04-08-2012: Warm and Sunny with Smooth, Calm Water and Excellent Views of Cooperative Humpbacks, Bow-riding Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Feeding Risso’s Dolphins

Humpback whale 10-miles southwest of Moss Landing goes for deep dive while feeding on a massive krill patch. Photo: Sack 04-08-2012

It’s been hit or miss lately with the marine conditions. But today was fantastic. Which made for outstanding views of feeding humpback whales. They were pretty much just hanging out, circling around, feeding on an abundance of shallow krill patches. I could see huge balls of krill on our sonar. Mostly between 10 and 60 feet deep. At one point one at least one of the whales went under the boat as I could see a very large, solid, black target thirty feet under the boat. Then the animals popped up just behind the us.

We observed these two humpbacks for well over an hour. They’re dive cycles were consistently between three and five minutes, sometimes less. This means they were only spending a few minutes at a time under the water feeding. This makes for great whale watching. More often than not, their dive cycles are between 5-10 minutes and they sometimes pop up as far as a half-mile away. This is usually because they are searching an area for food. But today all the food they wanted was all around and under the boat.

After about an hour and a half of checking out these graceful animals doing what looks like slow motion tail-fluke dives, we noticed a scattered pod of about two-hundred Pacific White-sided dolphins throughout about a two mile area. They just kind of came through the area buzzing the nearby feeding humpbacks.

Pacific White-sided dolphins are always crowd-pleasers when they come through in good numbers. They seem to enjoy riding the bow of our boat and our wake. They leverage the energy created by our wake and just kind of buzz along side and in front of the boat. It’s really a neat thing to see. They cruise along and jump out of the water just in front of and beside the boat. So everyone gets on the bow and these beautiful dolphins are jumping just a few feet below passengers giving them very close-up views.

So we cruised the boat along at about five knots heading northeast for about 20-minutes while the Pacific White-sided followed along. After that they lost interest so we decided to go do some exploring and try to find some other animals.

A Risso's dolphin slowly cruises along side of the boat. Photo: Sack 04-08-2012

After about 20-minutes of exploring we came upon a very friendly pod of about 20 Risso’s dolphins. They also seemed to feeding. Often times when we see the Risso’s they seem to be traveling in a specific direction. Consistently surfacing, blowing and then just cruising a few feet underwater. They take on a different appearance when they are just under the surface of the water. They have an almost fluorescent whitish-green look about them. Which is why they have been nicknamed the “Phantom Dolpins.” They look like a ghost cruising through the water.

A pod of Risso's Dolphins circles around as they feed on shallow squid. Photo: Sack 04-08-2012

About Michael Sack

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