09-01-2015: Epic Day, Rampant Lunge-feeding All Day Long, Orcas Take Down A Common Dolphin

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

A killer whale spy hops after they took out a common dolphin. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com, 09-01-2015.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we had a day like today. Sure, we’ve been seeing a lot of surface lunge-feeding pretty much everyday. But today was over the top.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale

Lunge-feeding humpbacks all around. The pink strip you see here is the palate of the mighty humpback whale. Notice the baleen hanging down from the animal’s upper jaw. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

Early in the trip, we drifted around just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor with 20+ whales swimming all around the boat, often popping up within 10-feet of the boat. Seriously, we had them literally popping up in all directions. At the bow, both sides and at the stern. Moss Landing Marine Park style.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale

They just kept popping up every few minutes for the entire hour and a half that we were with them. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

But a mile out to the west, I had my eye on a large group birds that seemed to be working a large school of surface anchovies. After about 30-minutes I noticed the unmistakable big, fatty head of the mighty humpback whale popping up out of the water.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale

Not much more to say. They just kept on doing this. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

I still wasn’t convinced to leave this large aggregation of humpbacks that were circling the boat as the worked together feeding just below the surface. But then I saw two big fatty whale heads pop up together. This was looking good. So we decided to make a course and head in that direction.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale

This was all they were doing. What can I say, I just kept pushing the button on my camera whenever they came up. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

The only problem was that there were so many whales all around us, we were pretty well pinned down. So I waited for my break. Kind of inching my way toward the west, away from the humpback whale mayhem that surrounded us.

Monterey Bay Killer Whale

Killer whale takes out a common dolphin. Photo: Giancarlo Thomae, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

We were finally able break away and made our way out a mile or so out to the west were the bird action was and where there were a couple humpbacks doing the occasional surface lunges.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Here we go again. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

As we approached, we could see more whales in the distance making their way toward what appeared to be surface anchovies as far as we could see. And the common dolphins, birds and whales were working it in full frenzy mode. One of the better feeding frenzies I’ve seen.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Then we heard a report of orcas not far from our position. We could see the unmistakable tall black fin of the killer whale about a mile away. And they were making their way towards Moss Landing. It was hard to leave the frenzy that were in the middle of. A couple of times, the surface anchovies creeped up under our boat and all the animals followed.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

That was too close for comfort, so I was forced to bump the engines to scatter the anchovies as we slowly moved away from all the action. It’s one thing to be observing all the action from a safe distance, but quite another to actually be right in the middle of the action.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 09-01-2015.

After another 15-minutes, we decided to leave the frenzy and go check out the orcas. As we approached, we could see that they were in pursuit of a common dolphin. They had separated this unfortunate dolphin from the rest of the pod and were in hot pursuit. We could see hundreds of dolphins blasting away from the scene as they stuck together in a close pod and were leaping out of the water as they scurried around. It was quite a spectacle to behold. You can see the video of the dolphins as the BBC Big Blue Live helicopter was up above us filming. Very cool. Moss Landing delivers once again.

About Michael Sack

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