gator

Sightings Report: June 25, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we found whales several miles off of Muir Beach.

We initially found just one animal, then spotted more whales heading towards us. They were herding the bait and feeding cooperatively.

We had five humpbacks in this area and saw behaviors including tail slapping and lunge feeding.

There were fishing vessels and birds around the whales who were also taking advantage of the anchovies. We were in about 70 feet of water.

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One of the whales we saw on this trip was Gator, a frequent visitor to San Francisco.

2pm:

On our next trip we found humpback whales very close to the spot where we had left them. Two humpbacks were feeding in 47 feet of water.

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We saw fluke dives from these animals. I was able to spot Gator again using the whale’s distinct dorsal fin.

Birds hovered over the whales, indicating that they were feeding. Despite big swell and some wind, we stayed with the whales for about half an hour.

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Sightings Report: May 4, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

12pm:

The bay was packed with boats as we headed around Angel Island, through Raccoon Strait, and towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The Sailing Grand Prix race was happening in the central bay.

When we didn’t find a whale in the bay, we headed offshore. The weather was beautiful. It wasn’t long before we started seeing spouts. We were just to the north of the shipping lane.

We had three humpback whales on this trip, including Gator, a whale we see regularly.

Two of the humpbacks stayed close together, while the other fed a little ways away from them.

We were able to smell the humpback breath from over half a mile away.

3pm:

On this trip we headed straight offshore to the place where we last saw the whales. The tide had changed and the wind picked up a bit, so it took a little longer on this trip than on the first one.

The whales were in the same spot. We saw the same three humpbacks close to us, with more spouts off on the horizon.

This time we were able to identify both Gator and Akula.

The whales were definitely feeding. We saw one lunge feed and lots of quick dives. They showed their flukes on about 2/3 of their deeper dives.

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We also spotted a group of sooty shearwaters in this area.

Sightings Report: August 2, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

We had foggy weather for our first trip of the day. We were able to locate two humpback whales, who we identified as Gator and Topspot.

We saw a few fluke dives from these animals.

There was lots of bird activity around the area, as well as some active fishing vessels.

11am:

We found another humpback in about the same area on our next trip. We saw a few fluke dives from a distance.

This whale was different from the two we saw on our earlier trip. It was also exhibiting feeding behaviors.

Sightings Report: June 2, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

9am: 

We set out on our first trip of the day with reports of whales in the straits. We headed first to Diablo Cove to check out the harbor seals and scan the strait for spouts. 

While floating in Diablo Cove we saw spouts by Mile Rock. As we got closer we saw more and more spouts, eventually counting 9-10 whales. 

The humpbacks were all relatively close to each other, with some travelling and diving in pairs. 

One whale across the channel tail slapped a few times as a large container ship passed between that whale and the rest of the group. 

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Over the course of the trip the whales moved in towards Baker Beach. We floated with the tide, and a few times they came within 100 yards of us.

We saw one breach towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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We also spotted lots of California sea lions in the strait.

On this trip we picked up an entire trash bag floating in the water, along with a big piece of styrofoam, a Starbucks cup, and a Clorox bottle. 

12pm: 

The wind had picked up as we headed out for our next trip. Luckily, the whales had moved in all the way to Cavallo Point. 

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There were 4-5 humpbacks in this group. They were all individuals who we had seen outside the bridge on the earlier trip. We sighted Gator, Topspot, and Curly, as well as some unnamed whales.

We were able to float in neutral for a lot of the trip and saw a few fluke dives within 50 yards of us. 

A strong incoming tide pushed us and the whales farther into the central bay as the trip went on. 2-3 big container ships passed by us, as well as a wide variety of smaller boats. 

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There were lots of harbor seals in the area as well. 

All whale sightings were reported to vessel traffic. 

Sightings Report: May 20, 2018

8am sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours trip on vessel Outer Limits

Heavy wind was in the forecast as we set out for the Farallon Islands on Sunday morning. We made our way out through the bay and up the north side of the strait, pausing near Diablo Cove to look at the harbor seals resting on the rocks. We also spotted some pigeon guillemots and a black oystercatcher on the rocks. 

Just beyond Diablo Cove we saw a spout. It was a humpback whale. 

The humpback was throwing flukes, occasionally coming within 100 yards of us. 

The whale seemed to be making its way in towards the bridge. We decided to leave the whale and continue on towards the islands. 

We turned north out of the strait, making our way up the coast. The section between Point Bonita and Bolinas was experiencing strong tidal action in addition to the heavy wind, so the water was rough. 

When we reached Bolinas we turned west and continued out to the islands. There were 6-8 foot wind waves. About 3 miles from the islands, we saw another spout, but we decided to continue on to the islands. There were lots of sooty shearwaters flying in this area. 

We made it to the Farallons and ducked into Fisherman's Bay. There were a couple of tufted puffins in this area.

There was a huge amount of common murres both on the rocks and in the water. Stellar's sea lions rested on the rocks. 

