05-31-2015: Many Humpbacks, Common Dolphins, Sooty Shearwaters, Feeding Otters and Active Orcas

Moss Landing Killer Whales

This killer whale spy hopped dangerously close to this crab trap gear. That was a scary moment. Crab gear can be dangerous for large cetaceans. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-31-2015

The Summer action is here. The only thing missing are large numbers of blue whales. But we did see one a few days ago and it looks like the humpbacks a little further out are feeding on krill. So hopefully we’ll start seeing more blues showing up.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

They were on some kind of kill. But we never got a good look at what they were feeding on. But they sure were happy about it. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-31-2015.

But the humpbacks are out in force right outside of Moss Landing all the way out to about 10-miles out. Probably 30-50+ of them along that stretch. ¬†We had about 20 of them within a mile or two of the Moss Landing Harbor today. Which is nothing new really. The area just outside of Moss Landing Harbor is definitely worthy of what all the captains are now calling the “Moss Landing Marine Park.”

Moss Landing Killer Whales

Cruising in formation. The family that hunts together stays together. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-31-2015.

There have been least 10-20 humpbacks within a mile or two of the harbor consistently occurring alongside hundreds of common dolphins and increasing numbers sooty shearwater birds, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions and the occasional killer whale hunting party to name just a few. Its quite remarkable. One can usually stand on the beach in Moss Landing and see the unmistakable blows and tail flukes of the humpback whale. Sometimes the occasional breach.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

They were all tail slapping and carrying on for over an hour. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-31-2015.

Today was epic. We had excellent looks at humpbacks. The best humpback encounter today was when a herd of about 4-6 full size humpbacks started heading toward us in stampede formation as they kept surfacing and blowing repeatedly until they came at us broadside and all dove under the boat as they threw their tail flukes up and went under within about 10-feet of us. They all popped up on the other side about 30-yards away.

Moss Landing Mola Mola

These are very odd looking animals. This was a small one. Only about 15″ in diameter. Also known as the sunfish. Europeans call them “moon fish”. They eat mainly jellies. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-31-2015.

After that spectacle, I wanted to go do some exploring, so we headed out along the north ledge when we came across more common dolphins and a little more room to cruise. They like to bow ride and leverage the energy from our wake to jump out of the water as they follow us. It’s a lot of fun to see them buzzing by under water and jumping out of the water just below the rail. We did stop and put the hydrophone in but they were more interested in cruising around, so we didn’t get any good vocalizations.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This little fella would stop jumping. This was from a trip last week. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-22-2015.

As we were nearing the end of the trip today (we had about another 30-minutes) we received a report of killer whales about 5-miles north of us and decided to extend the trip and throw the dice. Well let me tell you, it paid off with a very active show of killer whales just going nuts. Just like the old days of 5-6 hour trips. Sometimes it happens that way. We left at 10:30 am and finally got back to the dock at just after 4:00 PM. But it was incredible.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

It’s been really odd. Last week we had a couple of days where the humpbacks were unusually active. We had one young calf breach about 70-times in a row. Photo:Michael Sack, 05-21-2015.

Moss Landing still seems to be a well kept secret. Except for those in the know. It’s quite baffling to see the Monterey boats taking out hundreds of people on each trip and running trips all day long. I guess most uninformed tourists don’t know any better. We seem to get the hardcore nature nerds (that’s a compliment, because we’re nature nerds too) who do their research and know that Sanctuary is by far the best boat to go out on and Moss Landing is by far the best place to depart from.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

More breaching from last week. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-21-2015.

Would you rather be on a large boat with 60 to 100+ other people and have to travel an hour or more across The Bay to the “Moss Landing Marine Park” before you see any animals? Or see whales blowing before you even leave the harbor? If you knew any better the answer is obvious. I’m trying to help you here.

Moss Landing Orcas

More orca jumping from today. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-31-2015.

We usually don’t carry more than 30 passengers on our boat and our viewing platform is much closer to the water. Today on both trips we had about 25 passengers. We also have Awesome marine biologists on every trip. It’s more like a learning adventure.

Moss Landing Sea Otter

This little guy is eating a fatty innkeeper worm. Photo: Michael Sack, 05-31-2015.

Going out of Moss Landing passengers get by far the most face time with all the wildlife. Seriously. We’re with humpback whales and dolphins usually within 10-minutes of leaving the harbor. I just thought I should let you know.


About Michael Sack

Boat Captain, Monterey Bay marine life naturalist and guide. Photographer and Videographer.
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