the fun is a hard-to-spot and amusing thing that sea lions do called rafting. This is where they bundle together out in the far breakers.

"Sea lions haul out on shore to sleep and rest, but when fishing is good or conditions do not allow for them to haul out they can form 'rafts,' " Boothe said. "Interlocking flippers, they can rest while in the water and have the added protection from predators while in the group. They can easily break away from the raft to hunt for fish and then return for a rest."

Boothe said when they're rafting it's typical see them playing in the surf and jumping in and out of the water. More photos below: Oregon Coast Lodgings for this event - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

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