angel island

Sightings Report: May 3, 2019

Sighting from vessel Mirabel, approximately 11am.

Mirabel is a lovely 32’ Grand Banks captained by Dr. Ellen Hines. On Friday she invited a few students out with her to see what we could find in the bay.

The Kitty Kat was on a whale watching tour and alerted us to a gray whale just east of Angel Island. That’s where we headed first.

The gray whale was not fluking. It stayed in almost the same spot when it surfaced. There was a strong incoming tide and a bit of wind.

The Kitty Kat stayed a safe distance away from the whales and approached slowly.

After photographing the gray whale, we headed through Raccoon Strait, where we saw a sea lion preying on a fish.

We headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge, turning around near Cavallo Point. There was a lot of bird activity in the area as well as activity on the fish finder. We saw several porpoises in this area as well.

We headed back between Alcatraz and Angel Island towards the Berkeley Marina for fuel and then the Richmond Marina to end our day.

Sightings Report: April 30, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we found a gray whale on the east side of Angel Island near Raccoon Strait.

We floated in neutral for most of the trip while the gray whale stayed in the area. A few times it came close to our boat.

We also saw the B.A.P. Union, a Peruvian naval training tall ship as she left San Francisco Bay on her way to Vancouver.

11am:

On this trip we first headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge, looking out for humpbacks. When we didn’t see anything we headed towards Sausalito, then through Raccoon Strait to the east side of Angel Island. After waiting for a few minutes we heard reports of a gray whale in Richardson Bay, so we headed back there and were able to watch the whale for about 30 minutes.

It was a gray whale. The whale stuck close to shore in an area protected from the wind and current.

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2pm:

On our final trip we spotted a whale soon after leaving the dock. It was a gray whale spending time near Fort Mason.

The whale appeared to be feeding and came up regularly. It was in very shallow water, sometimes 25 feet or less.

The presence of the whale in this area was important because there was a lot of activity from the Sailing Grand Prix practices.

Sightings Report: April 25, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we had a westerly wind and a creeping fog making its way into the bay. We headed to the east side of Angel Island, where we were protected from the wind. There we found a gray whale.

The gray whale was diving every seven minutes or so and stayed in the same area for the whole trip. We floated in neutral for most of the trip.

We also saw seabirds, including a pair of Bonaparte’s Gulls.

11am:

On our next trip, we spotted a spout between Alcatraz and Angel Island. It was windy in this area, so the spouts were blown down quickly. Fog was creeping in over Marin and through the Golden Gate Bridge.

2pm:

On this trip we received reports from the Coast Guard of a spout near Blossom Rock. We went to check it out but were unable to locate a whale in that area.

We made our way around the bay to Sausalito, then went through Raccoon Straits. We paused on the east side of Angel Island. As we waited, we saw a spout.

We saw the gray whale come up a few times, but it stayed away from our boat.

Sightings Report: April 17, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On this first trip of the day we quickly found a whale east of the shipping lane. The whale moved towards Treasure Island, diving in 20-30 feet of water. I didn’t take any photos on this trip, but SFWT photographer Joey did. Check out his flickr.

11am:

On this trip we located a whale between Alcatraz and Angel Island. On our first sighting the whale came up within 50 yards of the boat.

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After our first sighting, the whale surfaced every 10-12 minutes and appeared to be going back and forth between Alcatraz and the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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2pm:

For our final trip we found a whale on the east side of Angel Island.

This whale stayed in roughly the same location for the whole trip and surfaced regularly at 5-7 minute intervals.

We saw a couple of fluke dives from this animal.

Sightings Report: April 10, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On this trip we were able to find a gray whale surfacing on the northeast side of Angel Island.

The whale popped up regularly every seven minutes. It began to move towards Angel Island.

Eventually the whale moved towards Tiburon before heading back out towards the east shipping lane.

Sightings Report: April 9, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we spotted the gray whale near Southampton light.

The whale was spouting every ten minutes and kept its distance from us.

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11am:

On this this trip we found a gray whale close to Angel Island near the shipping lane. Bill Keener from Golden Gate Cetacean Research was on vessel Oscar Tango observing the gray whale.

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The whale swam close to shore and seemed to be swimming against the current, moving towards Raccoon Strait.

2pm:

On this trip we had a hard time locating a whale.

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Near the end of the trip we were floating on the east side of Angel Island, searching for whales, when a gray whale popped up 50 yards off our bow and gave us a good look.

Sightings Report: April 7, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.

