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Pod of orcas moves into Southern California waters, to whale-watchers’ delight (video)

Photo via mrmritter via Flickr Creative Commons

A particular pod of killer whales has been gaining attention lately as it makes the rounds off the Southern California coast, and biologists and sightseers have spotted the animals riding a ship’s wake near Catalina Island, killing a grey whale calf and, perhaps most dramatically, making a big splash off Dana Point.

Seafarers and science writers have been calling attention to the whales’ exploits, and experts say they are certain it’s the same pod, consisting mainly of a “transient” family group known as the CA51s.

Marine biologist Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who can identify the individual animals by sight, says these whales are well known in the Monterey Bay area -- but that lately they seem to be spending more of their time farther south.

In early January, just before their showing off Dana Point, the same whales made a two-day appearance off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It wasn’t their first time in the region, according to Schulman-Janiger.

“There’s no question that sightings are increasing,” she said at that time in a popular outdoor blog. “Especially with the 51s. They seem to have become really fond of this area.”

On Wednesday of this week the orcas returned to the Palos Verdes area -- that’s where Schulman-Janiger witnessed their successful hunt of a grey whale calf about a mile off Point Vicente.

But they get around: The footage from near Santa Catalina Island, off the Santa Barbara coast, was taken on Monday. And two days prior, they were back at Palos Verdes messing with a dolphin.

Schulman-Janiger says the CA51s are notably “boat-friendly,” so hopefully there will be more footage to come of these amazing nine-ton animals.