mile rock

Sightings: 10/6/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

On our first trip of the day, we spotted a humpback whale near Mile Rock in 167 feet of water.

Over the course of the trip, we followed the whale as it slowly moved east with the tide.

When this whale fluke dove, I was able to identify this whale as #72 in our catalog. 72 is also known as “Crazy Ivan.”

We also spotted other wildlife on this trip, including harbor seals.

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We also had lots of bird activity in the area.

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12pm:

On our second trip we found two humpback whales in the same spot. One of the whales was #72 “Crazy Ivan,” the same whale from the morning trip. We were seeing fluke dives from these animals.

For the first portion of the trip, the whales stayed a few hundred yards from our boat. However, after watching them for a while, one of the humpbacks decided to come close to our boat.

We saw a couple of roll feeds close to the vessel.

There was lots of bird activity in the area, including feeding Caspian terns.

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3pm:

On the final trip we found two whales feeding in the same spot, near Mile Rock.

They moved in large circles close to the rock as they fed. There were large groups of cormorants and other feeding birds nearby.

As the trip went on, we started to spot a third spout outside the Golden Gate Strait. At one point, one of the whales approached within 100 yards of the boat.

We saw some fluke dives from the whales on this trip, so we will be able to identify which individuals we saw.

We also spotted other wildlife on this trip, including harbor seals.

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There was also a large amount of bird and porpoise activity, including parasitic jaegers chasing terns.

Sightings: 9/2/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we found one humpback whale near Mile Rock, near the end of the Golden Gate Strait. The whale was in 64 feet of water.

There was a lot of bird activity and bait in the area, but we did not observe any feeding behaviors or fluke dives.

The whale moved in large circles and slowly moved east with the incoming tide.

2pm:

On our next trip we found the same whale near Mile Rock again. It was close to the shoreline at Land’s End.

We saw one fluke dive from this animal, which we tentatively identified as Black October.

We saw a lot of feeding activity from this animal, including lunge feeding and roll feeding. There were birds hovering over the whale as well.

There were lots of boats in the area, including two large ships. One of the ships was careful to maneuver around the whale. An ebbing tide and northwestern wind created rough conditions in the Golden Gate Strait, making it harder to approach the whale.

We spent about 40 minutes with this animal.

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: June 2, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

9am: 

We set out on our first trip of the day with reports of whales in the straits. We headed first to Diablo Cove to check out the harbor seals and scan the strait for spouts. 

While floating in Diablo Cove we saw spouts by Mile Rock. As we got closer we saw more and more spouts, eventually counting 9-10 whales. 

The humpbacks were all relatively close to each other, with some travelling and diving in pairs. 

One whale across the channel tail slapped a few times as a large container ship passed between that whale and the rest of the group. 

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Over the course of the trip the whales moved in towards Baker Beach. We floated with the tide, and a few times they came within 100 yards of us.

We saw one breach towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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We also spotted lots of California sea lions in the strait.

On this trip we picked up an entire trash bag floating in the water, along with a big piece of styrofoam, a Starbucks cup, and a Clorox bottle. 

12pm: 

The wind had picked up as we headed out for our next trip. Luckily, the whales had moved in all the way to Cavallo Point. 

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There were 4-5 humpbacks in this group. They were all individuals who we had seen outside the bridge on the earlier trip. We sighted Gator, Topspot, and Curly, as well as some unnamed whales.

We were able to float in neutral for a lot of the trip and saw a few fluke dives within 50 yards of us. 

A strong incoming tide pushed us and the whales farther into the central bay as the trip went on. 2-3 big container ships passed by us, as well as a wide variety of smaller boats. 

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There were lots of harbor seals in the area as well. 

All whale sightings were reported to vessel traffic. 

Sightings Report: May 15, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: 

The weather was very calm and clear. From the strait, we could see all the way to the Farallon Islands. 

Harbor porpoises were active all over the Golden Gate Strait. We also spotted some sea lions and harbor seals. 

We found two humpback whales southwest of Mile Rock with a huge group of cormorants.

The whales were diving in 100 feet of water, 33 of which was anchovies. 

We saw one lunge feed from these whales. They seemed to slowly be heading west. 

