02-09-2018: Humpback Whale Update, Mystery Whale, Gray Whales, Dolphins and More
Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve done a post. I must admit, I’ve been surfing almost every day since October. So sorry about that. I’ve pretty much been hitting the waves as soon as I get off the boat. Then I’m too tired because I surf until dark. The waves have been epic so far this year. But now we’re back at it full-speed ahead. I’ve been kind of waiting to see if these humpbacks that have been hanging around out in front of Moss Landing were going to stay for the Winter. Well, it looks like they aren’t going anywhere. Oh yeah.
It’s been an incredible Winter so far. Overall conditions have been stellar since last Spring. So we’ve been loving it. And now we are certain that there are at least 10-15 humpback whales that will not be making their normal migration. The humpback whales we see here in the Monterey Bay are part of the Eastern Pacific population.
Scientists believe there are about 2,000 humpback whales in this population. The majority of this population feeds here along the California coast in the Spring, Summer and Fall. Then in mid-December to early January, most of the population heads south to their calving and breeding grounds in Southern Mexico. A lot of the humpback whales we see here just outside of Moss Landing and in the Monterey Bay have also been seen down in Banderas Bay just south of Puerto Vallarta.
Other humpback whales in the Eastern Pacific population have been seen as far south as off the coast of Costa Rica. How do we know for sure? A noninvasive type of research called photo-ID research. This is where scientists and others, including us at the Sanctuary and other citizen scientists from around the world, submit photographs of the underside of the humpback whale tail-flukes to various databases maintained by whale researchers (we like www.happywhale.com).
Most humpback whales have a black and white pattern on the underside of their tail flukes. In addition, they can have unique notches and nicks on the trailing edge of their tail-flukes. Taken together, these physical characteristics can be as unique as a human finger print. So this allows scientists to compare or match these characteristics using photographs from all over the world with tail-fluke photo’s already on file. Of course, each photograph is tagged with time, date and location data.
For example, we know that there has never been a match from a tail-fluke photograph from a whale here along the California coast with a tail-fluke photo from a whale in Hawaii. But there have been matches between tail-flukes photographed in Hawaii and Alaska. So that is a different population of humpback whales. There are different humpback whale populations in all the worlds oceans.
The last couple of days have been incredible. We haven’t seen the long-beaked common dolphins for months. So it was great to see them a couple of days ago. Then we heard reports that they were still around. They were spotted off of Seaside to the south of us here is Moss Landing. So we’ll see what happens on our next trip. We’ve also been seeing a lot of Northern fulmars flying around. And we even had a sighting of a mystery whale that was either a very small minke whale or some type of beaked whale. Check out the photo below.
And of course the cutest thing we see out here are the sea otters. And there have been a few mother and pup pairs around. So that even more cute. We been seeing some small mola molas on most trips also.
11-14-2017: Killer Whales Just Outside The Harbor, Ten Plus Humpbacks Right Out Front
Today we had a pod of five killer whales show up just outside the Moss Landing Harbor. We had eyes on them before we even left the harbor. That’s why Moss Landing is the best harbor in the Monterey Bay to leave from for whale watching. Both ledges of the deep Monterey Bay submarine canyon start right at the entrance to the Moss Landing Harbor.
10-08-2017: More Lunge-feeding, Rough Conditions Make For Rough Going
More lunge-feeding, but rough conditions make the going tough. The day started out lumpy. We were pretty much rocking and rolling right out the gate. That was the word of the day. Not our normal Fall conditions. We usually don’t see such confused seas. We had some mixed swell with a solid unusual late-season south ground swell and a solid West swell. We had to cancel the afternoon trips.
Most of the humpbacks were further out today. And because of the conditions we had a hard time getting out to them. Luckily we came on to a couple regular lunge-feeders. They were coming up with nice lunges about every ten minutes. We even had a couple of massive vertical lunges where they exposed their pink ventral throat pleats. Hopefully conditions will improve today. Stay tuned.
10-07-2017: Humpbacks Still Feeding with Sea Lions, Single Male Orca Shows Up
The feeding humpbacks are still the main show in the Monterey Bay. Most of the best action has been on the South ledge of the canyon. So that’s where we’ve been focusing.
