humpback

Sightings Report: June 11, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8 am:

This was a very warm day with little wind. We headed south towards Pacifica in search of whales and found one humpback in the glassy water.

We spent about 30 minutes with the whale, who was surfacing once every few minutes. We didn’t see any fluke dives or lunge feeds from the animal, but there were lots of anchovies on the fish finder.

We also saw sea lions, seabirds, and jellies in the area, which was only about 34 feet deep.

We left the whale as it headed farther west.

11am:

On our next trip we found a whale just outside the Golden Gate Strait, a few miles west of Point Bonita. The whale was slapping its pectoral fin on the water far in the distance.

We saw a couple of fluke dives from this animal, which allowed us to identify it as #51 in our catalog. This whale has a unique fluke from some kind of skin disease which makes tattoo-like markings.

The whale was swimming east in about 90 feet of water. We saw anchovies boiling at the surface and lots of birds taking advantage of the bait balls.

2pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed south again and found a humpback whale off of Fort Funston.

The whale appeared to be feeding in 60 feet of water. We saw anchovies on the fish finder and birds on the surface to confirm their presence.

We saw a few fluke dives from this animal, allowing us to identify it as #6 in our catalog.

We also had a face full of whale breath on this trip!

Sightings Report: May 27, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On this trip we headed to Mile Rock, the last place the whales had been seen. We slowly made our way along the demarcation line, searching for whales.

After searching for a while, we spotted a spout just east of Mile Rock. We approached and found one humpback whale. We know this individual as “Curly.”

We saw a few fluke dives from the animal.

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There were lots of anchovies on the fish finder and lots of birds in the area, suggesting that the whale was feeding.

Near the end of the trip, we saw a huge Steller’s sea lion swim past the boat.

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All the photos from this trip were taken by naturalist Michael Pierson.

2pm:

On our next trip we headed back to the same spot. We found the same whale, Curly, feeding on the north side of the strait near Point Bonita.

There was a good amount of bird activity over the whale. We saw several fluke dives.

The whale moved east over the course of the trip as the tide rose. When we left the whale it was off of Point Diablo.

Sightings Report: May 14, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

We had beautiful weather on this trip. The seas were flat and visibility was excellent - we were able to see the Farallon Islands in the distance. There was a slight southerly wind, so we decided to head south towards Pacifica.

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We found two whales northwest of the Pacifica Pier, several miles offshore. One of the whales was a humpback and the other was a gray whale. It is unusual to see humpbacks and grays traveling so close together.

The two whales appeared to be traveling together. They were surfacing together every 3-5 minutes.

The humpback surfaced and fluked more frequently than the gray whale. A group of birds followed the whales.

After nearly twenty minutes of traveling together the whales had moved half a mile north of where we found them. At this point the humpback started feeding and the gray whale headed east towards the beach.

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We stayed with the humpback for a few more minutes, spotting lots of sea lions and porpoises in the area as well.

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: April 2, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

This trip started off with a lot of rain, but as soon as we left the pier the weather started improving. We headed west towards the Golden Gate Strait.

We had just passed the Golden Gate Bridge when our first whale was spotted. It was one of two humpbacks feeding on anchovies in the strait.

One of the whales stayed near Point Bonita, while the other made its way southeast towards Baker Beach.

We saw several fluke dives from this animal.

While we were watching the closer animal, the farther humpback started slapping its tail over and over again.

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We moved out of the way to let a large ship pass us.

When it had passed, both whales were near Point Bonita. We reapproached and eventually had a whale on either side of us.

These were the first humpbacks to officially enter the Strait for the season - nearly three weeks ahead of schedule!

Sightings Report: March 31, 2019

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.

9am:

On our first trip of the day, we initially headed to the Golden Gate Bridge. Eventually we received information that a whale had been spotted in Richardson Bay. We approached and found a gray whale near a paddle boarder and a kayaker.

We sat in neutral and the gray whale circled around us, coming within 50 yards of the boat. There was algae typically found on the sea floor floating on the surface of the water, which may have indicated the whale had been stirring up the mud at the bottom looking for food.

