A migrating gray whale put on an unusual show for whale watchers and beachgoers on a California beach as it rolled around in the surf for about 30 minutes in extremely shallow water.
Mark Girardeau of Orange County Outdoors captured the odd but normal behavior on video from a drone flown from the whale-watching boat Newport Coastal Adventure, as reported by the Orange County Register.
The 35-foot gray whale put on its inshore display between Balboa Pier and the Wedge in Newport, sometimes in water only 10-feet deep.
“We watched it for a while and kept seeing the whale blow bubbles, turn on its side, and spy hop,” Girardeau told the Register. “Also thanks to the drone’s view, we were able to see that the whale was releasing sand from its mouth which meant that it was possibly trying to feed. Gray whales feed by filtering out sediment from the sea floor.”
Capt. Ryan Lawler the Newport Coastal Adventure indicated this is quite common and that he's seen it happen often this season.
"This is always a hot spot for gray whales, as the bottom is consistently sandy and inviting them to rub and roll," Lawler told USA Today.
But whale watchers weren't sure what to make of the behavior.
"We sat on the boat and watched the whale with the passengers, who were amazed at the fact that the whale was so close to the beach," Girardeau told USA Today. "They seemed concerned."
They were no doubt thinking the whale might beach itself, but it was simply rubbing its body on the sand to scratch an itch or remove barnacles, and to feed.
The Register called it a sea spa scrub. It was a gray whale enjoying a spa day, in other words.