9am:

On this trip we found a gray whale near Southampton light.

After viewing the whale, we headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

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12pm:

For our second trip, we found a gray whale between Alcatraz and Angel Island.

Although the whale kept its distance for the most part, it did approach the boat within 100 yards.

3pm:

On our final trip of the day we had reports of a whale just outside our harbor. We found a gray whale close to the Bay Bridge.

Over the course of the trip the whale moved towards the waters between Alcatraz and Angel Island.

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Sightings Report: March 10, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

Warning: This post contains a dead whale in the final picture sequence.

We embarked on our gray whale watching trip at 9am with sunshine and a chilly wind. We had only been underway for a few minutes when the first whale was spotted. It was a gray whale near the southeast tip of Angel Island. We saw a couple of spouts before it headed east towards Oakland.

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We continued on towards Raccoon Strait, where there had been reports of whales earlier. I spotted a spout close to shore near Tiburon Harbor. We approached slowly and found a gray whale hanging out close to shore.

This whale had lots of sea lice, especially around its blowhole. We were able to view both sides of the whale before heading back east to locate different animals.

We spotted several harbor seals and California sea lions.

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Eventually we spotted another spout on the eastern side of Tiburon. We saw this whale come up a couple of times. There was another spout closer to the Richmond Bridge as well.

We made our way back around the north side of Angel Island when we spotted a whale floating in the water. As we approached, we realized it was not moving. It was a gray whale carcass.

The carcass was relatively fresh, although gaseous buildup had begun. We documented and reported the event and the Army Corps of Engineers towed the whale to Angel Island for necropsy by the team at Cal Academy of Sciences.

The team determined that the cause of death for this year old 23 foot female was malnutrition. The next day another year old female was found near the Bay Bridge. The cause of death for that whale was likely a ship strike.

Read more about these two whales here.

Sightings Report: April 30, 2018

Sightings Report from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On this trip we immediately spotted two gray whales by Point Blunt on Angel Island. We didn't see any flukes from these whales. 

They spouted every 2-3 minutes, taking shallow dives. 

The water was very calm. Many high speed ferries passed us as we floated with the whales. 

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11am: 

We heard reports of humpbacks near the bridge, so we headed that way. We found two humpbacks there. One was near Cavallo Point in Sausalito, while the other was closer to the center span of the bridge. 

These whales were showing their flukes. We were downwind of them, so we got several chances to smell the whale's breath. 

There were tons of harbor seals in the area. We also spotted several species of jellies, including bell medusas, pacific sea nettles, and moon jellies. 

There was a lot of boat traffic, so we made sure to keep vessel traffic updated on the location of the whales. 

2pm: 

On our next trip the wind picked up to about 20 knots. We found the same two humpbacks in roughly the same spot doing the same behavior. 

We saw lots of flukes and spouts as the whales fed. 

We also spotted many harbor seals and California sea lions. 

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There was a good amount of sailboat traffic on this trip as well. 

Sightings Report: April 24, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

It was a foggy and cold morning as we set out across the bay in search of whales. We heard a report of one in the central bay, so we traveled slowly through in hopes of spotting it. With no spouts, we made our way around Angel Island. 

We ended up finding the whale near the immigration station on the east side of Angel Island. 

It was a gray whale. We saw a few flukes, but the whale seemed to be lifting only one side of its fluke out of the water, potentially to roll onto its side during the dive. 

We reported the whale to vessel traffic and the ferries altered their route to give the whale plenty of space. 

11am:

We returned on our second trip to find the whale in the same spot. 

We didn't see any flukes from the whale this time. It was spouting once or twice and then diving for a couple of minutes. This was potentially resting behavior. 

Two large container ships passed by us. The wind slowly began to pick up. 

As we left the whale, it was slowly moving north towards Raccoon Straits. 

2pm: 

By the time we got back out, the wind had picked up significantly. We started off towards the bridge, then doubled back between Angel Island and Alcatraz. We returned to the spot where we'd previously seen the whale, but didn't find it. 

We headed back towards the bridge when we got a report of a whale by St. Francis Yacht Club. We approached slowly. 

On our first sighting, the whale swam within 100 yards of the boat and swam down our starboard side at only about 10 yards away.

Photo by a passenger. If you took this, let me know! I'd love to credit you.

Photo by a passenger. If you took this, let me know! I'd love to credit you.

It was so close the only thing I could photograph was the sea lice around its blowhole!

After that, the whale surfaced farther away, closer to 100-200 yards.