December with Ditto – 12/23

December truly has been a gift with 13 days (so far) of a gray whale known as Ditto, feeding within sight of our cabin!

Ditto, or CSG349 is one of the few grey whales who feeds in this channel and has been seen in past years feeding in Chesterman and Cox Bay with her calf, near Tofino. After spending some time with her yesterday I was eager to see if she would still be there at daybreak, and as the sun began to clear the treetops, I could see her blow, reassuringly present in the same area as yesterday. Typically, she doesn’t spend more than half a day in this spot, but there must be some good food around. Most Pacific Coast Feeding Group and Alaska Grey Whales have headed to Baja by now, but there’s always a couple who spend winter in Clayoquot or just choose to travel late. They can swim incredible distances in just a matter of weeks, so there’s still time for her to make the journey if she chooses.

From my home, this is all I could see of Ditto, even with a telephoto lens and cropping of the image. Her blows were just tiny fountains of mist, glowing orange from the sun, as she rested before diving again. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, though, and goes to show that you don’t need to get close to wildlife to appreciate it!

Yesterday (December 23rd), she was joined by two others. One so elusive that we couldn’t get an ID photo of it, and another often surfacing with Ditto in a synchronized behavior, meaning they are “associated ” with each other. However, this mystery whale isn’t in our local catalogs! It’s also quite small, indicating it’s quite young. After the holidays, local researchers will reach out to other organizations to see if we can get a match on this new whale. It’s not yet considered a part of the Pacific Coast Feeding Group population as the sightings are required to be over multiple years in certain months. But it’s an exciting addition to our knowledge about these whales!

Storms have now set in for Christmas and are forecast to last until New Years so there will be little opportunity to keep up with who is here. Hopefully once the seas calm and winds die down, I will be able to check on them again!

All photos taken with a telephoto lens and cropped from an ethical viewing distance. on the territories of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Nations.

Many thanks to @mark_sawyer for the identification on Ditto.


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