Sightings Report: July 21, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

We started off with a beautiful glassy sea this morning and encountered 4-5 humpbacks feeding underneath the bridge. I was surprised to see them so far in, since often they stay farther out until the tide comes in later in the morning. We observed many spouts and flukes, and as we floated in neutral two different whales came within 100 feet of us, both moving slowly alongside us as they spouted and finally did fluke dives. We stayed in one spot and let them swim around us; as other boats sped by, we contacted them to warn them to slow down for the safety of the whales. 

 Humpback whale fluke with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. You can see the white tips on this fluke - this picture is perfect for our catalog. Thanks to Diana Moule for sending in her photo.

Humpback whale fluke with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. You can see the white tips on this fluke - this picture is perfect for our catalog. Thanks to Diana Moule for sending in her photo.

One whale between the north tower of the bridge and the Coast Guard station breached twice about five minutes apart, and another whale 100 yards away did a single pectoral fin slap immediately afterwards. 

Bird vocalizations were particularly noticeable on the water today, and I spotted my first common murres with chicks for the first time this season. One murre was holding an anchovy in its beak and vocalizing loudly as two fluffy chicks paddled toward it with desperate cries. 

We also had sightings of CA sea lions, harbor seals, and harbor porpoises on this trip. 

11am: 

The great weather continued on our next trip, and right away we spotted two humpback whales inside the bay. They didn't seem to stay long, though, and soon they headed out into the strait, where we were counting up to six spouts at a timeWe slowly followed them out at a distance of about 300 yards. There were many other animals close by to distract us, including a sea lion chowing down on a king salmon, escorted by a flock of Western gulls. There were also harbor porpoises and harbor seals nearby, and anchovies leaped out of the water. 

 Photo of the Kitty Kat and a lobtailing humpback taken from land by Bill Keener of Golden Gate Cetacean Research.

Photo of the Kitty Kat and a lobtailing humpback taken from land by Bill Keener of Golden Gate Cetacean Research.

We watched the whales spout and fluke from a distance for some time, then slowly moved towards the southern side of the strait to get out of the way of a large container ship. We were still more than 200 yards away from the whales when we put the boat back in neutral. Then, right as the container ship passed by us, two whales surfaced on either side of us within 100 yards. One started at our bow with a couple of pectoral fin slaps, then headed down the port side. The other started slapping its tail repeatedly and continued for several minutes, taking short breaks in between 30+ seconds of slaps. In the video below, you can hear how the tail slaps reverberate loudly even in air; they're probably even louder underwater!

When it was time to leave, we called out for any sightings of whales before we moved. At the last moment, a whale surfaced at our stern just within 100 yards. We watched it spout and slowly move away from us before moving slowly away from the area. 

On this trip I noticed lots of murres with chicks and several with anchovies in their beaks.

 Sightings board for our 11am trip.

Sightings board for our 11am trip.

All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard and vessel traffic was alerted. 

***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***