We made our way around the island to Mirounga Bay, were we spotted a spout. It was a smaller spout. After a few spouts we saw the body and were able to identify it as a gray whale. 

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The gray whale traveled north and we followed for a while. When we reached the western tip of the island, the water got very rough and we decided to go back on the lee side of the island.

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On our way back around we spotted some more puffins and a couple of rhinocerous auklets. 

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We left the islands and started home, hoping to find some more whales on the way back. We had barely gone a mile when we spotted a huge spout. We had two blue whales in front of us. 

The blues moved northwest and we were pushed southeast by the wind. Slowly we drifted apart. 

We continued back towards the Golden Gate. Just after we passed shipping lane buoys 7 & 8 we found a distinct tide line where the water went from blue to gray-green and got significantly rougher. 

We were 3 miles from the demarcation line when some passengers saw a breaching whale. We approached and found the whale slapping its pectoral fins on the water. 

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It then started breaching over and over again, followed by more pectoral fin slapping and some tail slapping. 

A large container ship passed by as we watched this activity. Two more humpback whales joined in, with one of them breaching. 

By the time we left the humpbacks we were almost at Mile Rock. The humpbacks were being pushed in with the tide just like we were. It pushed us all the way back to port. 

3pm sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

The tide continued to come in as we headed out on our last trip of the day. We were heading through some rougher bay water when I saw a spout near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

It turned out we had three humpbacks near the bridge. Gator and Topspot were near the north tower, with a third individual near the south tower. They moved together over the course of the trip. 

We saw several lunge feeds from the whales, as well as many fluke dives. Occasionally the whales would float on their side, showing one of the lobes of the fluke. There were a lot of smaller recreational boats out whale watching.

The whales moved in over the course of the trip. We were in the central bay by the time we left the humpbacks. 

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On our way back in, I spotted a smaller spout near Alcatraz. I saw it once more a few minutes later. I suspect that it was a gray whale. 

We also saw lots of harbor porpoise surfing the current in the middle of the bay on this trip, in addition to harbor seals and sea lions. 

Sightings Report: May 4, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

Right as we started heading out on our first trip, we heard reports on the radio of whales two miles past Point Bonita. Just outside the bridge the water was glassy. There was no strong wind or swell, but a strong incoming tide meant that it was still a little choppy. 

Just past Point Bonita we saw our first spouts. We continued past the whales at a safe distance, then turned to have the swell and tide at our backs. 

We had 9 whales in the area, with three groups of two and three single individuals. 

Huge groups of birds gathered above the whales. One group south of us tail slapped a few times. 

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Most of the whales stayed in pretty much the same spot the whole trip. Most of them were between us and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Some of them moved towards the northern shipping lane. 

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There were many harbor seals and harbor porpoises all around as well. 

11am: 

For this trip we returned to Point Bonita. The weather had not changed, and the whales were still feeding in the same spot. 

We floated in 150 feet of water watching one group of three whales. They seemed for the most part to be separated into a pair and an individual, surfacing separately but in synchrony. 

Near the end of the trip, we saw all three whales surface together, almost touching each other. With this we were able to identify Topspot and Gator and the unnamed individual they have been travelling with.

On our way in we saw a California sea lion killing a striped bass. We also spotted harbor porpoises and harbor seals, including one who looked very small and young. 

Sightings Report: May 3, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am: 

On this first trip of the morning we headed up the south side of the Golden Gate Strait. On our way through we spotted spouts near Diablo Cove. 

There were four whales in total, three of which were the same as the previous day. Two of those were Gator and Topspot.

It was cold and foggy, and a few big container ships passed by us. The whales stayed in roughly the same spot for the entire trip. 

We also saw huge groups of cormorants and gulls on the water outside the bridge. 

Sightings Report: May 2, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: 

We started off the day in the same place we found the whales the previous morning. Sure enough, we found humpback whales in the middle of the Golden Gate Strait near Point Bonita. 

Initially I saw one spout, but soon I was seeing four spouts. A few more minutes passed and suddenly I was counting nine spouts from Point Bonita back in to the Golden Gate Bridge. 

A powerful tide pulled us in, and we experienced large swell. We saw very few flukes from the whales. Two of them were the same pair we had been seeing all week - Gator and Topspot. They continued to surface near us. 

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One whale surfaced within 100 yards of us. This whale breached once, then fluked a couple of times. It was spouting once every 1-2 minutes. 

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We saw lots of harbor seals and California sea lions in the strait as well. One of them had caught a fish and had large groups of birds overhead. 

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On our way in, we spotted a spout by Yerba Buena Island. We moved slowly towards our dock. Suddenly a gray whale surfaced about 100 yards away from our boat, then disappeared. The whale continued travelling west. 

11am: 

The wind picked up for the next trip. We found 3 of the same whales we had been watching earlier near Diablo Cove. 

A few huge container ships passed by. We kept a conservative distance so that the whales and the ships both had plenty of room to maneuver around each other. 

There were huge numbers of birds, harbor seals, California sea lions, and harbor porpoises. 

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We followed the whales at a distance as they slowly moved west. 

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.