happy days

Sightings Report: October 10, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

2pm:

On this trip we headed north up the Marin coast. We found a humpback whale near Muir Beach.

IMG_3487.JPG

The whale was moving north but seemed to be feeding as it went. We saw a few small lunge feeds and there was some bird activity above the whale. We also spotted anchovies at the surface.

IMG_3495.JPG

The whale was very close to the rocky reef and shoreline. We followed it north all the way to Steep Ravine.

Sightings Report: October 3, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am:

As we headed out on our first trip we had light eastern winds and flat seas. We headed south to Pacifica, where we found 6 humpbacks.

There were two pairs and two individuals all feeding in the same general area. There were lots of birds above each whale.

We saw feeding behavior and fluke dives spread out over a few miles.

There were a lot of moon jellies and sea nettles in the water.

11am:

On our next trip we returned to the same spot and found one humpback.

We saw several fluke dives from this animal.

A few miles away as we made our way back in, another humpback breached and then dove 200 yards from the boat.

2pm:

On our last trip we returned to the same area a few miles off the coast. We went all the way to San Pedro before turning around and making our way back closer to the shore. Here we found three humpbacks.

One of them was close while the other two were farther away.

We saw one breach and one fluke dive from the closer animal.

Sightings Report: September 5, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am:

We started out on a cold and foggy morning. We started northwest and found a single humpback.

DSC_8365.JPG

The whale was not showing its fluke. We saw it surface several times as it traveled around the area.

11am:

On our second trip we headed back to the same spot. Visibility had improved.

We found a humpback whale a little bit closer to shore than on the previous trip. This whale did show us a few fluke dives.

DSC_8379.JPG

Birds were hovering over the whale, indicating some potential feeding activity.

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.

DSC_8056.JPG

We saw several breaches from this individual from a distance.

DSC_8070.JPG

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: June 12, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

On our first trip we had a thick layer of fog just outside the Golden Gate Strait. We found two humpbacks right at the edge of the fog. 

They showed us a few flukes and seemed to slowly be moving east. 

Eventually they ended up near Baker Beach. We also saw several harbor porpoises and harbor seals. 

DSC_1522.JPG

11am: 

On our next trip the whales were not where we had left them. We searched the strait and eventually found them near Point Bonita. 

The whale was travelling, spouting every 5-7 minutes and taking shallow dives. 

On our way in, we spotted a whale surface very close to a container ship. 

Sightings Report: May 7, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

On the first trip we decided to head around Angel Island before heading out towards the Golden Gate Strait. As we made our way through Raccoon Straits, we found a Gray whale swimming north towards Richmond. 

We saw a few spouts from this whale, then decided to head out to try to find some humpbacks. 

We ended up finding 5-6 humpbacks in the strait, with a group of 4-5 moving in. 

One whale started breaching near the Golden Gate Bridge. We watched as the whale slowly moved west, breaching continuously. We also saw the whale slapping its pectoral fin as it rolled over. 

Eventually the same whale had moved to start breaching all the way past Mile Rock.

From the other group we saw sharp movements and open mouths that indicated lunge feeding, as well as a few pectoral fin slaps. 

There was a huge group of birds in the middle of the strait, mostly comprised of cormorants and gulls. 

A few large container ships passed by during this trip. We had several opportunities to smell the whale's breath. 

As we moved back towards the bridge at the end of our trip, we saw 4 humpbacks spouting and fluking in synchrony. 

There were California sea lions everywhere. One leapt fully out of the water in front of our boat. 

11am: 

When we returned at 11am, there were still many whales in the strait. There were several ships passing by, so we gave the whales plenty of space. 

We started off watching the whales from several hundred yards away. As we floated in the strait, they slowly made their way towards us. 

At one point three humpbacks surfaced 5 yards off our bow. 

The big group of birds had moved over to Diablo Cove. We saw California sea lions in the strait and ducked quickly into Diablo Cove to take a look at the harbor seals resting on the rocks. 

The whales were still lunge feeding on this trip as they slowly moved towards the north side of the strait near Diablo Cove. 

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. 

DSC_6153.JPG

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.

DSC_6360.JPG

Some of them moved towards the northern shipping lane. 

DSC_6336.JPG

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 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. 

DSC_4988.JPG

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. 

DSC_5229.JPG

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. 

DSC_5654.JPG

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. 

Sightings Report: April 11, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am:

On our first trip of the day we saw a spout right as we were leaving Pier 39. We followed it south towards the Bay Bridge.

Gray whale surfaces near the Bay Bridge.

Gray whale surfaces near the Bay Bridge.

It was a gray whale. We saw spouts and the whale's back, but no flukes. 

DSC_2969.JPG

We observed the whale for a while, marking the location for ferries and other ship traffic in the area. Eventually we lost track of it, so we headed south of the Bay Bridge and then back around Angel Island to look for it. 

We spotted harbor porpoises and a harbor seal in the water near Angel Island, along with a few Pacific sea nettles. On our way back to port, we saw a sea lion with a thrashing fish attracting a lot of attention from the birds.

11am:

On this trip it took us slightly longer to find the whale. It was spouting a quarter mile southeast of Angel Island. We saw spouts and the back, but no flukes. This was likely the same gray whale we saw on our first trip. 

We observed the whale for a while before heading to the Golden Gate Bridge and on to Diablo Cove to see the harbor seals. 

From there we headed out to Point Bonita before turning around and heading home. The big swell in the strait pushed us back into San Francisco Bay towards home. 

2pm:

For our final trip of the day we went east of Alcatraz and around Angel Island, searching the deep water channel.

DSC_3086.JPG

As we came back around Angel Island we found the gray whale. 

DSC_3053.JPG

The whale was spouting 3-4 times and then fluking. Over the course of several dives it slowly moved northward. We followed at a distance as it headed back to Angel Island before we had to return to port. 

This was the first day I noticed elegant terns had returned to the bay. We also spotted some California sea lions. 

Common Grebe. 

Common Grebe.