murre chicks

Sightings Report: August 23, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

The water was calm and the sky was grey as we headed out for our first trip of the day. As we headed north, we saw the water start to boil with anchovies.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area as well.

There was a humpback whale nearby, close to Muir Beach.

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We did not see any flukes from this animal, as it was feeding in very shallow water.

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11am:

On our second trip we found the whale in a similar spot. There was still lots of food in the area and the humpback was definitely feeding.

We saw a few lunge feeds, including a couple that happened within 50 yards of the boat.

Near the end of the trip the whale moved farther from us and closer towards the shore, getting close to the rocky reef.

Sightings Report: July 19, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

2pm:

The morning weather had been rough, but by the 2pm trip it was starting to improve. We headed west and found a humpback in the shipping lane, 11 miles from home. 

We saw a few fluke dives from the whale as it moved west. 

We also spotted lots of murres with their chicks.

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Sightings Report: July 2, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm:

We had beautiful sea conditions as we headed out into the Golden Gate Strait. The sky was foggy, but the ocean was calm and there was very little wind. We quickly found a whale just inside Point Bonita. 

We saw a few fluke dives from the humpback. We also spotted another spout across the Golden Gate Strait and two more out past Point Bonita. I decided to move out towards the two whales to the west. 

We slowly approached the whales, who were feeding along a tide line. It was a mother and calf surfacing in synchrony. We gave them plenty of space, since mother-calf pairs tend to be extra sensitive to human interactions. They were not throwing flukes. 

After watching them for a few minutes, we drifted back towards the Golden Gate Strait, where we relocated some of the whales we had seen earlier. The two of them had moved to the west, while the mother-calf pair started to move east. 

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Visibility was decreasing as we headed back to port surrounded by fog. I spotted the first common murre chicks I have seen this season.

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5pm: 

On our next trip the fog had engulfed the Golden Gate Bridge, but in the strait visibility improved significantly. Some passengers spotted our first whale in the middle of the strait.

We saw one fluke dive from this humpback, who then disappeared. 

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I had my eye on more spouts near Point Bonita, so we headed that way. Near the lighthouse we found two humpbacks. One of them was the individual Akula, easily recognizable by the flat dorsal fin. 

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The other individual started tail slapping repeatedly while birds hovered around it. The tail slapping continued for several minutes. Occasionally the whale would take a break and then start slapping again. 

At one point a gray whale popped up 50 yards in front of us before swimming away to the other side of the strait. 

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We stayed with the active whale for most of the trip. At one point it breached 70 yards from our boat. 

We had at least 6 humpbacks and 1 gray within a half mile of our vessel. A large container ship passed us during the trip.

At the end of the trip as we headed back to port, we saw a whale near Point Bonita breach three times, followed by a whale at Mile Rock tail slapping. 

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I saw lots of murres with fish in their beaks on this trip.

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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!***