Pacific Pup: The California Coast According to Annette


You’ve got Whale!

From ancient Greek mythology to classic American literature, whales and dolphins have captivated cultures all over the world for thousands of years. Exceptionally intelligent and very social, these majestic creatures evoke a fascination in humans that is certainly understandable. Considering that many whales and dolphins are threatened species, now is the time to focus our attention and help stabilize populations of our iconic cetaceans.
The first time I spotted a Humpback Whale, I didn’t dare peel my eyes away. Nearly hypnotized, I watched a female and her calf rolling together playfully on the water’s surface in Avila Beach. Fewer than two thousand humpback whales may exist in the North Pacific. They are spotted along the California coast between April and December, feeding on fish and krill. An interesting hunting method they use is referred to as a “bubble-net”: bubbles blown underwater act as curtains that keep fish from escaping.
During their epic ten-thousand-mile journeys each year, Gray Whales are commonly seen in Monterey Bay in early spring. From feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to calving lagoons in Baja, Mexico, this three-month expedition is thought to be the longest annual migration of any mammal. Unlike other baleen whales, Gray Whales often venture far into Monterey bay; I’ve seen them swim leisurely alongside tiny fishing boats!
Playful, energetic, and pro-surfers, Common Dolphins are my favorite marine mammals to catch sight of. Intrinsically likable, dolphins are many things humans strive to be: intelligent, athletic, and charismatic. Common Dolphins swim in pods of up to two thousand, reaching speeds of up to twenty-five miles per hour. Unlike other cetaceans, they are often seen breaching and diving, and they are known to ride waves of boats or large whales. (What fun!)
Whales and dolphins are legendary characters in many genres of art and literature. Check out some of these intriguing up-and-coming artists I stumbled upon in my quest for inspiration: Wendy KrillAngie Roussin, Jennifer Farley and Leone Ardo. I also love scientific illustrations of whales, and a favorite of mine, done by Tommy Moorman and showing the internal structure of an orca, can be seen here.
I wish I could say that it is easy to see whales and dolphins on a regular basis at the beach, but sadly, that is not the case. The best advice I can give is to visit the coast as much as possible during the spring and summer, and keep your eyes peeled! (Hey, it’s just one more excuse to put your work aside and enjoy what’s out there. Now is the time!).
See you at the beach!
(Scientific Illustrator Intern)

Sketch Notes:
You’ve Got Whale!
Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangilae): Reaching up to sixty two feet long, Humpback Whales eat between one  and two TONS of krill every day. Humpbacks also sing complex songs during breeding, and each population has its own dialect. 
Micro Diet: Baleen whales like Humpback and Gray Whales use their hair-like teeth to filter microscopic krill and plankton after gulping large volumes of water. 
Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus): Gray whales are commonly seen in Monterey Bay. They make ten thousand mile migrations every year, which is the longest annual migration of any mammal. Gray whales are bottom feeders, filtering microorganisms from sand and mud on the ocean floor. 
Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis): Common dolphins are full of energy! I often see them jumping, diving, and surfing. They travel in groups of up to two thousand! This is the classic Dolphin from Greek and Roman mythology. 


  1. Marcie M. says

    Nice description of your first whale sighting…it is truly a profound experience! The rarity of a whale or dolphin sighting gives me more reason to cherish these special moments in nature.

  2. Annette Filice says

    Thank you Marcie! Needless to say, it was an experience that I will never forget. It sounds like you have had similar moments, and I’m glad you can relate!

  3. says

    Youvegotwhale.. Outstanding 🙂

  4. says

    Youvegotwhale.. OMG! 🙂

  5. says

    Youvegotwhale.. May I repost it? 🙂