Patience is a virtue when it comes to whale watching

Patience is a virtue when it comes to whale watching
Winter Whale Watch Week in Oregon is Dec. 26 through Dec. 30, 2012. Photo courtesy of Travel Oregon's Flickr page.

OREGON COAST - If you're looking for something fun to do now that Christmas is over and New Year's is still a week away, you might think about taking a drive to the coast for some whale watching.

Oregon's Winter Whale Watch Week kicked off on Wednesday and will be running through this Sunday. Trained volunteers will be set up at two dozen of the best viewpoints on the coast where you can see the roughly 18,000 whales that will make their way south on their annual migration.

At the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, the first day of Whale Watch Week was a busy one. Interpretive Ranger Ian Fawley said they had 238 visitors, much more than they usually have this time of year.

The Whale Watching Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for folks who want to stop by and get some tips on how to spot whales along the coast. We asked Fawley what his advice is and he said the number one thing that people who are new to whale watching need to be aware of is that it takes a lot of patience.

"You have to be willing to stand there for a while," Fawley said. "You'll have to keep your eyes to the horizon and learn from the volunteers on how to spot."

"Usually what you see is the spout," he said, when we asked what to look for.

Fawley said folks should dress appropriately as well. It's cold out there this time of year, so wear layers to keep yourself warm. And of course, bring some binoculars because the whales are usually one to five miles off shore.

"It's really difficult, unless you have experience, to see them without binoculars," Fawley said.

The Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport will also have a full schedule of activities during whale watching week, including Marine Mammal Skeleton Tours, Marine Mammal Presentations, films, activities for the kids and much more.

The next whale watching week will be in early spring. If you would like to volunteer at a whale watch site the next time around, there are training sessions coming up in January and February. The training is free if you pre-register and sign up for at least two days of volunteer work on the coast.