lunge feed

Sightings Report: August 17, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

On our first trip of the day we found humpbacks whales about 14 miles offshore, close to the pilot station. There were nine whales in the area feeding in 100 feet of water.

We saw fluke dives from these animals, as well as lunge feeding. There was one coordinated lunge feed with two whales.

The whales in the area moved around a lot. Different groups were constantly moving apart and coming together.

There were birds hovering over the whales and anchovies on the fish finder. We stayed with the whales for about 30 minutes.

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12pm:

On our next trip we found the whales several miles east of the previous location. The whales were near buoys 1 and 2, directly in the shipping lane.

There were four humpbacks feeding in 60 feet of water.

We saw fluke dives and some coordinated lunge feeding from these whales. Large ships and the pilot boat were nearby.

There were lots of birds in the area, particularly shearwaters. The birds were flushed from the surface of the water by the whales several times.

We stayed with these animals for about 45 minutes. There were another 2-3 spouts in the distance as well.

3pm:

On our final trip of the day we found one whale in almost the exact same spot, directly in the shipping lane.

After seeing a few spouts and getting a good look at the dorsal fin, we identified the whale as Akula - a frequent visitor to this area.

Akula wasn’t fluke diving, but after a few minutes she began tail slapping, allowing us to get a good look at the orca tooth rakes on her fluke.

There were anchovies on the fish finder and birds hovering over Akula, so it is likely she was feeding. We stayed with Akula for about 40 minutes.

There were ships present over the course of the trip. We also saw a large sunfish come down the side of our boat.

There were California sea lions on the shipping lane buoys as well.

Sightings Report: August 16, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we headed far out west, past the shipping lane. We ended up about 15 miles offshore. There we found five humpbacks feeding in 150 feet of water. The water color was a dark purple-brown color, suggesting that the whales might have been feeding on krill.

We saw lots of interesting behaviors from these animals, including lots of feeding behavior. We saw lunge feeding, fluke dives, and some coordinated behavior from two of the animals.

The whales were spread out except for two who continually surfaced together.

There were birds hovering over the whales as they fed. We also saw a couple of breaches.

We could see fish in the water during the trip, including a mola mola.

We had excellent conditions. It was sunny with no wind and only a little bit of swell. We stayed with the whales for about half an hour.

2pm:

On our next trip we found two humpbacks feeding a few miles east of their earlier spot in 166 feet of water.

We saw more coordinated activity from these two whales, including a couple of double lunge feeds. We also got fluke dives from these animals.

As we floated in neutral, one of the whales approached within 50 yards of our vessel. It swam around our stern, then rejoined the other whale 150 yards west of us.

When they reunited, one of the whales began breaching. It did full breaches twice, followed by 2-3 chin slaps. Some of the chin slaps were almost like half-breaches.

We spotted some water draining from the whale’s baleen during the chin slaps. Sometimes the whales open their mouths when excited, so it might have been draining out water that got in during the excitement.

The whales in this area were definitely feeding on anchovies. We spotted a few bait balls in the area. We also had lots of shearwaters present - both sooty and pink-footed.

We also saw a huge mola mola on this trip.

Sightings Report: August 4, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours Vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

On our first trip of the day we headed through the fog to the south. Near Mussel Rock we stopped to see a mola mola (ocean sunfish).

While watching the sunfish, we spotted a whale ahead of us. It was moving west and doing frequent fluke dives. As we approached, the water deepened from 40 feet to 56 feet.

As we moved west two more humpback whales appeared. One of the two was Gator, a familiar whale here in the Bay Area.

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It’s possible that the first whale we saw and the other adult were a cow-calf pair.

We spent about 30 minutes with the animals.

12pm:

On our next trip we returned to the same spot, where we had five humpback whales feeding near some fishermen.

We saw lunge feeding and body rolls from these animals, although few fluke dives.

One of the whales we spotted was Gator, who had been feeding in the area earlier in the day. A different whale came within 25 yards of the boat. The whales were in about 50 feet of water, but were relatively close to the shoreline.

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There were also lots of murres with their chicks in the area.

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3pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed back to Mussel Rock and again found five humpbacks feeding in the area.

