All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat
We headed out into the bay with a little bit of wind, and our port side got some spray as we moved towards the bridge. Once past the bridge we spotted spouts and large splashes by Mile Rock and slowly made our way there. From 500 yards away we saw a humpback breach. We proceeded with caution, only to see another breach when 200 yards away. We put the boat in neutral and floated over the tide line. The line was a dramatic divide between the choppy green bay water and the calmer, dark gray ocean water; once we passed over the line, it was much more comfortable! The two types of water don't mix very much because of differences in salinity (and therefore density).
We waited a few minutes before seeing another breach. This one was close enough to see that the whale was quite small. After the breach, the humpback slapped the water with its pectoral fins for a few seconds. We saw this whale do the same behaviors again and again: a breach followed by 30-60 seconds of fin slapping. Once and a while a larger whale would surface nearby, often very close to the smaller whale. I suspect they were a mother and calf. We saw the mother's fluke a few times, but she was much less active than the calf.
We had 3 humpbacks by Mile Rock, and noticed more spouts on the horizon. We started to slowly head back to the pier. But on our way back in, a different humpback breached 200 yards from our starboard side! This humpback also seemed small and was also with a larger, calmer adult. This calf breached 3-4 times and did a few quick pectoral fin slaps. The other calf could still be seen breaching on the horizon near Mile Rock.
The total count for this trip was five humpbacks within 300 yards of the Kitty Kat, with 2-3 more spouts sighted within 1000 yards. We also saw harbor porpoise, California sea lions, and common murres with their chicks.
When we left the dock for our last trip of the day, the wind and the fog had both picked up. We had a spout just a few hundred yards outside the bridge near Baker Beach, and we sat and watched that humpback for a few minutes as it headed east towards the south tower of the bridge. I saw more spouts out near Mile Rock, so we headed out there.
We found three humpbacks in between Mile Rock and Point Bonita, all exhibiting feeding behaviors. Each of the three had a cloud of birds swarming around it every time it surfaced, making it easy to pinpoint where they would pop up next. We floated in neutral 200 yards away, and none of those whales chose to approach us.
There was a lot of bird activity on this trip, including Caspian terns, pelicans, cormorants, gulls, common murres with chicks, as well as a pigeon guillemot. We also spotted a juvenile black crowned night heron hanging out on the dock as we were leaving for the day.
***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***