anchovy

Sightings Report: March 26, 2019

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we headed out with a few reports of gray whales in San Francisco Bay. It was only a few minutes before we found the first spout, just east of our harbor.

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The whale was surfacing every few minutes in the ferry lane.

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After watching this whale for a while, we continued west and found another whale near Crissy field. This whale was very close to the shore. Neither animal showed its flukes.

11am:

On our next trip, we started off west and immediately found a gray whale near Fort Mason. The whale came very close to the shore, swimming in about 30 feet of water.

At one point a whale approached our boat within 100 yards.

We eventually found another whale near Fort Mason, but farther from the shore. We also saw spouts near Crissy Field.

2pm:

On this trip e headed back towards the spot where we’d left whales on our previous trip. We found one near St. Francis Yacht Club.

While we were enjoying this whale, a young sea lion came up to our boat and swam around it for ten minutes. It leaped in to the air and darted around us, staying within a few feet of the boat.

The whale moved around the Aquatic Park, slowly making its way west.

Eventually we lost it. We thought near the end we saw spouts just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, so we headed that way to try to get one last look. Near the bridge we saw harbor seals, porpoises, tons of bird activity, and a lot of anchovies on our fish finder.

Sightings Report: August 23, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

The water was calm and the sky was grey as we headed out for our first trip of the day. As we headed north, we saw the water start to boil with anchovies.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area as well.

There was a humpback whale nearby, close to Muir Beach.

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We did not see any flukes from this animal, as it was feeding in very shallow water.

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11am:

On our second trip we found the whale in a similar spot. There was still lots of food in the area and the humpback was definitely feeding.

We saw a few lunge feeds, including a couple that happened within 50 yards of the boat.

Near the end of the trip the whale moved farther from us and closer towards the shore, getting close to the rocky reef.

Sightings Report: August 22, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On this trip we headed north with calm water and foggy conditions. We found one humpback near Stinson Beach.

There were fishing vessels in the area as well. We saw a few fluke dives from the animal.

2pm:

We headed back to the area near Stinson Beach and found a different humpback feeding there.

We stayed with this animal for a while and saw several lunge feeds, a few of which were within 50 yards of the boat.

On our way back, we found another whale near Muir Beach. This whale traveled close to shore.

5pm:

We headed north again on this trip and found four humpback whales near Muir Beach. There were two individuals and one pair feeding cooperatively.

The pair swam in synchrony and may have been a mother and calf.

We saw several lunge feeds from these animals, including some that happened within 100 yards of the boat.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area. They focused on the areas above the whales where lots of anchovies had been stirred up and forced towards the surface by the lunge feeds.

Sightings Report: July 11, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days.

8am:

On our first trip we found a humpback whale in the middle of the Golden Gate Strait. The whale was moving east towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

There was an enormous group of birds near Kirby Cove. Many birds had anchovies in their mouths. We also spotted anchovies boiling at the surface. 

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The whale moved through this active area, then in under the bridge to Crissy Field. 

While we watched the whale fluke, we spotted a small sunfish near our boat. 

A large container ship passed behind us as the whale made its way towards Fort Point. 

We picked up two pieces of trash on this trip.

11am:

On our next trip we stopped immediately to pick up a chunk of styrofoam. We continued on through the bay until we reached Fort Point, where the humpback whale was still feeding. 

We could see anchovies at the surface of the water. Harbor seals and harbor porpoises were also taking advantage of the food in the area. A container ship and many smaller boats passed by as well.

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The whale stayed in the area and did not leave the bay.

Sightings Report: July 2, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm:

We had beautiful sea conditions as we headed out into the Golden Gate Strait. The sky was foggy, but the ocean was calm and there was very little wind. We quickly found a whale just inside Point Bonita. 

We saw a few fluke dives from the humpback. We also spotted another spout across the Golden Gate Strait and two more out past Point Bonita. I decided to move out towards the two whales to the west. 

We slowly approached the whales, who were feeding along a tide line. It was a mother and calf surfacing in synchrony. We gave them plenty of space, since mother-calf pairs tend to be extra sensitive to human interactions. They were not throwing flukes. 

After watching them for a few minutes, we drifted back towards the Golden Gate Strait, where we relocated some of the whales we had seen earlier. The two of them had moved to the west, while the mother-calf pair started to move east. 

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Visibility was decreasing as we headed back to port surrounded by fog. I spotted the first common murre chicks I have seen this season.

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5pm: 

On our next trip the fog had engulfed the Golden Gate Bridge, but in the strait visibility improved significantly. Some passengers spotted our first whale in the middle of the strait.

We saw one fluke dive from this humpback, who then disappeared. 

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I had my eye on more spouts near Point Bonita, so we headed that way. Near the lighthouse we found two humpbacks. One of them was the individual Akula, easily recognizable by the flat dorsal fin. 