The whales were within a few hundred yards of the beach, and we could see people walking along the shore.

They lunge fed multiple times all around the boat. There was a huge shoal of anchovy between us and the beach that the whales herded and fed on throughout the trip.

They came within 100 yards of the boat several times. For most of the trip we just idled in the area and watched as the whales swam around us.

We also spotted some fluke dives from these animals.

The way home was very wet, but it was worth it!

Sightings Report: July 30, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed straight out west in some windy weather. We found two humpback whales in the shipping lane between buoys 5 and 3.

The whales were feeding in 38 feet of water. We saw several lunge feeds from these animals.

The fishing fleet was in the area and we saw some large ships pass by us. We did not see fluke dives from these animals.

One of the whales was closer than the other and stayed in pretty much the same area for 45 minutes. After we found the whale, we floated in neutral the whole time. We did not need to change gears to approach, since the whale was staying within 150 yards of us for the entire trip.

We also saw some porpoises and bird activity in the area.

Sightings Report: July 26, 2019

Sighting from Tamalpais Charters vessel The Tamalpais for the Marine Mammal Center.

On Friday morning, the Marine Mammal Center staff set out on a charter of the Tamalpais to find some whales. First stop was to check out the harbor seals hanging out on the docks at Angel Island.

Next we headed out to the shipping lane, where the conditions were beautiful. There was very little wind or swell, although there was some cold fog.

Near buoys 3 and 4 we found the first humpback whale. We were on the tip of the north bar, so the water was only 32 feet deep. More whales started to be reported in the area from the pilot boat and fishing boats. We followed them as they moved to the south side of the shipping lane. We were also seeing more spouts on the horizon, numbering at least ten in total.

We saw lots of activity from these animals, including a few breaches, body rolls, and pectoral fin slaps.

We also saw a few coordinated lunge feeds.

We slowly moved west with the humpbacks until we were about 14 miles offshore in 95 feet of water. Once the whales were in deeper water we started to see more of their fluke dives.

Thank you to Tamalpais Charters for a great trip!

Sightings Report: July 25, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we headed out parallel to the shipping lane. We ended up finding a humpback whale a few hundred yards southwest of the shipping lane buoys.

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The whale was feeding in an area with a lot of boat activity, including everything from large container ships to small outboard motor fishing boats.

We were not seeing fluke dives from this animal except for one shallow dive. It was feeding in 60 feet of water. We did see some lunge feeding, though!

We were able to spend about 45 minutes with this animal. There were also porpoises and seabirds in the area as well.

2pm:

On our next trip we found humpback whales in almost the exact same spot. This time there were about 5 whales in the area.

The whales were feeding in 51 feet of water. There were fluke dives and lunge feeds from the animals, who moved pretty continuously over the trip.

We had birds, porpoises, and lots of ship traffic in the area as well.

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We also spotted one breach on this trip.

Sightings Report: July 21, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.

9am:

On our first trip of the day we had fog relatively high off the water and pretty good sea conditions. We had reports of whales northwest of the shipping lane, so we headed that way.

We found two humpbacks there in 80 feet of water.

We saw some fluke dives from these animals, who stayed close to each other the whole time they were feeding. At one point one of them did a full body roll. They appeared to be pushing the fish in between them.

Over the course of the trip the whales moved over a mile west.

There were fishing boats around us, as well as lots of birds and porpoises. We also saw some more spouts in the distance.

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12pm:

On our next trip we found whales in the same spot. There were still lots of fishing boats in the area. Sea conditions had improved from the morning trip.

We found six humpback whales in this area, all feeding in 84 feet of water. We saw some fluke dives from these animals as well.

Some large ships passed by us while we observed the whales. We stayed with them for about 40 minutes. We also spotted some common murre fathers with their chicks.

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3pm:

By our afternoon trip the conditions were beautiful. It was sunny and glassy calm out in the shipping lane, where we first found one humpback whale close to our boat. Additional spouts were off in the distance.

The first whale spouted 150 yards from us. We stopped the boat, floated in neutral and were surprised to see the whale pop up 10 yards from the boat and fluke dive.

