cormorant

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: May 1, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

On our first trip, we went around Angel Island and out to the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a large group of cormorants and gulls in the Golden Gate Strait. 

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We started towards Diablo Cove, the incoming tide causing some rough water. Then I spotted a spout 500 yards southwest of Diablo. 

There were two humpbacks in the middle of the strait. As we slowly approached, we saw another whale close to Mile Rock. 

We stuck with the two swimming together. They were slowly heading east. 

One of the whales, later identified as Gator, was arching its back on every dive, making its spiky knuckles extra visible. Gator's companion, Topspot, did not do this. They occasionally would dive in synchrony. 

On our way back to port, we saw California sea lions feeding on a fish surrounded by a big cloud of birds. 

11am: 

On the next trip we headed back out to where we'd left the whales. We saw tons of harbor porpoises in the central bay surfing the waves created by the strong incoming tide. 

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We also spotted a few harbor seals as we approached the bridge. As we got closer, we spotted the humpback spouts. It was the same two whales as the previous trip. 

The two whales were headed east towards Angel Island. We paused at the bridge to search for other whales in the strait, but eventually decided to head back towards the three humpback whales in the bay.

We saw one spouting by Point Blunt and the other two closer to Alcatraz. 

As we floated in the central bay, we saw a sea lion catch and kill a striped bass while hungry birds hovered overhead. 

2pm: 

On the 2pm trip we found the same three humpback whales feeding near Cavallo Point. They were slowly making their way back out to the bridge. 

Large clouds of birds hovered above them. The group of cormorants and gulls had moved inward to rest near Cavallo Point with the whales. 

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We saw the wind picking up, making it more difficult to spot the spouts. We saw harbor porpoises, sea lions, and harbor seals as we floated near the bridge.