Sightings Report: March 17, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat. 

The week preceding this trip was stormy and wet, so we were pleased to find on Saturday that there were only light winds and showers in the forecast. As we headed north out of the Golden Gate Strait, we even got a view of a full rainbow. 

We had just made the turn west when we spotted a humpback whale spouting 500 yards away. We slowly approached. 

The whale was traveling north, which made it difficult to follow. After a few minutes of watching the humpback recede into the distance, we decided to continue on to the islands. We went through a few wet patches, including a mini hailstorm. It was clear at the islands, though we could see rain and enormous clouds in all directions. 

 Watching the rain from a distance. 

Watching the rain from a distance. 

We first pulled into Fisherman's Bay, where we saw Steller sea lions resting on the rocks and bobbing in the water.

There were lots of common murres in the water, as well as a large group of pigeon guillemots.

As we motored towards Saddle Rock, we also spotted a black footed kittiwake, surf scoters, a few species of cormorants, eared grebes, and a few auklets. 

As we went by the scientists were bringing a group of volunteers up on to the island via crane. 

We continued around the island to check out Mirounga Bay. We spotted a plastic water bottle and performed a man overboard drill to recover it.

 Water bottle floating on a glassy sea. We pick up plastic whenever the sea conditions allow it.

Water bottle floating on a glassy sea. We pick up plastic whenever the sea conditions allow it.

As we finished maneuvering to get the plastic, a passenger spotted a spout 300 yards south of us. 

It was a gray whale with especially dark skin, making it seem like a humpback at first glance. We got a few close looks from our bow as the gray swam by. 

On our way back towards the mainland, we stopped for several more spouts. These were all gray whales and all seemed to be on the move; they surfaced infrequently and would reappear far from their last location. 

 A gray whale's back.

A gray whale's back.

We also spotted harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and California sea lions.