humpback whale

Sightings Report: June 23, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On this trip we found two traveling humpbacks several miles off of Muir Beach.

They were in about 80 feet of water. We saw a breach and a pectoral fin as the whale rolled on its side.

There was some bird activity, particularly over anchovy bait balls.

We stayed with the whales for about 30 minutes before heading back to port.

2pm:

On the next trip we headed straight west. As we were heading out, we got a report from the Outer Limits that several humpbacks had been seen near buoys 7 and 8. We headed there, but didn’t see anything.

We headed to the northwest and found three feeding humpbacks in the area.

They were lunge feeding, rolling onto their sides, and one was slapping its pectoral fin.

There was bird activity in the area, and we could see bait balls shimmering at the surface.

The whales were in 75 feet of water.

We spent about 35 minutes with these whales, then headed towards the Golden Gate Strait. We were just outside Point Bonita when the captain spotted another humpback whale.

The whale had surfaced just a hundred yards northwest of the lighthouse. We waited a few minutes and were rewarded with a fluke dive from Mercedes Benz - number 12 in our catalog. This whale is a frequent visitor to San Francisco - we’ve seen it every year since 2016.

Sightings Report: June 4, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

After a stretch of bad weather, we headed out on Tuesday with sunshine and good visibility. We went west through the shipping lane, spotting a lot of bird activity as well as some California sea lions resting on the buoys.

We made our way out to the pilot boat, who said they’d seen whales the previous day. We slowly made our way east when a passenger saw a spout. (Shoutout to Michael from Philadelphia!)

At first when we approached the whale we were seeing spouts, but no fluke dives.

After a few minutes we saw a couple of lunge feeds. At one point the whale rolled onto its side and showed us one lobe of the fluke. We'll see if that’s enough to identify it!

2pm:

On our second trip we headed back out to the same area of the shipping lane. It took us a while to find a spout, but eventually we found a humpback whale.

This whale was fluking, so right away we were able to tell that it was a different animal from the previous trip. The dorsal fin was also distinct.

After we had been with the whale for 15 minutes, it began to tail slap. We floated in neutral as the whale slapped for several minutes, at one point coming to about 150 yards away.

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: May 1, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On this trip we found a gray whale near Richardson Bay. It surfaced roughly every seven minutes.

Over the course of the trip the whale slowly moved towards Tiburon. At a few points it came close to the shoreline and was diving in very shallow water.

As we headed back to the dock, we spotted one dive sequence from a humpback whale, including the fluke. The whale was in the central bay, but we didn’t see it again as we left the area. Soon after, a large oil tanker passed through the area.

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11am:

While we were at the dock, researchers at Golden Gate Cetacean Research were looking at a humpback whale off of Cavallo Point. When headed out on our next trip we went straight to the whale they were observing.

It was a humpback whale feeding on anchovies.

We saw several fluke dives from this animal. A few times it came within 100 yards of our boat.

Over the course of the trip, the whale slowly moved towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

This was consistent with the outgoing tide, which was likely causing the fish to move west.

We saw lots of harbor seals and California sea lions on this trip as well.

Several of the sea lions were hunting fish underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

2pm:

On our last trip of the day we went out into the Golden Gate Strait in search of the humpback. We relocated the animal in the middle of the strait.

At first we waited west of the animal to see if it was heading out. When it stayed in one spot for a while, we slowly approached.

The whale appeared to be feeding - we had huge bait balls showing on the fish finder. It was coming up at irregular intervals. A few times it lifted its tail high for a rapid deep dive.

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Sightings Report: December 6, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed out into the Gulf of the Farallones with beautiful weather. There was sun, very little wind, and gentle swells. We spotted porpoises, sea lions, and harbor seals on our way out into the shipping lane.

About 13 miles west of the bridge we found our first humpback. The animal kept a distance from us and appeared to be travelling. It had a low spout which made us think it might be a gray whale at first.

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Off in the distance we spotted a huge group of birds and a couple spouts. We decided to leave the whale and approach the spot with more activity.

In this area we found two humpbacks. They were active and showed their flukes.

One of them stayed closer to us, once coming within 50 feet of the vessel.

We used happywhale.com to identify this whale as an unnamed individual in the North Pacific catalog. It had previously been seen in Monterey and Puerto Vallarta in 2016.

This whale rolled onto its side and showed us its pectoral fin.

Sightings Report: October 24, 2018

8 AM Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed out past the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Golden Gate Strait. A crew member spotted a whale near Mile Rock. It was a single humpback.

The humpback was feeding in an area with a lot of tidal action. We saw many lunge feeds as the whale fed on anchovies. We floated in the vicinity of the whale for a while before the whale began using the tide to come towards us. We saw at least one lunge feed within 50 yards of our boat.

As the tide came in, the whale moved towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We did not see fluke dives from the animal, but we were able to identify it based on the scars and markings on its body.

1 PM Sighting from Golden Gate Bridge

We only had one trip on the boat on this day, so after the tour a few members of Golden Gate Cetacean Research met on the Golden Gate Bridge to see if we could spot the whale.

The humpback had used the tide to move far into the bay. We could see it breaching and spouting near Alcatraz. At one point a large cruise ship passed by the whale.

While we waited for the tide to change, we photographed harbor seals and porpoises underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

We spotted several mother-calf pairs among the harbor porpoises.

We also witnessed porpoises chasing fish and at least one mating attempt.

We lost sight of the whale for a while. Then I finally spotted it near Fort Point, only a few hundred yards from the bridge. We managed to get a few photos before the whale swam under the bridge and came out on the other side.

The whale breached in the Golden Gate Strait and continued to move out with the tide.

Sightings Report: October 6, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we had a northwestern wind and swell which pushed us south to Pacifica. We found two humpback whales there.

We saw a few fluke dives and lots of bird activity near the whales, which were relatively close to shore. One of the whales breached 150 yards from the boat.

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When we started heading back, we had another whale within a hundred yards off our port bow. We waited for it to pass us before continuing onward.

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 8, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We headed out towards the Farallon Islands with heavy wind in the forecast. We started up the north coast to Bolinas, then turned west towards the islands.

The swell and wind were heavy, but we persevered and eventually made it to the Farallons.

The islands were covered in California sea lions, Stellar’s sea lions, and northern fur seals.

Near the islands we spotted several black footed albatrosses and a few tufted puffins.

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There were some murres near the islands, but they were finished with nesting for the year.

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Near the islands we spotted two feeding humpback whales. The whales threw flukes and surfaced in synchrony with each other.

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.