Among the annual migration back to Alaska this time of year, few whales get as close to shore as a yearling Pacific gray whale this week in Redondo Beach.
The calf, likely on its first solo trip north, thrilled onlookers as it played in the waves close to shore.
What looked suspiciously like it might be beaching itself was actually the calf scratching whale lice from its back, observed Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director of the American Cetacean Society of Los Angeles chapter’s gray whale census program in a Daily Breeze article.
“They are super playful, probably rolling around and scratching in the sand,” Schulman-Janiger said. “It has lots of whale lice but it’s not in trouble, just having fun.”
While these types of whales mainly like to gorge on small shrimp-like amphipods on the Arctic sea floor, they also feast on more than 90 kinds of prey. A bit of hunger for a mid-journey snack and a healthy curiosity likely led to this unusual encounter.
The observatory for passing whales at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center has counted 1,427 whales heading south in September and another 1,814 travelling back north, with more than 60 calves among them, reports the Breeze.