But we also came across two feeding humpbacks just off of Pajaro Dunes towards the end of the day. The afternoon/evening sea conditions whipped up pretty good by three or four o’clock. So it made for some challenging operations. Limited our ability to maneuver because of lumpy seas. But we did get some good looks at lunge-feeding humpbacks. So that was nice.
The humpbacks seem to be kicking it into overdrive on the feeding. Especially the ones that are heading south to their calving and breeding grounds off of Southern Mexico and Central America. They know they won’t be eating much for the next couple of months. So there doing there last feeding push before they start their journey in late November and early December.
09-27-2017: 15-20 Humpbacks Feeding With 300-400 Sea Lions, Perfect Fall Conditions
The conditions continue to be stellar out there. Warm and glassy. It’s nice to only need to wear a T-shirt out there. Today we had a large aggregation of humpback whales feeding together with about 300-400 sea lions. Incredible encounter.
09-26-2017: Orcas and Humpbacks Going at It, Incredible Marine Conditons
09-25-2017: Killer Whales Again, Humpback Whales, Risso’s Dolphin, Feeding Sea Otters and More
Today was incredible. Conditions were perfect all day long. We had a group of five killer whales right out the gate. So that was great. They were in hunting mode. So they were being pretty stealth and not together.
Staying under a long time and coming up in different areas. We had some great looks, but decided to head out and do some exploring after about an hour with them.
After about 15-minutes of running, I could see small splashes a mile or two to the west. I got some glasses on them and saw we had an active group of Risso’s dolphin. So that was cool. These animals were splashing around, breaching, surging. Nice encounter.
Then there were humpbacks scattered all around the area. Mostly to the North a couple of miles. We started to notice some nice feeding aggregations. Like groups of 4-6. Glassy calm conditions made of perfect marine life viewing. I could turn the engines off and just float there. It’s nice to just hear nothing but the birds, the sea lions and the whales.
09-24-2017: Incredible Lunge-feeding Event for Afternoon Trip, Nice Conditions All Day Long, Beautiful Sunset
Fall conditions are really setting in. We had incredible conditions all day long today. On the 02:00 pm trip we were lucky enough to get on a handful of humpbacks that were engaged in some serious surface feeding behavior.
These things were coming up every 3-5 minutes with their mouths wide open. We call this vertical lunge-feeding. This is when these 45-foot long humpback whales chase schools of anchovies up out of the water with their gaping mouths wide open.
We also had great looks at Risso’s dolphins and common dolphins. We haven’t seen the common dolphins for weeks. So that was great to see them together with the Risso’s dolphins.
It’s quite a spectacle. They will usually expose their baleen, the roof of their mouth (palate) and their massive, pinkish throat pleats that are usually laden with barnacles. Their baleen is that finger nail and hair-like structure that hangs down from their upper jaw. They use it like a sieve to filter out fish and krill from the sea water when they lunge-feed.
09-23-2017: Same Killer Whales for Five Days in Row
We’ve had an incredible run of killer whales for the last five days. They’ve mainly been hunting sea lions. Upon closer looks at photo’s we’ve been taking, we also see that they’ve taken at least on Pacific white-sided dolphin.
I’m sure they’re taking harbor seals and elephant seals when they find those too. Beautiful conditions for morning and 02:00 pm trips.
But by the 05:00 pm trip conditions deteriated. It got pretty ugly out there. But we did come across a couple of lunge-feeders on the way in just outside of the Moss Landing Harbormouth. So that was nice.
09-20-2017: Humpback Whales and Lively Orcas, Nice Conditions
We had reports early on of orcas just outside the harbor. So as soon as we left the harbor-mouth we made a course and headed to the orca action going on about ten-minutes out.
Turns out there were five of them picking off sea lions for most of the morning and into the early afternoon. And these were an active group. We had some really close swimbys.
Including a couple of young ones breaching next to the boat. At one point two of the younger ones were doing double breaches together. A fantastic encounter.
They would approach a large raft of sea lions and cause a sea lion stampede pretty regularly.
