04-09-2012: Great Views of a Pod of Six Cooperative Northbound Gray Whales, Over Twenty Albatross Floating Together, Steller Sea Shows up Again at Moss Landing Sea Lion Dock

An uncommon look at a large part of this adult gray whale as it heads north to their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea. Usually they just show a small part of their back. Photo: Sack 04-09-2012

Today was another beautiful day on The Bay. Very calm conditions with a slight offshore breeze and flat seas. We had some excellent views of what appeared to be around five large northbound gray whales and one yearling. They were giving us great looks and staying up almost as much as they were under. Tail flukes every time, nice blows and unusually good looks at large sections of their backs. Often we only get to see a small part of their nostrum and about five or six feet of the front part of their body before they throw up their tail flukes.

The gray whales are remarkable. They have the longest migration of any mammal. They travel over twelve thousand miles round-trip from their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to their breeding and birthing grounds in the warm water lagoons of Baja California. And they don’t really eat for the entire time. Although, some of them are thought to do some feeding off of Bodega Bay north of San Francisco.

We usually start to see them show up in December on their southbound migration and then again on their northbound migration in late February and early March. The peak northbound migration has already happening.

The first confirmed sighting of a gray whale calf and it’s mother were reported today. This also usually means that we will start to see more orcas in The Bay. The Monterey Bay is notorious as an ambush point for orcas attacking gray whale calves. So keep checking back for updates and media related orca encounters over the next couple of weeks. We’re pretty well getting into our most frequent months for orca encounters. April and May give passengers the best chance to have encounters with orcas in the Monterey Bay. So book a trip now and you just might have the experience of a lifetime.

Gray whale tail fluke at the mouth of the Monterey Bay. Photo: Sack 04-09-2012

We spent quite a bit of time hanging with these grays. They were very far out at the mouth of the Monterey Bay. About thirteen miles southwest of Moss Landing. So it took us almost an hour and a half to get on the scene. After about an hour of checking these cooperative migrating north-bounders, we decided to do a little exploring and see if we could find other animals.

Part of a twenty-bird flock of the critically endangered black-footed albatross about 8-miles out in the Monterey Bay. Photo: Sack 04-09-2012

Then we came upon a sight we haven’t seen very often here in The Monterey Bay: More than twenty black-footed albatross sitting in the water in a tight group with a handful flying around the area. It was very cool. These birds are remarkable. They fly all the way from the Hawaiian Islands. They are very well adapted for what they do. They actually lock their wings in place and ride the wind. They are so well adapted for flying long-distances that their heart rate is actually lower when they are flying than when they are sitting in the water.

Close-up of a black-footed albatross floating in the Monterey Bay. Photo: Sack 04-09-2012

We also had another sighting of a Steller sea-lion hanging out on the Moss Landing sea-lion dock. I can’t be sure if this is the same animal we’ve been seeing over the last month or so. But we’ve definitely had more frequent Steller sea-lion sightings in Moss Landing than we had last year.

Steller sea-lion soon after climbing onto the Moss Landing sea-lion dock. You can tell because he is still wet. Photo: Sack 04-09-2012

This Steller may look like he's getting gnarly on us. But he's actually just yawning and showing a mouthful of fish-eating teeth. Photo: Sack 04-09-2012

About Michael Sack

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