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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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