04-03-2012: Orcas Nail a Young Sea Lion Just Outside of Moss Landing, Close-in Gray Whales, Young Elephant Seal Mad-dogs a Cod

Moss Landing Orca

An orca "spy-hops" after a violent sea lion kill just outside of Moss Landing Harbor. It was quite spectactular. After the small pod of three attacked and consumed the sea lion, this animal came over to the boat to take a look at us. Photo: Sack, 04-03-2012

Wow! Another incredible day on The Bay. And it’s a good thing. Conditions were beginning to wear on me. We’ve had pretty dismal conditions over the last week. The weather has been getting in the way. Wind and steep swell one day and fog the next. It’s been hard. So much so, I haven’t been motivated to write any updates to the Captain’s Log over the last week. Sorry about that. Today changed all that. I had a nice attitude change.

Although over the last week we did have some OK looks at a handful of gray whales and a couple of Minke Whales. But let me tell you about Minke Whales: They’re not exactly whale watching material. More like whale glimpsing. But at least it’s kind of cool to get a glimpse of a species we don’t see that often. Although Minke have been known to breach and spy-hop. But we personally haven’t seen it here in the Monterey Bay. Usually we’ll see a dorsal fin that looks like a small dolphin. But the animal is clearly much broader in girth and length. Some are known to get 35 feet long. Then they’ll be gone. If we’re lucky, they’ll show themselves a couple of times.

Steller Sea Lion has been making regular appearances at the "sea lion" dock just below the Sea Harvest restaurant over the last week. The beast doesn't seem to mind the other youngsters hanging all over him. Photo: Sack, 04-02-2012.

And we have also been getting regular visits from a massive Steller Sea Lion all week. So that’s always cool. They look like some kind of giant freak sea lion when they’re next to the other sea lions. They’re typically three times the size of our regular California Sea Lions.

We also had some decent looks at a nice pod of common dolphins last week. But the wind and swell was quite bad. So we had a hard time staying with them. So overall it hasn’t been the best week of whale watching. But we have had some nice boat rides before the winds and swell forced us to abandoned our search.

Then there was yesterday: Stellar conditions in the morning. Warm, no wind, minimal swell; just beautiful. We had a film crew charter the boat wanting to see pretty much only orcas. So we spent 9 hours looking for orcas. But did we find any? No we didn’t.

The ocean and marine wildlife is funny that way. Things just kind of happen. Most of the time there is no planning anything out there. This is the second time this film crew came out with us.

We looked real hard yesterday. Then, today, 15-minutes into the trip a passenger spotted the obvious dorsal fins of a mother and calf pair. And there they were, just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. So we checked them out for a while and watched them hunt. Then we noticed another. So now there were three. It looked like one of them may have been a young male.

And just when we least expected it, a massive splash of white water off our starboard side. A large female orca partially out of the water, and a sea lion launches 15 feet into the air and 20-30 feet sideways! It was mind boggling to see. That was about it for that sea lion. The critter was pretty well bloodied up after that and didn’t last a whole lot longer before the group took it under and consumed it. Then one of the animals came up to us and “spy-hopped” to check us out. See the picture I took above. I love when they do that. It pretty neat. They seem to be interested in us and actually come up out of the water to check us out.

It was also nice to have a couple of gray whale just outside of Moss Landing also. But these two were pretty stealthy. So we didn’t great looks. They seem to get a bit skiddish when there are orcas in the area. I guess I would too.

We also had a good look at an elephant seal mad-dogging a cod just outside the harbor as well. So that was cool. Overall, another great day on The Monterey Bay.

About Michael Sack

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