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The other individual started tail slapping repeatedly while birds hovered around it. The tail slapping continued for several minutes. Occasionally the whale would take a break and then start slapping again. 

At one point a gray whale popped up 50 yards in front of us before swimming away to the other side of the strait. 

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We stayed with the active whale for most of the trip. At one point it breached 70 yards from our boat. 

We had at least 6 humpbacks and 1 gray within a half mile of our vessel. A large container ship passed us during the trip.

At the end of the trip as we headed back to port, we saw a whale near Point Bonita breach three times, followed by a whale at Mile Rock tail slapping. 

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I saw lots of murres with fish in their beaks on this trip.

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Sightings Report: June 26, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We headed out through the shipping lane towards buoys 7/8, where we had last seen whales. We paused and waited, searching all around for the whales. Finally a crew member spotted a spout 500 yards west of us. 

We moved towards buoys 5/6, where we found a humpback. The whale was making shallow dives and changing directions constantly. 

There was a huge group of birds in the area, many with anchovies in their beaks. A few times the whale approached within 100 yards of our vessel. 

At one point during the sighting two large vessels passed through the shipping lane. We went to the opposite side of the lane as the whale, allowing it plenty of space while they passed. 

After the ships were gone, we again approached the whale, which was slowly moving west. 

We also spotted some harbor porpoises and some habor seals at a distance. 

Sightings Report: June 23, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm: 

We headed out through the Golden Gate Strait and found a humpback whale near Mile Rock. It was exhibiting feeding behaviors. We also saw murres with anchovies in their mouths in the area. 

The whale gave several big tail slaps. 

There were more whales in the area, with two more humpbacks near the northern shipping lane and another in Bonita Cove. 

We also had a gray whale in the area. It approached us and surfaced within 50 yards of the boat. It surfaced several times followed by a fluke dive. We noticed some big plumes of mud near the whale, indicating feeding. 

A few big container ships and a couple of smaller fishing boats passed by us. We also noticed the group of juvenile Brandt's cormorants off of Mile Rock. 

6pm:

We headed back out for our final trip of the day. We first found a gray whale in the middle of the strait. We watched it for a few minutes as it seemed to head west. 

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We had three more spouts in the area, indicating a humpback near Baker Beach, one near Mile Rock, and one near Point Bonita. 

We positioned ourselves between Mile Rock and Baker Beach and floated in neutral. The tide pushed us down towards the whale, and the most eastern humpback surfaced on our starboard side 100 yards from our vessel. 

The humpback swam around our bow to the port side, then started tail slapping repeatedly. 

Both of us slowly got pushed in. We were watching the whale fluking in the strait as we sat underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

At one point we moved out of the way for a large container ship.

There was a lot of bird and harbor seal activity in the area as well.

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

Sightings Report: September 23, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm: 

The previous trip had spotted whales past the precautionary area 13 miles offshore, so that's where we headed for this trip. An outgoing tide and very little wind made for a beautiful ride out through the shipping lane, where we saw a harbor seal, harbor porpoises, and California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoys. 

Humpback whale.

Humpback whale.

We spotted the first spout southwest of buoys 1 and 2. As we slowly approached, we found that there were 6-7 humpbacks feeding in the area. Most were feeding by themselves, a few hundred yards away from other whales. One pair surfaced together. 

The water was 90-100 feet deep, with huge bait balls showing up on our fish finder. We could see the anchovies swarming at the surface as we looked over the side of the boat. We also noticed some jellyfish in the water as well. 

Whale with sooty shearwater and container ship nearby.

Whale with sooty shearwater and container ship nearby.

The whales didn't do many fluke dives, probably because most of the food was close to the surface and there was no need to expend energy on deep dives. Often there would be long intervals between surfacing. Some shipping activity was happening in the shipping lane about a few miles away. 

Almost a fluke dive, but not quite!

Almost a fluke dive, but not quite!

We noticed lots of sooty shearwaters at this spot, as well as gulls, pelicans, and murres. 

The sighting was reported to Vessel Traffic so the nearby container ships were aware of the presence of the whale. 

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!

Sightings Report: September 18, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: 

Our first trip of the day was very foggy. As we got close to the Golden Gate Bridge, we had a huge amount of bird activity from a wide variety of species. Many of them were flying west. 

We felt that we were passing a whale, but we continued out into the Golden Gate Strait. We found one humpback by Mile Rock. We approached very slowly, our already slow pace further reduced by a strong western swell/wind and the incoming tide. 

The whale was feeding right on the tide line, along with huge groups of birds. We saw a few fluke dives, one of them around 100 yards away from us. 

After we left the whale and headed back in, we found a whale by the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge - the one we had missed on the way out. 

