Sightings Report: January 28th, 2018

Sighting from SFWT trip on vessel Outer Limits

This trip saw some of the best weather we had seen in a few months. Light northerly winds meant that the day was sunny and there were few whitecaps. 

We were searching for whales the whole trip out to the Farallon Islands. We had great visibility, spotting several groups of harbor porpoises, a few harbor seals, and California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoys. 

We had just made it close to the islands when I saw a spout to the south. I called it out to the captain and we made our way towards it slowly. 

As we observed the whale's stout, heart-shaped blow, we spotted another spout to the west. It turned out we had three gray whales surrounding us. 

One of the grays surfaced alone while the other two dove and surfaced in synchrony. One of the whales in the pair was floating on its side and on its back, showing us a pectoral fin and half of the fluke. This social behavior is not commonly seen in our area, where the whales are often focused on traveling. 

 Whales floating on their sides, bellies facing each other. You can see one lobe of a fluke and some pectoral fins sticking out of the water. A few gray whales display mating behavior on their migration south, especially if they're later in the season.

Whales floating on their sides, bellies facing each other. You can see one lobe of a fluke and some pectoral fins sticking out of the water. A few gray whales display mating behavior on their migration south, especially if they're later in the season.

We watched the whales interact with each other while floating in neutral. We saw several fluke dives, and a few times the whales came within 100 yards of the boat. 

 Gray whale fluke.

Gray whale fluke.

After spending almost an hour with the whales, we headed towards the islands. We saw a large group of eared grebes in Mirounga Bay, along with surf scoters, pelagic and double crested cormorants, common murres and western gulls.

 Eared grebes.

Eared grebes.

As we moved around the northern side of the island, a Peregrine falcon soared overhead. 

 Peregrine.

Peregrine.

We turned back around the island towards Fisherman's Bay, getting a close look at the seabirds on Sugarloaf. The California and Stellar's sea lions on shore barked and slid into the water. 

We also noticed moon jellies and pacific sea nettles in the water. 

 Murre arch.

Murre arch.

Our trip back was smooth and sunny, with more porpoise and seal sightings near the Golden Gate Bridge.