Some of the differences between whale watching in California and in New England include the type of whales found, the migration patterns and the behaviors of the whales. Whales tend to head for warm waters to mate and give birth; in the Pacific, this happens off of the Baja California coast. New England waters are much colder, but they are also nutrient-rich. Whales head for these cooler waters to feed after sometimes not eating for months in their southern homes.
The Eastern North Pacific gray whales travel 12,400 miles round-trip every year from their feeding grounds in Alaska to their breeding territories in Baja California. Whale watching is possible along the entire Pacific Coast, since the whales appear between October and March heading south and again between February and July as they head back north. Almost every seaside community knows when the whales normally pass by.
As an example, in Monterey Bay, California, the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Center keeps track of gray whale schedules and also has a good idea of when other species are likely to appear. Gray whale season is from mid-September to the end of March. From April through mid-December, the center expects killer whales, humpbacks and blue whales. Dolphins are off the coast year-round.
Whale watching season in New England is usually from May through October, during the warmer months. The humpbacks are particularly active, especially when feeding. A group of whales surrounds a large ball of krill or small fish, and then the whales leap up with their mouths wide open to pick up seawater and food. They filter this combination through their baleen, a substance in their mouths that is similar to a huge comb, and swallow the food. Other species that migrate through this area include finback, right and minke whales.