Gray whales make annual visit to Puget Sound

SEATTLE -- Grab your camera, gray whale watching season has officially arrived around Puget Sound.

These gray whales - referred to as "Sounders" - were spotted swimming around North Puget Sound by two photographers, who reported the sightings to the Orca Network.

First to report a sighting was Gary Lingenfelter, who saw grays feeding on the inter-tidal flats off Tulalip at the mouth of Port Susan, on February 28 and March 2.

Approximately 12 gray whales visit North Puget Sound waters for about three months during spring, according to the Cascadia Research of Olympia. The grays make their way to Saratoga Passage and Possession Sound annually, and are known to feast on ghost shrimp, the Orca Network said.

Some of the grays have been making regular visits to the Greater Puget Sound since 1991. Whale aficionados are able to tell the whales apart by patches under their flukes, markings, scars, and patterns of barnacles.

One beloved gray named Patch - or #49 - was one of the first identified by Cascadia Research in 1991, and is "easily identifiable by the large white patch on his right side, as well as white patches on the underside of his flukes," the Orca Network said.

In a photo posted to Facebook, local photographer James Gresham writes that he captured Patch exposing "his fluke tip as he burrows for ghost shrimp and other delicacies in the Port Susan mud" Sunday afternoon.

WHEN: March through May.

WHERE: The Orca Network says the shorelines of Island and Snohomish counties, or from the Mukilteo/Clinton ferries are great spots for whale sightings. They also created a Whale Sighting Viewpoint Map, which pinpoints locations.

REPORTED SIGHTINGS: Follow the Orca Network's Facebook Page where the latest sightings are posted.

LEARN MORE: Visit the Langley Whale Center at 115 Anthes in Langley on south Whidbey Island, or visit the Orca Network's website.