OUT OF LEFT FIELD: Don’t forget the aquatic wildlife

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James Fujita, the Out of Left Field columnist

Southern California is filled with wildlife.

Black bears come down from the mountains to take dips in suburban pools.  Coyotes and mountain lions prowl Griffith Park, the Santa Monica Mountains and other areas. Raccoons raid trash cans. Opossums and skunks visit neighborhoods. My mother’s condo patio railing is currently a highway for a handful of squirrels, but we have seen raccoons and opossums as well.

When people talk about wildlife, we tend to think of land creatures — probably because we ourselves are land creatures.

Southern California is filled with wildlife.

Black bears come down from the mountains to take dips in suburban pools.  Coyotes and mountain lions prowl Griffith Park, the Santa Monica Mountains and other areas. Raccoons raid trash cans. Opossums and skunks visit neighborhoods. My mother’s condo patio railing is currently a highway for a handful of squirrels, but we have seen raccoons and opossums as well.

When people talk about wildlife, we tend to think of land creatures — probably because we ourselves are land creatures.

But think of all of the aquatic wildlife living here as well — fish, sharks, seals, sea lions, dolphins and, of course, whales.

Southern California gets several kinds of whales, including gray whales, humpback whales and blue whales (and there are a few others).

Gray whales are the stars of the local whale watching scene, as they tend to be the most commonly sighted. They migrate from Alaska and Canada all the way down to Mexico in the winter, where they give birth to new calves. Then they head back north in the spring. The South Bay is fortunate to have these giant visitors pass through between December and May.

There are a couple of ways to see these creatures in the South Bay as they travel up and down the coast. One is to take a whale-watching cruise out of San Pedro, Redondo Beach or Long Beach. Although I have not had much luck with whale watch cruises, people apparently do see plenty of whales.

If you want to see whales locally without getting on a boat, head down to Point Vicente at the south end of Rancho Palos Verdes. Point Vicente is a great place to see whales because it juts out into the Pacific, so the whales stay relatively close to shore. It is such a good spot that the American Cetacean Society sends volunteers there on a regular basis to count the whales as they migrate.

I have seen whales spouting offshore at Point Vicente two weekends in a row.  If you are lucky, you may even see tail flukes when the whales dive back underwater.

Of course, the whales are not guaranteed to show up, but there is still plenty to do and see in the area.  The Point Vicente Interpretive Center is filled with local history and other exhibits.  And the coastal nature trails at Point Vicente are worth a walk.

The picturesque Point Vicente lighthouse is usually closed to the public. But you can visit the lighthouse grounds (but not climb the tower) between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the second Saturday of most months.

On those few Saturdays when the grounds are open, visitors can get a close-up look at the lighthouse and visit the small but interesting museum, which is dedicated to the history of the lighthouse and to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Whale of a Day Festival will take place at Point Vicente from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 11.

I find the ocean views at Point Vicente to be worth visiting any time of year, but the best time is when the whales are visiting as well.

James Fujita is a former GVN news editor. He works for the Visalia Times-Delta in California’s Central Valley. Fujita can be contacted at jim61773@yahoo.com

OUT OF LEFT FIELD:   Don’t forget the aquatic wildlife