Around the world, fall means migration. Whether it’s birds flying south for the winter or snowbirds seeking their southern homes, once September comes to an end, it’s time to get on the move. On Catalina Island – and around it – the forces of migration are also readily apparent. Many winged species, including raptors, shorebirds and songbirds, make Catalina Island a stop on their southern journeys, but one of the most dramatic migratory animals doesn’t wear feathers. California gray whales will soon begin their epic migration, leaving their summer feeding grounds in Alaska and making their way along the Pacific coast of North America to warm lagoons in Baja California, where they will rest, breed and give birth to the next generation.
Gray whales have one of the longest migrations of any mammal and their marathon journey takes them just offshore of the Southern California mainland – where they are frequently spotted by travelers to Catalina Island. Reaching lengths of 45 feet or so, gray whales aren’t nearly as large as the blue whales that are seen in the summer, but these travelers are more regularly spotted. Whether seen from the Catalina Island ferry, from great dramatic overlook on the island or on a Catalina Island dolphin and whale tour, gray whales are a sign of the season unique to Catalina Island.