king salmon

Sightings Report: July 26, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

We started off the day with glassy seas and a bit of fog. We headed towards Muir Beach to see if the whales would repeat the same route as the previous day, and on our way out we spotted many active harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and California sea lions in the Golden Gate Strait.

But it turned out we didn't need to go all the way to Muir Beach, because there were four humpbacks feeding just off of Point Bonita in only 50 feet of water. The tide line was visible with the different colored bay and ocean water, and some sea foam had formed along the line. 

We saw several fluke dives, and also noticed a great deal of bird activity right above the whales, suggesting they were pushing the fish up to the surface. I also noted more diving pelicans than usual. 

On our way in, we spotted another humpback near the Golden Gate Bridge, but didn't stay with it for long. 

11am: 

As we set out on our second trip of the day, we heard reports on the radio of whales by Baker Beach and Diablo Cove. We headed out into the strait, but had no spouts in the reported areas. 

A foamy tide line separates the bay and ocean water. 

A foamy tide line separates the bay and ocean water. 

We found one humpback outside of Mile Rock near the Cliff House. The tide line was much more dramatic than on the previous trip, and the ocean side was much more choppy and green with phytoplankton. We also looked at our sonar readings and found that the bay water showed no food, but the ocean side showed anchovies down to about 90 feet. The whale, who had a distinctive rounded fluke, worked this line the entire time. We also spotted 3-4 more spouts on the horizon. 

On our way back in we saw a California sea lion snapping up a king salmon, with several western gulls lingering above, hoping to steal a bite. 

These sightings were reported to the Coast Guard and NOAA on the Whale Alert app. 

***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***

 

Sightings Report: July 21, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

We started off with a beautiful glassy sea this morning and encountered 4-5 humpbacks feeding underneath the bridge. I was surprised to see them so far in, since often they stay farther out until the tide comes in later in the morning. We observed many spouts and flukes, and as we floated in neutral two different whales came within 100 feet of us, both moving slowly alongside us as they spouted and finally did fluke dives. We stayed in one spot and let them swim around us; as other boats sped by, we contacted them to warn them to slow down for the safety of the whales. 

Humpback whale fluke with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. You can see the white tips on this fluke - this picture is perfect for our catalog. Thanks to Diana Moule for sending in her photo.

Humpback whale fluke with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. You can see the white tips on this fluke - this picture is perfect for our catalog. Thanks to Diana Moule for sending in her photo.

One whale between the north tower of the bridge and the Coast Guard station breached twice about five minutes apart, and another whale 100 yards away did a single pectoral fin slap immediately afterwards. 

Bird vocalizations were particularly noticeable on the water today, and I spotted my first common murres with chicks for the first time this season. One murre was holding an anchovy in its beak and vocalizing loudly as two fluffy chicks paddled toward it with desperate cries. 

We also had sightings of CA sea lions, harbor seals, and harbor porpoises on this trip. 

11am: 

The great weather continued on our next trip, and right away we spotted two humpback whales inside the bay. They didn't seem to stay long, though, and soon they headed out into the strait, where we were counting up to six spouts at a timeWe slowly followed them out at a distance of about 300 yards. There were many other animals close by to distract us, including a sea lion chowing down on a king salmon, escorted by a flock of Western gulls. There were also harbor porpoises and harbor seals nearby, and anchovies leaped out of the water. 

Photo of the Kitty Kat and a lobtailing humpback taken from land by Bill Keener of Golden Gate Cetacean Research.

Photo of the Kitty Kat and a lobtailing humpback taken from land by Bill Keener of Golden Gate Cetacean Research.

We watched the whales spout and fluke from a distance for some time, then slowly moved towards the southern side of the strait to get out of the way of a large container ship. We were still more than 200 yards away from the whales when we put the boat back in neutral. Then, right as the container ship passed by us, two whales surfaced on either side of us within 100 yards. One started at our bow with a couple of pectoral fin slaps, then headed down the port side. The other started slapping its tail repeatedly and continued for several minutes, taking short breaks in between 30+ seconds of slaps. In the video below, you can hear how the tail slaps reverberate loudly even in air; they're probably even louder underwater!

When it was time to leave, we called out for any sightings of whales before we moved. At the last moment, a whale surfaced at our stern just within 100 yards. We watched it spout and slowly move away from us before moving slowly away from the area. 

On this trip I noticed lots of murres with chicks and several with anchovies in their beaks.

Sightings board for our 11am trip.

Sightings board for our 11am trip.

All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard and vessel traffic was alerted. 

***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***

Sightings Report: July 7th, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm: 

At around 2:30 we found humpback whales just outside the Golden Gate Bridge near Diablo CoveThere were 3 feeding in the immediate area, with more spouts sighted further out in the strait. 

We got a close look at a couple of harbor seals and 4-5 harbor porpoises off our bow. We also were treated to the sight of a California sea lion chowing down on a large king salmon. Several common murres were sighted with their mouths full of northern anchovies.

5pm:

The wind had picked up a bit from the last tour, but we still spotted a few different whales pretty quickly, including one just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. There were lots of spouts on the horizon, so we headed out towards Mile Rock. At 5:50, we slowly and carefully positioned ourselves above the spouts and floated in neutral as a humpback whale roughly 120 yards away repeatedly slapped its fluke against the water. The sound from the slap can be heard from far away underwater; it has potential uses for communication, as well as scaring fish into a tighter school. The slapping humpback was missing a chunk of one of the lobes on its fluke, making it very distinctive and easy to recognize. Another 2-3 spouts were sighted further offshore.

There were 4-5 more spouts near Point Bonita moving in towards the bridge, and two more humpbacks between Mile Rock and the bridge. I estimated that there were at least 8 different whales sighted in the Strait. 

***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***