lunge feed

Sightings: 9/13/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On the first trip of the day we headed out west in sunny, beautiful conditions. As we were heading out, a crew member spotted a tall dorsal fin back behind us. We slowed down and were able to relocate a minke whale.

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The minke surfaced several times near us, usually taking a few breaths and then going down for a deeper dive. There was also a huge group of sooty shearwaters in the area.

After watching the minke for a few minutes, we headed farther west and found two humpback whales near the entrance to the shipping lane.

The whales were displaying a variety of feeding behaviors, including lunge feeding, roll feeding, and fluke dives.

There was another whale farther out in the shipping lane as well. We saw a barge pass by us. Several small fishing boats were also working in the area.

The whales slowly moved east over the course of the trip.

We saw lots of bird activity in the area, including several brown pelicans.

A baby harbor seal popped up right in front of us at one point!

2pm:

On our second trip, we found whales again near the beginning of the shipping lane. There were three feeding whales within a thousand yards of us; all three were within the shipping lane.

The shipping lane was extremely busy, with several inbound and outbound ships passing by us over the course of the trip.

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Over the course of the trip, the three whales came together near the south side of the shipping lane.

The whales were feeding close by to the ships. We saw lunge feeding, roll feeding, and some coordinated behaviors. One whale rolled onto its side to feed over and over again for the entire trip.

We saw one fluke dive over the course of this trip.

We kept a distance from the whales while the large ships were present. Several of the ships slowed down as they passed by the whales.

Sightings: 8/31/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

On our first trip of the day we traveled down to Pacifica and found two humpback whales lunge feeding in 28 feet of water.

One of the whales surfaced for a brief moment before disappearing. The dorsal fin may have been that of Gator, a familiar visitor to our waters.

The other whale stuck around and fed in the area. We saw lunge feeding, anchovies boiling at the surface, and lots of bird activity.

At one point the whale approached us within 100 yards.

We spent about 30 minutes with the whale before returning to port.

12pm:

On our next trip, we found one whale feeding in 85 feet of water. The humpback was originally found between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Over the course of the trip, the whale moved in between Alcatraz and Angel Island, then towards the Bay Bridge.

We saw lunge feeding and roll feeding from this animal. There were birds hovering over the spot where the whale was feeding.

There was tons of bait in the area, as well as tons of boats approaching the whales. There were inboard/outboard motor boats, sailboats, and large ships in the area.

We spent over an hour with this animal as it moved around the bay.

3pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed back out to the Golden Gate Strait, where we found two whales in about 117 feet of water. One of the whales was moving in and out of the strait, while the other stayed farther out.

We saw some fluke dives from the closer individual, who we identified in our catalog as #62. This whale had new scars on its fluke since we last saw it in 2018.

The whale was feeding, with birds and anchovies present in the same area. There were a few sailboats nearby.

We spent about an hour with this animal.

Sightings: 8/30/19

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we headed down to Pacifica, where we found four humpback whales feeding close to shore.

The whales were lunge feeding in less than 30 feet of water.

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We saw other evidence of feeding as well, including the presence of anchovies on the fish finder and a huge group of birds close to where the whales were. Three of the whales converged on the spot near the birds. They were lunge feeding probably in less than 20 feet of water.

After watching these animals for about 40 minutes, we started to head back to port. At that point we received a report that there was a humpback whale in San Francisco Bay.

As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, we spotted the whale just ahead of us. We stayed with it for about 10 minutes, during which time we saw a fluke dive.

We were able to identify this whale as Black October, a whale named by our very own Captain Joe!

There were ships and sailboats passing by and a little bit of bait on the fish finder.

2pm:

On our next trip we headed back out to the Golden Gate Strait and found two humpbacks. First we watched the one near Baker Beach, which we identified again as Black October. We saw one breach from this animal, followed by some fluke diving. The whale appeared to be feeding.

The other whale was across the strait, but moved towards us over the course of the trip. We saw a fluke dive from this animal as well.

We spent about 45 minutes with these animals, who were feeding in 130 feet of water and making their way west over the course of the trip.

We saw some shipping activity as well as some sail and powerboats.

Sightings: 8/21/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On this trip we found the whales close to buoys 7 and 8, right at the beginning of the ship channel. There were three humpback whales feeding in 55 feet of water.

The whales moved around and frequently doubled back, moving to both sides of the shipping lane. For the most part they stayed close together. We even saw one triple lunge feed where the whales were nearly touching each other.

We also saw other evidence of feeding, including fluke dives, single lunge feeds, and birds hovering over the whales.

Ships passed by us over the course of the trip. At first we delayed our approach across the shipping lane because of a large inbound container ship. We were able to alert vessel traffic to the presence of the whales and the ship slowed down.

At one point one whale came within 15 yards of our boat. This whale was separate from the group of three that we were watching. This whale appeared to be traveling; after its close approach, we spotted it again several hundred yards north of us.

Over the course of the trip the whales moved just over a mile east. These were some of the closest whales to shore that we’d seen in a while.

We also spotted sea lions on the shipping lane buoys. At one point the whales approached them as well.

We spent about 50 minutes with these animals.

2pm:

On our next trip we headed back out in the same area and found three humpbacks seven miles from our dock. Conditions had deteriorated since our previous trip, and the waves were steep with a short period.

One of the whales tail slapped for almost the entire trip. The whale changed locations, but continued to slap dozens of times.

We also saw several breaches from this animal.

The other two whales stuck together and we saw coordinated diving behaviors from them.

There was a ton of porpoise, bird, and sea lion activity in the area.

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Near the end of the trip, we saw a sea lion eating what appeared to be a large salmon.

The whales were in about 63 feet of water and we stayed with them for 40 minutes.

Sightings: 8/17/19

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: 8/16/19

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: 8/4/19

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: 7/30/19

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: 7/26/19

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: 7/25/19

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.