Top 5 places to watch whales in Sonoma County

Andrea Granahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Late March and early April are prime viewing months for the 30- to 40-ton California gray whales that migrate between Alaska and Mexico to feed, mate and give birth. They travel in a narrow 20-mile-wide corridor that hugs the coast and use points of land that jut out into the ocean as points of navigation, which makes them easy to spot from the westernmost points along our coast.

In late October, the first whales to leave the Arctic are the pregnant females who have been gestating for almost a year. They are in a hurry to get in the safe lagoons of Baja California to give birth. By December, the other adults follow on their mating run.

This time of year you can see the adults that have mated heading north to the Arctic to fatten up over the summer. At the same time, you can see juvenile whales under 5 heading south just to learn the migration route.

The last of the whales to make their way north are the mothers with calves, who travel in April and early May. Moms nurse their young seven to eight months with milk so rich it is about the consistency of toothpaste. Orcas are a very real danger to the gray whale, so mothers hug the shore, staying between the calves and the open sea. April and May are prime months for spotting them.

Read more for best places to watch.