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Special Sighting: Monterey Bay Whale Watch

Sightings from Monterey Bay Whale Watch vessel Sea Wolf II

This whale watching trip was an 8 hour expedition with the intent of finding killer whales. Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers these 8 hour trips in April and May.

We first headed out of the harbor around 8am, looking out for sea otters.

There were lots of sea lions resting on the jetty as well as a few playing in the water.

Near the jetty we saw male cormorants gathering nesting material and bringing it to their partners, who were building the nests.

We headed west until we got to the deep canyons of Monterey Bay. At that point we spotted a group of 50-100 Risso’s dolphins.

There were newborn calves in the group, identifiable by the presence of fetal folds. The calves stuck close to their mothers.

Risso’s dolphins do not bowride like smaller dolphins might, so we moved at slow speeds around the animals.

There were also several black-footed albatrosses in the area.

By the end of the trip I saw dozens of albatrosses, including one group of six sitting together on the water.

After we left the Risso’s dolphins, we headed west again for a bit, where we found a few humpback whales.

Two of the humpbacks were feeding together while birds and sea lions flocked around them.

We spent about twenty minutes with these animals.

After that we headed back to the south, where there were reports of more humpback whales from other whale watching boats. When we approached, we found a humpback mother and calf.

The calf was breaching for several minutes straight, allowing for lots of opportunities to photograph it.

We got a good view of the ventral side of the whale, where the umbilicus was visible.

We also saw fluke dives from both animals and some pectoral fin slaps from the calf.

After spending some time with the mother and calf we continued on south in search of some reported Pacific White Sided dolphins, but the wind was picking up and we eventually had to turn around and head back to the dock.

On the way in we stopped to look at some very cute sea otters who were eating mussels inside the harbor.

We also got a last look at the cormorants and the sea lions before we disembarked.

Sightings Report: October 21, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed out to the Farallon Islands. We had relatively good weather with very little wind, although the skies were grey.

We turned north out of the Golden Gate Strait and made our way to Bolinas, where we turned west towards the islands.

When we made the turn, we found a humpback whale. It breached and showed us its fluke.

We decided to continue past the whale to make the best of the good weather. On our way we picked up several balloons.

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When we got to the islands we started in Fisherman’s Bay. There were lots of California and Stellar’s sea lions on the rocks.

We also spotted a couple of peregrine falcons on top of sugarloaf, and a couple of brown boobies farther down the rock.

We then moved towards Mirounga Bay. Diver Ron Elliot and Great White Adventures were both present, searching for Great White sharks. We didn’t hear any shark reports from them, but the cage diving boat reported that a gray whale had swum close to their cage.

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There was another falcon on top of Saddle Rock.

When we turned around and made our way back towards the California coast, we spotted a couple of sunfish close to our boat. One was floating with it’s mouth out of the water.

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The sunfish (also known as mola mola) ended up near our stern, where one of them started breaching! It breached three times in a row.

On our way back towards the shipping lane, we saw several more whales including several breaches. It brought our humpback whale count up to 9-10 animals.

Sightings Report: September 22, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

We headed to the north bar on this trip and found three humpback whales feeding in 47 feet of water.

Two of them were spouting and not showing flukes.

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The farther one was slapping its tail and pectoral fins and continuously breaching.

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We attempted to approach, but lost the whale.

Sightings Report: September 6th, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

On this tour we headed 8.5 miles offshore, just west of the shipping lane. We were alerted by the Pilot vessel to the presence of whales in the area.

We were positioned outside the lane with views of at least eight humpbacks in the area.

One whale repeatedly breached close to fishing boats. We also observed the whale slapping its pectoral fins and its tail.

There were anchovies at the surface and lots of feeding birds in the area.

We spotted parasitic, pomarine, and long-tailed jaegers attempting to steal food from other birds.

We were able to catch a whiff of whale breath on this trip as well.

The fishing fleet was close by, and we saw a few whales approach the fishing vessels.

We also had a few ships pass by us.

Sightings Report: September 1, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

We headed north on our search to find the whales. We spotted a humpback near Muir Beach.

We saw a few dives from this whale, but it was not showing its fluke. Birds were hovering above it, suggesting some feeding was happening.

We saw a breach from the whale from less than 100 yards away.

