04-01-2016: Surface Krill Swarms In Front of Moss Landing, Humpback Surface Lunging on Krill, Killer Whales On the Outside

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

These killer whales were at the mouth of The Bay. It was about twelve miles out from Moss Landing. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com. 04-01-2016

We were on a couple of humpbacks within a few miles of leaving the harbor. We had some decent looks. But this animal was in search mode. It would go under and come up 10-15 minutes later a quarter mile away. So we only stuck around for a couple of dive cycles. Early on we heard reports of orcas about 10+ miles to the southwest. So we always had that in our back pocket. But that’s about an hour run for us. And that’s if they don’t change course and start heading away from us. So I was a little reluctant as first.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

These animals were clearly heading to the north for most of the time we were with them. Photo: Michael Sack, 04-01-2016.

We weren’t planning on going out there because orcas can just take off and be gone if they are not on a kill. But as I was monitoring the movements of the killer whales on the radio with another boat that was with them, it appeared as though they were heading our way. So I made the call┬áto set a course and make a break for the killer whales. It took us about 45 minutes to get on them. They changed course and started heading north. But we did finally catch up to them and tracked them for about an hour before they just suddenly took off at 10-15 knots to the west. It was quite something to see. They took off at near full cruising speed doing what we call “porpoising.” This where they jump out of the water as they move quickly through the water, much the way smaller dolphins do. Unfortunately, they were moving quickly through the water away from us. So that was that. And with the wind picking up and choppy conditions, there was no way we could keep up with them.

Moss Landing Whale Watching

This lone humpback was feeding on surface krill just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com. 04-01-2016

So we started making our way back toward shore when we heard reports of a humpback whale surface lunge-feeding on krill just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. So that was good news. We had a nice grand finale on the way in. The sighting turned out to be excellent.

Moss Landing Whale Watch

Another side lunge from this feeding humpback. Notice the krill patches in the foreground. The pink strip you see here in the photo is the whale’s palate. The broom-like structure hanging down from the whale’s upper jaw is it’s baleen. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-01-2016.

We could see krill swarms all over. We haven’t had any good surface-krill swarms for a few years. Maybe this will be a good year for the mighty blue whale, largest of all the cetaceans. Our Spring cycle is doing what it’s supposed to. The water temps are down between 50 and 53. We’ve been having some heavy afternoon winds and good sun all day long.

Moss Landing Whale Watching

This whale was doing this the whole time we were with it. In fact, it was still doing it when we left. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-01-2016.

So, because of the unique geological feature of the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon, we get an abundance of phytoplankton and as a result, abundant marine life productivity. Phytoplankton attracts the krill. Which is eaten by birds, fish and whales.

Moss Landing Whale Watch

Dense krill patch just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-01-2016

We’ll see what happens today. Stay tuned for the report from today.

About Michael Sack

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