We saw one fluke dive from this animal.

We stayed with this whale until it moved towards Tiburon, then headed to Fort Mason, where we found another gray whale.

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On this trip, my sister Helen was sailing in a regatta. We passed her when she was in first place! Go Helen! Near the regatta was a harbor seal mother and pup and some interesting birds, including common loons and pigeon guillemots.

12pm:

On our next trip, we headed out past the bridge and towards Sausalito, where we had left a gray whale on our previous trip. Near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge we saw a Steller’s sea lion - a relatively rare sight in San Francisco Bay.

We searched for the whale in Richardson Bay and covered most of the bay looking for spouts, but we weren’t able to find any whales on this trip.

3pm:

Since we hadn’t located whales on our previous trip, for the final trip of the day we decided to head out into the Pacific Ocean to search for our whales. After a few minutes of searching just outside the Golden Gate Strait, the captain spotted a spout. It was the first humpback of the season!

The humpback was keeping its distance from us, but appeared to be feeding. There were lots of birds gathered around the whale. The animal moved around a lot, overall heading north. It did not show us any flukes.

The whale did not pass the demarcation line to enter the Golden Gate Strait, but it came close. A few large ships passed by us while we observed the whale.

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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: October 20, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We had excellent weather as we headed out into the Gulf of the Farallones. We headed straight west for the Farallon Islands.

Just past the precautionary area we found a humpback near the Oceanic Society vessel, the Salty Lady.

There was also a seal carcass floating in the water. It had been there for a while and seemed to be headless. There were a few circular bites from cookie cutter sharks. The carcass was probably from an attack from a great white shark.

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As we headed farther out, we found more and more humpbacks. About 20 miles out we found a group of 10 within sight of us. One of them came 15 yards from the boat.

We saw several lunge feeds while the animals were close to us, indicating that they were feeding. There was also a lot of bird activity above the animals.

When we reached the Farallon Islands, we spotted another spout. This one was less regular, and after several minutes of observation we were able to identify it as a gray whale. We saw one fluke dive.

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Ron Elliot, the famous scuba diver, was diving at the Farallons to take footage of the sharks. The cage diving boat was out as well.

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The islands were full of California and Stellar’s sea lions, northern fur seals, and northern elephant seals.

We spent a while at the islands to see if we could spot any sharks, but none surfaced. We did spot lots of sea nettles and moon jellies.

When turned around and headed back to land, we spotted lots of humpback whales. Between the islands and the shipping lane we saw at least 10-15 whales, including several breaches.

Sightings Report: October 17, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

For our first trip we headed west of the precautionary area. We found at least ten whales just west of buoys 1 and 2.

There was a ton of bird activity all over the shipping lane. We saw some anchovies boiling at the surface, which let us know what the whales and the birds were feeding on.

We saw feeding behavior, including a few lunge feeds. We were able to identify several of the individuals in this sighting.

Many ships passed by us during this trip.

We spotted some California sea lions on the shipping lane buoys. We also had some harbor porpoise activity.

11am:

We returned to the same spot on our next trip. On our way out we spotted more sea lions. Some of them were porpoising.

A little bit farther west we found 5 humpbacks.

The whales kept a distance from us, but we were downwind and were able to smell their breath.

There were lots of birds in the area. We confirmed that at least three of the individuals we saw were the same ones we had seen on the previous trip.

2pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed a little bit farther north than the previous trips. We found three whales, all far from each other.

One whale near a container ship was breaching repeatedly.

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We did not see fluke dives from the other whales. They kept their distance from us. We did see lots of bird activity and some sea lions on the buoys.

Sightings Report: October 13, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We headed west on this afternoon trip. We made our way through the shipping lane all the way out past buoys 1 and 2 to the pilot vessel. The weather was calm with very little wind.

Out past the precautionary area there were at least 6 whales: two pairs and two individuals.

We saw a few breaches from these animals and several fluke dives. One pair approached the boat, swam underneath us, and then slapped its tail when it surfaced on the other side.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area.

We saw at least four large ships pass by.