pelican

Sightings Report: June 22, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

On our first trip of the day we found one humpback whale about ten miles west of Stinson Beach.

The whale was feeding in 90 feet of water.

We saw one fluke dive and some lunge feeding from this animal. A few small fishing boats with outboard motors passed by us.

There wasn’t much on the fish finder, but we did see birds diving and hovering over the whales. We spent about 30 minutes with them before heading back to port.

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12pm:

On our second trip we found a humpback whale feeding in roughly the same area.

The depth was around 85 feet and we spotted birds hovering over the whale.

We spent just over half an hour with this animal before heading back to port. Photos on this trip were taken by naturalist Michael Pierson.

3pm:

On this trip we found a humpback whale in roughly the same spot as the morning trip. Over the course of the trip the whale headed south, moving from 85 feet of water to 35 feet over a few minutes.

We saw lots of feeding activity from this whale, including lunge feeds, fluke dives, and body rolls.

There appeared to be haystacks of krill on the fish finder. We stayed with the whale for about 35 minutes.

Sightings Report: June 23, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm: 

We headed out through the Golden Gate Strait and found a humpback whale near Mile Rock. It was exhibiting feeding behaviors. We also saw murres with anchovies in their mouths in the area. 

The whale gave several big tail slaps. 

There were more whales in the area, with two more humpbacks near the northern shipping lane and another in Bonita Cove. 

We also had a gray whale in the area. It approached us and surfaced within 50 yards of the boat. It surfaced several times followed by a fluke dive. We noticed some big plumes of mud near the whale, indicating feeding. 

A few big container ships and a couple of smaller fishing boats passed by us. We also noticed the group of juvenile Brandt's cormorants off of Mile Rock. 

6pm:

We headed back out for our final trip of the day. We first found a gray whale in the middle of the strait. We watched it for a few minutes as it seemed to head west. 

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We had three more spouts in the area, indicating a humpback near Baker Beach, one near Mile Rock, and one near Point Bonita. 

We positioned ourselves between Mile Rock and Baker Beach and floated in neutral. The tide pushed us down towards the whale, and the most eastern humpback surfaced on our starboard side 100 yards from our vessel. 

The humpback swam around our bow to the port side, then started tail slapping repeatedly. 

Both of us slowly got pushed in. We were watching the whale fluking in the strait as we sat underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

At one point we moved out of the way for a large container ship.

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

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

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!***