Brown pelican.

Brown pelican.

11am: 

When we headed back out for our second trip, the whale had moved further into the bay with the tide. We found it in between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was moving west. We stayed 200-300 yards away as we followed the whale out, watching fluke dives and lots of bird activity over the whale. 

The whale would occasionally do a lunge feed followed by some time spent on its side, slapping or waving its pectoral fin. 

Anchovies boiled at the surface of the water. Birds were attacking each other in attempts to steal food. 

The whale stopped just outside the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge near Diablo Cove . We also stopped and put the boat in neutral.

After a few dives, the whale moved in towards us, surfacing 100 yards away. 

It disappeared for a while, then reappeared 20 feet from our bow. It surfaced again on our stern, where it did a few fluke dives. We saw some more lunge feeding and pectoral fin slapping. 

Lunge feed!

Lunge feed!

We saw quite a few harbor seals outside the bridge. 

The whale slowly moved away from us towards the center span of the bridge. We made sure it was at least 100 yards away before we started moving. 

3pm: 

By the time we headed out on our third trip of the day it was almost low tide. The outgoing tide made the Golden Gate Strait a lot rougher than it had been in the morning. 

We headed up the south side of the strait when we spotted a spout by Point Bonita. We waited for a container ship to pass before we approached. 

The humpback was feeding in the same spot as the whale on the 3pm trip yesterday. We put the boat in neutral and had our stern to the swell, allowing us to float 200 yards from the whale. 

Humpback fluke.

Humpback fluke.

The whale worked the same area the whole trip, moving in circles around us and coming as close as 100 yards. We only saw two fluke dives from this whale, indicating that the anchovies were most likely close to the surface. 

Humpback whale. 

Humpback whale. 

Near the end of the trip, the whale swam to our stern and came up on the other side. We made sure it was 100 yards away before we moved. The whale continued to parallel us at 120 yards for a few minutes. Once we were half a mile away we came up to speed. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

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!

Sightings Report: September 7, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: 

Our first trip of the day was greeted by some morning rain. This is a very strange occurrence in September. The rain was paired with southerly winds and a relatively warm temperature.

We saw lots of harbor porpoise activity and two harbor seals swimming side by side on our way out into the strait. The tide was coming in as we headed out past the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Golden Gate Strait, and out into the shipping lane. 

The first thing we noticed were California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoys 5 & 6. Soon we found spouts from three different humpbacks feeding in only 35 feet of water on the south side of the shipping lane. 

There were a few fluke dives in addition to shallower dives. The whales stayed at least 200 yards away from us. We followed slowly and at a distance as they moved across to the north side of the lane. We made sure that Vessel Traffic was aware of their presence so close to the shipping lane. 

There was a lot of harbor porpoise activity on this trip. We left the area slowly, then rode the western swell back to port. 

11am: 

On our second trip of the day we found the whales in the exact same spot we had left them at shipping buoys 5 & 6. They were in 48 feet of water, the first 17 feet of which were packed with anchovies. Two whales were feeding on several giant bait balls. We could see the surface of the water boiling with anchovies as they leaped into the air in an attempt to escape the predators below, only to land in the waiting beaks of hungry birds. 

We saw the two humpbacks do fluke dives, and had one breach off our stern. There was a single fishing boat nearby. We used the boathook to pick up a piece of trash which turned out to be a wrapper from a container of frozen squid. It was certainly from a fishing boat. 

The whales were elusive and for the most part stayed at least a couple hundred yards away. As we floated near a ball of bait, one whale surfaced within 70 feet of us. Near the end the whales seemed to be moving out, and we eventually lost sight of them. 

Cormorants.

Cormorants.

On our way back in, we spotted two more humpbacks by the junction buoy outside of Point Bonita. There was a lot of bird activity and quite a few fishing boats in the area. We couldn't stay very long to watch them, so we slowly continued on our way back to the pier. 

Point Bonita.

Point Bonita.

2pm: 

The weather on this trip was the nicest it had been all day. The water was glassy and the wind had died. We headed out towards the junction buoy where we left the whales. We found a huge group of wailing birds and lots of fish, but no whales. 

We moved slowly through the area, hoping to pick up a spout. When we didn't find anything, we continued out to buoys 5 & 6 where we had seen whales earlier. Again, we saw huge bait balls where the water boiled with anchovies, large numbers of feeding harbor porpoises, lots of bird activity and several jellyfish floating by. We searched the area for a while, but even though we saw a lot of life, we didn't see any whales. 

We were searching for our entire trip back. In the strait, we spotted a harbor seal and a leopard shark leaping out of the water. 

Harbor porpoise.

Harbor porpoise.

On this trip we picked up two mylar balloons near a large bait ball just outside Point Bonita. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

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!