The whale surfaced again farther from the boat, just as a ship was passing.

After that whale was 300 yards away from us, we continued out towards a group of 3-4 humpbacks that were near the pilot boat.

These whales were surfacing in synchrony.

There were lots of birds hovering around them, indicating that they were feeding.

We saw several lunge feeds from these animals. The highlight was a quadruple lunge feed where all four whales came up at once.

We got lots of fluke dives from these animals, but none of them are currently in our catalog.

The whales were slowly moving west. We were able to spend about 45 minutes with them before we had to head back to the dock.

Sightings Report: July 19, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day, we found one humpback feeding among the fishing fleet. There were both inboard and outboard motorboats, along with some ships passing by in the shipping lane. The whale was there for the same reason as the fisherman: to get food.

We also saw birds hovering and feeding in the area. We didn’t see any fluke dives from this whale, but we had big wind waves that made viewing more difficult.

Passenger Andreas Schremmer captured some great photos of the whale and birds in the area. Many thanks for sending these over!

2pm:

Conditions improved on our 2pm as the southwesterly wind began to die off. We headed out to the end of the shipping lane, turned around to start to head home, and found a humpback whale right in front of us.

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We saw a couple of lunge feeds from this animal within 50 yards of the boat. Birds hovered over the spots where the whale was feeding.

The whale was in 100 feet of water.

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Sightings Report: July 17, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we had beautiful sea conditions and excellent visibility with very little wind. We headed out past the shipping lane, where we found 5 humpback whales feeding.

The whales were in about 82 feet of water. 4 of them stayed within a few yards of each other for most of the time we observed them.

One of the whales had a propeller scar across its back. We identified her as the famous “Prop Mama.” She’s an older female who has had several calves, one of whom was killed by orcas a few years ago in Monterey. She is a repeat visitor to this area.

We saw lunge feeds from these animals as well as lots of fluke dives. We were also able to smell whale breath several times.

We also saw one whale roll on its side and slap its pectoral fin on the water multiple times. There were also a few tail slaps.

Near the end of the trip, three of the whales stuck together while one headed off in the direction of some small fishing boats.

We saw birds, porpoises, and sea nettles in the area as well. We were able to spend about 45 minutes with these animals.

2pm:

On our next trip we headed out through the shipping lane, again experiencing excellent conditions. However, near the end of the shipping lane we hit a huge bank of fog with less than a quarter mile of visibility.

We moved slowly through the area as we started to see huge bait balls of anchovies.

Even though the fog was dense, we found a humpback whale.

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We saw a couple of lunge feeds from the animal, as well as some shallow fluke dives. The whale ended up swimming around the boat about 50 yards from us. It was in about 100 feet of water.

A huge school of anchovies passed directly underneath our boat.

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We saw some container ships moving through the fog in this area. When we started our trip home, the dense fog had moved east all the way to San Francisco Bay, meaning that it had crept about 10 miles east while we were watching the whale.

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We also saw some common murres with chicks in this area.

Sightings Report: July 12, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On this first trip we didn’t have a lot of visibility, although the sea conditions were good. After searching for a while, we finally found a few spouts southwest of the shipping lane, about 14 miles offshore.

The whale was traveling, which made it difficult to locate in the dense fog. There were lots of large ships passing through the lane and the pilot boat was in the distance. The whale was in 124 feet of water.

There wasn’t any bait on the fish finder when we were near the whale, but in other spots we had seen birds carrying anchovies.

On our way back in, we saw three more humpback spouts in the shipping lane with lots of birds around them. We marked the spot to return to it on the next trip.

2pm:

On this trip we headed west through the shipping lane in search of the biological hotspot we had found earlier. We found it slightly southwest of its previous location, but still close to the shipping lane.

In this area we found four humpbacks feeding in only 48 feet of water. We saw tons of bait on the fish finder and lots of birds hovering in the area as well. The whales performed lunge feeds several times.

Big wind waves made viewing somewhat tricky, but we were still able to observe whales coming within 100 yards of the boat. We stayed with these whales for about 30 minutes.

We also spotted a relatively small mola mola (ocean sunfish) in the area.

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