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11am: 

On our next trip we found the whales slightly father west than we'd left them. They were close to the shipping lane. There were two inbound ships and one outbound. 

The whales seemed to continue to move west on this trip. 

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We also spotted sea lions, seals, and porpoises. 

Sightings Report: May 7, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

On the first trip we decided to head around Angel Island before heading out towards the Golden Gate Strait. As we made our way through Raccoon Straits, we found a Gray whale swimming north towards Richmond. 

We saw a few spouts from this whale, then decided to head out to try to find some humpbacks. 

We ended up finding 5-6 humpbacks in the strait, with a group of 4-5 moving in. 

One whale started breaching near the Golden Gate Bridge. We watched as the whale slowly moved west, breaching continuously. We also saw the whale slapping its pectoral fin as it rolled over. 

Eventually the same whale had moved to start breaching all the way past Mile Rock.

From the other group we saw sharp movements and open mouths that indicated lunge feeding, as well as a few pectoral fin slaps. 

There was a huge group of birds in the middle of the strait, mostly comprised of cormorants and gulls. 

A few large container ships passed by during this trip. We had several opportunities to smell the whale's breath. 

As we moved back towards the bridge at the end of our trip, we saw 4 humpbacks spouting and fluking in synchrony. 

There were California sea lions everywhere. One leapt fully out of the water in front of our boat. 

11am: 

When we returned at 11am, there were still many whales in the strait. There were several ships passing by, so we gave the whales plenty of space. 

We started off watching the whales from several hundred yards away. As we floated in the strait, they slowly made their way towards us. 

At one point three humpbacks surfaced 5 yards off our bow. 

The big group of birds had moved over to Diablo Cove. We saw California sea lions in the strait and ducked quickly into Diablo Cove to take a look at the harbor seals resting on the rocks. 

The whales were still lunge feeding on this trip as they slowly moved towards the north side of the strait near Diablo Cove. 

Sightings Report: March 29, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: 

On our first trip of the day we saw lots of harbor seals near the Golden Gate Bridge. It was high tide, so they were likely out looking for food. We also spotted some California sea lions and harbor porpoises. 

As we headed outside the bridge, we spotted a few gray whales near Mile Rock. They were easily identifiable by their heart-shaped spout. 

The back of a gray whale.

The back of a gray whale.

The water was flat and calm. Large groups of birds rested on the surface. 

We saw  a few fluke dives from the whale, who seemed to be staying in one spot. In between sightings we stopped to pick up a plastic water bottle.

11am: 

The weather for our 11am trip was still flat and sunny. We again saw harbor seals by the bridge, as well as some California sea lions. 

We spotted a spout by Mile Rock and slowly headed towards it. As we got closer to the end of the strait, the spout was seen again back behind us. After 8-10 minutes, we saw it surface again near Mile Rock. 

It was a gray whale, and we saw a few fluke dives. At one point the whale surfaced 50 yards from our starboard side. 

A gray whale with Point Bonita in the background.

A gray whale with Point Bonita in the background.

Near the end of the trip, a tug, barge, and two container ships passed by us. 

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2pm: 

On our third trip of the day we headed out to where we last saw the whales. When there was no sign of them, we headed across the strait to Point Bonita, then went north along the protected coastline. Some California sea lions rested on the shipping lane buoy. 

Near Rodeo beach we picked up a large piece of styrofoam floating in a large group of surf scoters. 

We turned around and headed back towards the bridge, spotting harbor seals and harbor porpoises but no whales. 

Sightings Report: September 18, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: 

Our first trip of the day was very foggy. As we got close to the Golden Gate Bridge, we had a huge amount of bird activity from a wide variety of species. Many of them were flying west. 

We felt that we were passing a whale, but we continued out into the Golden Gate Strait. We found one humpback by Mile Rock. We approached very slowly, our already slow pace further reduced by a strong western swell/wind and the incoming tide. 

The whale was feeding right on the tide line, along with huge groups of birds. We saw a few fluke dives, one of them around 100 yards away from us. 

After we left the whale and headed back in, we found a whale by the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge - the one we had missed on the way out. 

Brown pelican.

Brown pelican.

