risso's dolphin

Special Sighting: Monterey Bay Whale Watch

Sightings from Monterey Bay Whale Watch vessel Sea Wolf II

This whale watching trip was an 8 hour expedition with the intent of finding killer whales. Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers these 8 hour trips in April and May.

We first headed out of the harbor around 8am, looking out for sea otters.

There were lots of sea lions resting on the jetty as well as a few playing in the water.

Near the jetty we saw male cormorants gathering nesting material and bringing it to their partners, who were building the nests.

We headed west until we got to the deep canyons of Monterey Bay. At that point we spotted a group of 50-100 Risso’s dolphins.

There were newborn calves in the group, identifiable by the presence of fetal folds. The calves stuck close to their mothers.

Risso’s dolphins do not bowride like smaller dolphins might, so we moved at slow speeds around the animals.

There were also several black-footed albatrosses in the area.

By the end of the trip I saw dozens of albatrosses, including one group of six sitting together on the water.

After we left the Risso’s dolphins, we headed west again for a bit, where we found a few humpback whales.

Two of the humpbacks were feeding together while birds and sea lions flocked around them.

We spent about twenty minutes with these animals.

After that we headed back to the south, where there were reports of more humpback whales from other whale watching boats. When we approached, we found a humpback mother and calf.

The calf was breaching for several minutes straight, allowing for lots of opportunities to photograph it.

We got a good view of the ventral side of the whale, where the umbilicus was visible.

We also saw fluke dives from both animals and some pectoral fin slaps from the calf.

After spending some time with the mother and calf we continued on south in search of some reported Pacific White Sided dolphins, but the wind was picking up and we eventually had to turn around and head back to the dock.

On the way in we stopped to look at some very cute sea otters who were eating mussels inside the harbor.

We also got a last look at the cormorants and the sea lions before we disembarked.

Sightings Report: October 14, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am Farallon Islands trip: 

We headed west towards the Farallon Islands in moderate swell and wind, both from the northwest. We found one humpback on our way out feeding under a huge group of gulls, common murres, and sooty shearwaters. 

Huge group of birds hovering over a bait ball.

Huge group of birds hovering over a bait ball.

We saw a few lunge feeds from the whale, but few fluke dives. It was feeding in 136 feet of water.

Humpback whale.

Humpback whale.

After a few minutes, we pressed on towards the islands. The captain spotted the blue-footed booby resting on Sugarloaf, along with many juvenile and adult brown pelicans. There were lots of California sea lions in the water and on the rocks, along with a few fur seals. 

The water was full of moon jellies as we progressed towards Mirounga Bay. The shark diving boat was present, but reported no sharks so far that day. 

We decided to use the good weather to continue on towards the continental shelf, passing the west side of the islands. Boats fishing for rockfish started to appear between the swells. 

I spotted a spout 500 yards away, but then discovered something closer to us: a pod of Risso's dolphins moving towards the Farallons. They were slapping their tails, jumping out of the water, and moving quickly southeast. 

Ahead of us were several spouts. Two humpbacks swam side by side a few hundred yards from us, and a few other groups of 2-3 humpbacks were visible.

As we continued we saw two blue whales and more humpbacks spouting ahead. 

The light-gray back of a blue whale.

The light-gray back of a blue whale.

When we finally had to turn around and head back towards the islands, we had another sighting of the Risso's dolphins before heading east. We watched the humpbacks from our stern until they were out of sight. 


On our 3:00 trip, we found a single humpback whale northwest of the shipping lane. It was showing its fluke and did a few lunge feeds.

A few birds were present hovering over the whale. It was feeding in 76 feet of water. 

Humpback fluke.

Humpback fluke.

We also spotted harbor porpoises on our way out. 

All sightings west of the Farallons 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!