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Dozens Of Gray Whales Spotted Off Point Reyes As Migration Begins

Brandon Mercer
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The fluke of a gray whale is seen at Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico. (CBS)

The fluke of a gray whale is seen at Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico. (CBS)

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POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE (CBS SF) — Gray whales migrating south for winter are now passing the San Francisco Bay Area, and rangers at Point Reyes National Seashore observed 41 whales last Sunday, and another 25 Friday.

“We’re off to a good start, and seeing a lot of whales out there,” said Ranger John Golda. “For me it’s always kind of magical.”

The whales can sometimes be seen passing right below the landmark lighthouse, but binoculars are recommended to help spot them as they approach.  Normal whale behavior means visitors will see spouts and flukes, and the giant backs looming out of the water, but not normally breaching or splashing.

Golda also reports the first elephant seal pup was just born, as the population of 430 giant pinnipeds begins their birthing and mating season onshore. About 110 can be seen and heard from the Chimney Rock overlook.

In expectation of the crowds packing the headlands and lighthouse area to spot the leviathans, Point Reyes shuttle service begins Saturday, and runs weekends and holidays through mid-April or so, depending on traffic. Shuttle tickets are $5 and available at the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach from 9:30 am to 3 pm.

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will be closed to private vehicles at the South Beach junction from 9 am through 5:30 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays depending on weather. Shuttle service will not run during stormy or extremely wet weather. Visitors can get updated shuttle information from the recording at 415-464-5100, ext. 2 (then press 1).

A reminder for new visitors–Point Reyes gets incredibly cold with a moist wind cutting through all but the strongest wind-proof fabrics.

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