11am: 

When we headed back out for our second trip, the whale had moved further into the bay with the tide. We found it in between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was moving west. We stayed 200-300 yards away as we followed the whale out, watching fluke dives and lots of bird activity over the whale. 

The whale would occasionally do a lunge feed followed by some time spent on its side, slapping or waving its pectoral fin. 

Anchovies boiled at the surface of the water. Birds were attacking each other in attempts to steal food. 

The whale stopped just outside the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge near Diablo Cove . We also stopped and put the boat in neutral.

After a few dives, the whale moved in towards us, surfacing 100 yards away. 

It disappeared for a while, then reappeared 20 feet from our bow. It surfaced again on our stern, where it did a few fluke dives. We saw some more lunge feeding and pectoral fin slapping. 

Lunge feed!

Lunge feed!

We saw quite a few harbor seals outside the bridge. 

The whale slowly moved away from us towards the center span of the bridge. We made sure it was at least 100 yards away before we started moving. 

3pm: 

By the time we headed out on our third trip of the day it was almost low tide. The outgoing tide made the Golden Gate Strait a lot rougher than it had been in the morning. 

We headed up the south side of the strait when we spotted a spout by Point Bonita. We waited for a container ship to pass before we approached. 

The humpback was feeding in the same spot as the whale on the 3pm trip yesterday. We put the boat in neutral and had our stern to the swell, allowing us to float 200 yards from the whale. 

Humpback fluke.

Humpback fluke.

The whale worked the same area the whole trip, moving in circles around us and coming as close as 100 yards. We only saw two fluke dives from this whale, indicating that the anchovies were most likely close to the surface. 

Humpback whale. 

Humpback whale. 

Near the end of the trip, the whale swam to our stern and came up on the other side. We made sure it was 100 yards away before we moved. The whale continued to parallel us at 120 yards for a few minutes. Once we were half a mile away we came up to speed. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

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: September 14, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm: 

Whales had been spotted all the way inside the bay in the morning, so we hoped they would still be nearby when we headed out for our 2pm trip. It was a sunny day with high winds from the west, creating some wind waves in the Golden Gate Strait. 

Humpback whale.

Humpback whale.

We found one humpback whale inside of Mile LightThe whale started heading west, and we positioned ourselves above the whale with the wind at our stern and put the boat in neutral. 

The whale surfaced several times, doing a large circle around our boat. We saw several fluke dives. The wind pushed us hard towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the whale stayed in its original spot, so soon it was west of us. We also saw many harbor porpoises. 

On our way back in we spotted two harbor seals. Once we were on our way back to the pier, we received reports that the whale had moved in under the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Harbor seal.

Harbor seal.

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic. 

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: August 20, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

We headed out with a full boat and found humpback whales in the middle of the Golden Gate Strait in between Point Bonita and Mile Rock. We first sighted a small fluke heading towards the Cliff House.

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Then we saw a second spout and a much larger whale surface. This was certainly a mother-calf pair. They did several fluke dives, a couple times in synchrony with each other.

Mother and calf surfacing together.

Mother and calf surfacing together.

The calf did one tail slap near Mile Rock, but the whales kept their distance from us. 

Just as we were leaving, the mother and calf tail slapped in synchrony with each other, creating two huge splashes. The calf slapped several more times before we slowly left the area. 

Tail slap!

Tail slap!

We also spotted a harbor seal with a halibut in its mouth. It was chomping down as we observed gulls trying to steal a bite for themselves. 

6pm: 

When we went out for the last trip of the day, the seas had calmed down and the fog had started to come in. We were moving west on the south side of the Golden Gate Strait near Mile Rock when we spotted a spout on the north side. 

Mile Rock.

Mile Rock.

Large ships in the middle of the strait made it difficult to approach the whale, but we relocated it again at Four Fathom Bank off of Point Bonita. The humpback was feeding in just 31 feet of water. 

One of the container ships heading in to port.

One of the container ships heading in to port.

The whale we found was very small with distinctive white patches on its fluke. It had erratic diving patters and was very elusive. 

We sighted lots of harbor seals and harbor porpoises in the area. 

Point Bonita at dusk.

Point Bonita at dusk.

All whale sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic and to NOAA using 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!***