Sightings Report: August 26, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

9am:

On our first trip of the day we found two humpback whales. They were feeding and diving in synchrony.

One was much larger than the other, suggesting that we were seeing a mother and calf.

The whales stayed about 100 yards away from us. Towards the end of the trip they seemed to be heading west.

12pm:

On the next trip, we located another humpback whale. This one also threw flukes, giving us identifiable pictures.

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We saw several breaches from this individual from a distance.

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Sightings Report: July 22, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

We began the trip heading west through the shipping lane. We were 11 miles out when we spotted our first spout. 

After a few minutes, we were able to spot 10 humpback whales within a mile of us. A few of them came close to the boat. 

We saw several lunge feeds from these animals. 

There was also a lot of porpoise activity on this trip. 

6pm: 

We returned to the same spot 11 miles offshore for the next trip, where we found a pair of humpbacks. 

The smaller of the two individuals breached for almost the entire time we were there. It's possible that this was a calf. 

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Another individual slapped its tail multiple times on the water, 500 yards from the breaching animal. 

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There were a few lunge feeds on this trip, as well as a few fluke dives. There were some California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoy.

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Sightings Report: July 17, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we went north towards a large biological hotspot we'd spotted a few days before the trip. There were lots of fishermen there and we were unable to find any whales in the area. 

We turned west and found one travelling humpback seventeen miles from home. 

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There was a lot of bird activity and harbor porpoise activity. We had excellent weather and sea conditions despite a little fog. 

11am: 

We started off north on a tip from another boat. We were unable to locate the reported whale. After a while we made a big circle west, then turned south to the shipping lane. 

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We then spotted two humpback whales at the end of the shipping lane near the pilot boat. 

The farther whale was breaching continuously. The closer whale was not fluking. 

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We saw lots of harbor porpoises in the area as well as California and Steller's sea lions resting on the buoys. 

All photos from the 11am trip were taken by Patrick Sysiong. 

2pm: 

We headed straight back out to where we'd left the whales. They were still in the shipping lane near buoys 1 and 2. 

We had 4-5 humpbacks in the area, including a mother and calf. There were a few lunge feeds. 

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The calf was the most active of all the whales. We saw a tail slap, breach, and pectoral fin slap from the calf near the end of the trip.

We spotted some harbor porpoise activity on this trip as well. There were also California sea lions and common murres with chicks.

An outbound container ship diverted its course to go around us and the whales. 

5pm:

The whales were still in the same spot on our final trip of the day.

We saw several lunge feeds from the humpbacks and a few fluke dives. 

More container ships passed by us over the course of the trip.

We also spotted some California sea lions and common murres. 

Sightings Report: July 7, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We were headed for the Farallon Islands on this trip. Our weather was good for the first ten miles, but started to get pretty rough once we reached the halfway point. We continued 5 more miles in rough water and found 6 blue whales and one humpback. 

The blues surrounded the boat. We saw fluke dives from a few different individuals. A few came within 50 yards of us. 

A pair of Cassin's auklets were also spotted nearby. 

In the time we spent watching the blue whales, the weather deteriorated significantly, and we decided not to continue the attempt at the islands. 

On our way back, we found two humpbacks 12 miles offshore. The two were breaching and fluking in synchrony. 

We saw one more humpback as we headed back through the Golden Gate Strait to port. 

Sightings Report: July 5, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat. All photos in this post taken by SFWT photographer Leigh. 

2pm

On this trip we were able to locate a mother humpback with her calf in out in the shipping lane between buoys 3 and 4. 

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3-4 large container ships passed by the whales while we were there. We made sure they had plenty of space while other vessels were present. 

The two were not fluking much, although we saw a few fluke dives from the calf. They were slowly heading west. 

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We spotted another spout a little bit farther north. The whale started moving east towards the bridge, and we followed at a distance until we moved back towards port. 

5pm:

On this trip a crew member spotted a breach at Mile Rock while we were still under the bridge. 

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The humpback whale continued to breach, followed by several pectoral slaps. We also saw several fluke dives. 

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The whale slowly moved east, breaching and slapping continuously. 

A large container ship passed by us and the whale moved in to Kirby Cove, where we saw a breach in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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It then traveled all the way across to Fort Point and then back to the bridge. 

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We also spotted lots of harbor porpoises near the end of the trip.