09-17-2017: Scattered Humpbacks, Sea Lions Feeding Together, Breaching Humpbacks and More
Early on we heard reports of feeding humpbacks just off the beach in Marina. But we wanted to at least get a couple of looks at a lone humpback feeding just outside of Moss Landing Harbor. We had a couple of ok looks, but after the first 10 minute dive cycle we decided to make a course for the 45 minute run to Marina.
It was a good call. We had a lot of feeding humpbacks, sea lions and birds. Also the occasional vertical surface lunge. I love turning the engines off and listening to all the mayhem. It’s quite a spectacle with all the birds going crazy, sea lions barking and whales blowing.
So that’s what we had in the morning. It was a little lumpy to get down there for the after noon trip. Plus we had a handful of humpbacks right out front and for a 2-hour trip it makes more sense to hang with what we had. We also had a nice breacher for the evening trip. So that was great. This thing breached 3-4 times right in front of the boat. I love when that happens.
09-12-2017: Fantastic Marine Conditions, Humpbacks, Killer Whales, Risso’s Dolphins, Pacific White-sided Dolphins and More
Conditions were gorgeous for most of the trip. Forecast winds and storms were nowhere to be found in the morning, so we spent some time just cruising through scattered humpbacks feeding with sea lions and common murres just below the surface.
The we headed out further and encountered 100+ Risso’s dolphins, with a few pacific white-sided dolphins mixed in. Breaching and tail slapping from the Risso’s was accompanied by occasional bow-riding from the playful white-sided dolphins. So that was fun.
The most exciting part of our trip was just a bit farther west from the Risso’s, where we encountered a group of killer whales! One big male, a mother and calf, and another female were joined by three other killer whales over the course of an hour. Then the wind started picking up so we had to leave the killer whales and start heading back toward Moss Landing.
On the eight-mile ride back in we enjoyed sunshine, sea nettle jellies, and a few ocean sunfish! We even had a very quick glimpse of a mako shark’s dorsal fin.
A total of four cetacean species, jellies, interesting fish, lots of birds, a shark, otters, seals, and sea lions- what a day!
08-31-2017: Fall Conditions Are Here and The Humpbacks Are Continue The Feeding Frenzy In Front of Moss Landing
Incredible encounter on the afternoon trip a couple of days ago. It was hard to leave. These things were feasting on anchovies at the surface for over an hour. When we left they were still going strong.
These things were feasting for well over an hour. I probably should have came back out after the trip. Photo: Sack
I was bummed that my video camera malfunctioned so I didn’t get any great video. But I did manage to get some incredible stills. Luckily on the way in I figured out what was up with my video camera. So hopefully today we will get some more of this.
08-15-2017: Incredible Humpback Whale Spectacle Feeding With Sea Lions in Front of Moss Landing
Moss Landing continues to be the spot to be for whale watching. We’re on the action within ten minutes from leaving the harbor. Kind of funny the hundreds of people coming out on the boats from Monterey have to spend over an hour before they see anything. All the Monterey Bay whale watching boats end up right in front of our harbor in front of Moss Landing.
Be whale wise and come out of Moss Landing. We’re on the action within minutes from leaving the harbor. Not to mention you won’t be elbow to elbow with 150 strangers per boat. We only take about 30 people per trip on the Sanctuary. It’s a much better experience.
08-09-2017: Humpback Whales Still Feeding in Large Numbers in Front of Moss Landing, Risso’s Dolphins Show up, Elephant Seals and More
Check out this incredible friendly whale encounter we had a few days ago. Just amazing. Friendly humpback Whale Video
The amazing humpback whale action continues just outside the Moss Landing Harbor. This is the new normal for Moss Landing. It’s been really incredible. We’ve also has excellent marine conditions. Smooth and calm. Although today the conditions whipped up pretty bad in the afternoon but calmed as the sunset.
Speaking of sunsets, the sun was nearly red when it when down tonight. Pretty crazy colors. It looks like we’re starting to get into our fall cycle. This is by far the best time to come to the Monterey Bay area.
The weather can be fantastic. More sunshine, warm conditions and incredible sun rises and sunsets. Plus the whales seem to ramp up the feeding behavior before they head to Southern Mexico and Central America for the winter to breed and give birth. There is not a lot food for them down there, so they will not eat for 3-4 months during that time. And they know this. So they are doing their last feast for a few months.
