mile rock

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. 

DSC_9889.JPG

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. 

DSC_9911.JPG

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. 

DSC_0081.JPG

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. 

DSC_0287 (2).JPG

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. 

DSC_7915.JPG

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. 

DSC_8071.JPG

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. 

DSC_2196.JPG

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.

DSC_2777.JPG

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!***

 

Sightings Report: August 11, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm: 

On our 2pm trip we found the whales out at Mile Rock. It was the same humpback I had been seeing all week, with distinctive white patches on its fluke. The whale did several fluke dives about 150 yards away from us in an average of 100 feet of water. The tide was strong and quickly pulled us back towards the bay.

Humpback in between us and a large container ship.

Humpback in between us and a large container ship.

We saw 4-5 small sharks (~3 ft) leaping from the water. I suspect they were leopard sharks, but the caudal fin was long and pronounced. It could potentially have been a juvenile thresher shark or spiny dogfish, but as of now the species is unconfirmed. I didn't get any photos of these animals.

The distinctive fluke. 

The distinctive fluke. 

There was a lot of shipping traffic during this trip, and at least three container ships passed between us and the whale. We wanted to make sure we weren't putting pressure on the whale, so we stayed across the strait as it moved away from the ships. 

Heavy shipping traffic.

Heavy shipping traffic.

The weather was nice on this trip, with just a little bit of fog obscuring the top of the Golden Gate Bridge.

5pm: 

On our last trip of the day we found a spout right under the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge. We approached slowly. 

Humpback whale near Diablo Cove.

Humpback whale near Diablo Cove.

The humpback was headed out towards Diablo Cove, where we saw several fluke dives. I noted that it was a different individual than the one from our last trip. The whale seemed to be slowly making its way out to Mile Rock. We occasionally could see rainbows in the spout.

We had several harbor seals very close to our boat, and the harbor porpoises were very active. The swell increased slightly from the last trip but the last of the fog dissipated and we had sunshine around the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Harbor seal.

Harbor seal.

All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard 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!***

Sightings Report: August 10, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

We started off our first trip of the day with a swimming sea lion right by the pier and a huge group of pelicans flying over us. We suspected that the whales would be just outside the Golden Gate Strait. We ducked in Diablo Cove to check out the harbor seals and scope out Mile Rock with our binoculars. 

Harbor seals resting near Diablo Cove.

Harbor seals resting near Diablo Cove.

We noticed a lot of bird activity near Land's End, so we made our way over, searching for spouts. On our way we got a call from an incoming container ship that they had recently seen whales in the shipping lane. We decided to head out. 

Bird activity near Land's End.

Bird activity near Land's End.

Just past Mile Rock was a huge group of birds, mostly composed of pelicans and western gulls, with some cormorants and murres present as well. They were diving, flying, and drifting with the swell. As we passed by, we entered rougher, more exposed water. 

Brown Pelican.

Brown Pelican.

Suddenly I spotted a spout from 50 yards away. We were navigating some large swells, and could not immediately and safely put the boat in neutral, but we reduced speed and headed away from it. The whale surfaced 3 more times before doing a dive and showing us a very distinct pattern on its fluke.

We positioned ourselves as best as we could in the rough weather, putting our stern in the swell and allowing it to push us back towards the Golden Gate. We saw several more fluke dives within 150 yards of us, all from the same whale. 

When we headed in, it was a smooth ride. Many porpoises surfaced around us as we headed in. 

11am: 

For our second trip, we headed back out to Mile Rock, where the same whale was still diving between Mile Rock and Point Bonita. We floated in water that averaged 100 feet in depth, noting some diving birds. 

The humpback spouted once, then did a fluke dive. It repeated this unusual pattern several times. We looked at the fish finder and saw that there was a lot of feed right near the surface. 

Humpback whale fluke.

Humpback whale fluke.

Two small fishing boats sped between us and the whales; one of the boats was supposed to turn to starboard to avoid us, but did not. 

We headed in, accompanied by large groups of birds. The water temperature was 60 degrees - warmer than the air temperature of 56!

All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard and to NOAA via 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!***