sea lions

Sightings: 9/8/19

Sighting from Tamalpais Charters vessel The Tamalpais for the Marine Mammal Center


On this special trip for the Marine Mammal Center, we headed west towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We spotted a few harbor porpoises near Cavallo Spire and some harbor seals close to the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.


As we headed out through the strait, we noticed lots of bird activity. There were a variety of types of birds present, including elegant terns, parasitic jaegers, brown pelicans, common murres, and Brandt’s cormorants.

Right around the demarcation line we spotted the first spout. It was a humpback whale. One of the first behaviors we saw was a body roll, where we got a good look at the pectoral fin of the humpback.

The whale was surfacing every few minutes and arching its back to dive, but we weren’t seeing any flukes from the animal at first.

The whale was definitely feeding. Birds hovered all around the spots where it surfaced, attempting to get the leftover anchovies.


The animal slowly moved west past the demarcation line. As we followed, we spotted a second spout.

We saw a shallow fluke dive from this animal which will hopefully help us identify the individual.

The wind was increasing and the tide was beginning to ebb, so we eventually started heading back in to the bay. On our way back to Tiburon, we stopped by Pier 39 to look at the sea lions.

There were also lots of birds in the area.

We also took a look at some of the whale bones on Angel Island, where the Marine Mammal Center performs their necropsies.

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: January 13th, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

I found my first whale of the new year five miles east of the Farallon Islands. An easterly wind pushed us out towards the islands and resisted the western swell, creating heavier seas. We spotted the gray whale's spout from about half a mile away and approached slowly. 

The whale spouted a few times, then did long dives of 5-10 minutes. It was travelling south in the direction of its migration path. After a few minutes, we left the whale and continued on towards the Farallons. 

Churning seas made taking photographs of this whale especially difficult!

Churning seas made taking photographs of this whale especially difficult!

It was sunny and teeming with life at the islands. We ducked into Fisherman's Bay where clouds of common murres circled us. On shore dozens of sea lions rested. We floated in the bay, observing them. 

Suddenly an avalanche of sea lion pups started to slide down the rocks and into the water, juveniles and adults close behind. They splashed and leaped into the roiling seas, barking loudly. 

We made our way around the southeast side of the island. A large wave was breaking in Mirounga Bay.

We spotted several sea nettles and some moon jellies in the water below. We slowly made our way around the north side of the island, spotting sooty shearwaters, surf scoters, and a Cassin's Auklet. 

Pacific sea nettle floating near the surface. 

Pacific sea nettle floating near the surface. 

On our way home, a few passengers pointed out some spouts behind us. We turned around in time to notice 2-3 spouts and one fluke, likely from another group of gray whales. We waited for them to surface again but were unsuccessful in relocating them. 

Common murres near the islands.

Common murres near the islands.

After a few more miles of rough weather, the wind was blocked by the land and we had a smooth ride home.