07-31-2017: Humpback Whale Surface Feeding Continues in Front of Moss Landing
Check out this humpback whale lunge-feeding video.
Here is some drone footage from yesterday morning’s trip! You can not only see the humpback whales lunge feed among the sea lions, but watch for them underneath the surface as they twist and turn, constantly chasing the anchovy bait ball. It is a thrill to be able to watch this behavior from a bird’s eye view!
Filmed by: Chase Dekker, www.sanctuarycruises.com
07-24-2017: Many Humpbacks Within a Few Minutes of Moss Landing, More Blue Whales Starting to Show Up
The action continues out in front of Moss Landing. Many humpbacks just outside of the harbor. There were also blue whales starting to move in. We were on two of them about five-miles out. We could see many more blue whale blasts further out to the west. Stay tuned for what happens today.
06-29-2017: “Fat Fin” The Killer Whale Shows Up Again, Humpbacks, Dolphins and More
Second day in a row we saw “Fat Fin” the killer whale. This orca is a frequent visitor to the Monterey Bay. The Humpbacks have scattered a bit compared to last week. We’ve only had a handful right out front instead of the 20 or so some-odd we’ve been seeing for the last couple of months.
They’re still around, just not concentrated. We’re still getting some great looks and reports of many whales throughout the Monterey Bay. Nice conditions overall. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
06-05-2017: Many Humbpacks Everywhere in The Bay, Biggest Concentrations off Moss Landing
The summer action is starting to kick into full-gear as more and more humpbacks start showing up through out the Monterey Bay. We’ve also been seeing Pacific white-sided dolhpins, Risso’s dolphins, Northern right-whale dolphins, black-footed albatross and a lot more.
Conditions have been nice in the morning with a little more lump and wind in the afternoon. Today we had a great look at a friendly harbor seal. The animal just casually swam alongside the boat and looked at everyone standing on the rail. It was pretty cool.
We’re starting to see more and sea nettle jellies. That’s why we’ve also been seeing some 4′-5′ mola mola’s. Their favored prey is the sea nettle jelly.
Overall the humpbacks have been putting on a pretty good show. Some trips they are more active than others. But on every trip the sheer numbers of whales and usually dolphins we see is astounding. The action should just start getting better.
The salmon bite is on again as well. A commercial guy came in with 29 fish the other day. That’s a good score for out here over the last few years. The system seems to be thriving.
06-03-2017: Humpbacks Continue Feeding In Front of Moss Landing, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins
Moss Landing continues to be the place to be for whales and dolphins on the Monterey Bay. Right now we’re talking humpbacks, Pacific white-sided dolphins, northern right-whale dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and more. If you take a boat out of Monterey or Santa Cruz, you will likely end up on an hour or more boat ride to Moss Landing before you see anything worthy. Because that’s where the big show is. We’re on the animals 10-minutes from the time leave the harbor. You get a lot more face-time with animals if you leave out of Moss Landing.
Today we came across many groups of humpbacks as we explored along the north ledge of the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon. We also came across scattered groups of Pacific White-sided dolphins. So that was fun. They were giving us some nice bow riding views.
We had some great looks at the Northern right whale dolphins this week also. We don’t see this species as often as some of the others. But when we do, they often occur with the Pacific White-sided dolphins. So we’re always on the look out for the odd looking dolphin with no dorsal fin. We had them jumping in the air earlier in the week.
There was also a black-footed albatross or two soaring around close to the water as they ride the air lift above the swells. The black-footed albatross are incredible birds. They fly all the way from nesting sites in the Hawaiian Islands. They lock their wings into place and can do something called dynamic soaring. They use the wind.
They are thought to have a lower heart rate when they are flying than when they are in the water. They are part of the tubed nose order. They can desalinate sea water to drink using a tube above their beak. They feed mostly on fish, squid, dead sea animals. We always see them show up during killer whale predation events.
It’s just incredible out there right now. But make sure you go out of Moss Landing. Much more face time with the animals and we also have more time to explore if we want. Plenty of room on all our trips. Trips depart daily at 09:30