tail slap

Sightings Report: April 2, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

This trip started off with a lot of rain, but as soon as we left the pier the weather started improving. We headed west towards the Golden Gate Strait.

We had just passed the Golden Gate Bridge when our first whale was spotted. It was one of two humpbacks feeding on anchovies in the strait.

One of the whales stayed near Point Bonita, while the other made its way southeast towards Baker Beach.

We saw several fluke dives from this animal.

While we were watching the closer animal, the farther humpback started slapping its tail over and over again.

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We moved out of the way to let a large ship pass us.

When it had passed, both whales were near Point Bonita. We reapproached and eventually had a whale on either side of us.

These were the first humpbacks to officially enter the Strait for the season - nearly three weeks ahead of schedule!

Sightings Report: October 13, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We headed west on this afternoon trip. We made our way through the shipping lane all the way out past buoys 1 and 2 to the pilot vessel. The weather was calm with very little wind.

Out past the precautionary area there were at least 6 whales: two pairs and two individuals.

We saw a few breaches from these animals and several fluke dives. One pair approached the boat, swam underneath us, and then slapped its tail when it surfaced on the other side.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area.

We saw at least four large ships pass by.

Sightings Report: September 22, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

We headed to the north bar on this trip and found three humpback whales feeding in 47 feet of water.

Two of them were spouting and not showing flukes.

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The farther one was slapping its tail and pectoral fins and continuously breaching.

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We attempted to approach, but lost the whale.

Sightings Report: September 6th, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

On this tour we headed 8.5 miles offshore, just west of the shipping lane. We were alerted by the Pilot vessel to the presence of whales in the area.

We were positioned outside the lane with views of at least eight humpbacks in the area.

One whale repeatedly breached close to fishing boats. We also observed the whale slapping its pectoral fins and its tail.

There were anchovies at the surface and lots of feeding birds in the area.

We spotted parasitic, pomarine, and long-tailed jaegers attempting to steal food from other birds.

We were able to catch a whiff of whale breath on this trip as well.

The fishing fleet was close by, and we saw a few whales approach the fishing vessels.

We also had a few ships pass by us.

Sightings Report: July 22, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

We began the trip heading west through the shipping lane. We were 11 miles out when we spotted our first spout. 

After a few minutes, we were able to spot 10 humpback whales within a mile of us. A few of them came close to the boat. 

We saw several lunge feeds from these animals. 

There was also a lot of porpoise activity on this trip. 

6pm: 

We returned to the same spot 11 miles offshore for the next trip, where we found a pair of humpbacks. 

The smaller of the two individuals breached for almost the entire time we were there. It's possible that this was a calf. 

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Another individual slapped its tail multiple times on the water, 500 yards from the breaching animal. 

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There were a few lunge feeds on this trip, as well as a few fluke dives. There were some California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoy.

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Sightings Report: July 17, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we went north towards a large biological hotspot we'd spotted a few days before the trip. There were lots of fishermen there and we were unable to find any whales in the area. 

We turned west and found one travelling humpback seventeen miles from home. 

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There was a lot of bird activity and harbor porpoise activity. We had excellent weather and sea conditions despite a little fog. 

11am: 

We started off north on a tip from another boat. We were unable to locate the reported whale. After a while we made a big circle west, then turned south to the shipping lane. 

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We then spotted two humpback whales at the end of the shipping lane near the pilot boat. 

The farther whale was breaching continuously. The closer whale was not fluking. 

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We saw lots of harbor porpoises in the area as well as California and Steller's sea lions resting on the buoys. 

All photos from the 11am trip were taken by Patrick Sysiong. 

2pm: 

We headed straight back out to where we'd left the whales. They were still in the shipping lane near buoys 1 and 2. 

We had 4-5 humpbacks in the area, including a mother and calf. There were a few lunge feeds. 

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The calf was the most active of all the whales. We saw a tail slap, breach, and pectoral fin slap from the calf near the end of the trip.

We spotted some harbor porpoise activity on this trip as well. There were also California sea lions and common murres with chicks.

An outbound container ship diverted its course to go around us and the whales. 

5pm:

The whales were still in the same spot on our final trip of the day.

We saw several lunge feeds from the humpbacks and a few fluke dives. 

More container ships passed by us over the course of the trip.

We also spotted some California sea lions and common murres. 

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: 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: May 20, 2018

8am sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours trip on vessel Outer Limits

Heavy wind was in the forecast as we set out for the Farallon Islands on Sunday morning. We made our way out through the bay and up the north side of the strait, pausing near Diablo Cove to look at the harbor seals resting on the rocks. We also spotted some pigeon guillemots and a black oystercatcher on the rocks. 

Just beyond Diablo Cove we saw a spout. It was a humpback whale. 

The humpback was throwing flukes, occasionally coming within 100 yards of us. 

The whale seemed to be making its way in towards the bridge. We decided to leave the whale and continue on towards the islands. 

We turned north out of the strait, making our way up the coast. The section between Point Bonita and Bolinas was experiencing strong tidal action in addition to the heavy wind, so the water was rough. 

When we reached Bolinas we turned west and continued out to the islands. There were 6-8 foot wind waves. About 3 miles from the islands, we saw another spout, but we decided to continue on to the islands. There were lots of sooty shearwaters flying in this area. 

We made it to the Farallons and ducked into Fisherman's Bay. There were a couple of tufted puffins in this area.

There was a huge amount of common murres both on the rocks and in the water. Stellar's sea lions rested on the rocks. 

We made our way around the island to Mirounga Bay, were we spotted a spout. It was a smaller spout. After a few spouts we saw the body and were able to identify it as a gray whale. 

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The gray whale traveled north and we followed for a while. When we reached the western tip of the island, the water got very rough and we decided to go back on the lee side of the island.

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On our way back around we spotted some more puffins and a couple of rhinocerous auklets. 

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We left the islands and started home, hoping to find some more whales on the way back. We had barely gone a mile when we spotted a huge spout. We had two blue whales in front of us. 

The blues moved northwest and we were pushed southeast by the wind. Slowly we drifted apart. 

We continued back towards the Golden Gate. Just after we passed shipping lane buoys 7 & 8 we found a distinct tide line where the water went from blue to gray-green and got significantly rougher. 

We were 3 miles from the demarcation line when some passengers saw a breaching whale. We approached and found the whale slapping its pectoral fins on the water. 

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It then started breaching over and over again, followed by more pectoral fin slapping and some tail slapping. 

A large container ship passed by as we watched this activity. Two more humpback whales joined in, with one of them breaching. 

By the time we left the humpbacks we were almost at Mile Rock. The humpbacks were being pushed in with the tide just like we were. It pushed us all the way back to port. 

3pm sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

The tide continued to come in as we headed out on our last trip of the day. We were heading through some rougher bay water when I saw a spout near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

It turned out we had three humpbacks near the bridge. Gator and Topspot were near the north tower, with a third individual near the south tower. They moved together over the course of the trip. 

We saw several lunge feeds from the whales, as well as many fluke dives. Occasionally the whales would float on their side, showing one of the lobes of the fluke. There were a lot of smaller recreational boats out whale watching.

The whales moved in over the course of the trip. We were in the central bay by the time we left the humpbacks. 

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On our way back in, I spotted a smaller spout near Alcatraz. I saw it once more a few minutes later. I suspect that it was a gray whale. 

We also saw lots of harbor porpoise surfing the current in the middle of the bay on this trip, in addition to harbor seals and sea lions.