04-16-2012: Gray Calf and Mother Pair Just Outside Moss Landing, Large Mixed Pod of Risso’s and Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Plenty of Humpbacks to go Around

Another fantastic day on The Bay. Five minutes into the trip we had our first whale sighting. They were the first mother and calf pair we’ve seen this year. So far so good. I love it when that happens. And with all the orcas in The Bay yesterday, it’s no wonder they were within 1/2 mile of shore just outside the surf zone. This is a fairly regular route for a gray whale mom and calf pair. They seem to hug the coast when they get to the Monterey Bay.

Most of the mature gray whales generally head straight across and make the run over the mouth of the deep Monterey Bay submarine canyon. We believe that the mother and calves stay close to shore to avoid predation from orcas out in the deep. The orcas seem to prefer deeper water and generally avoid the surf zone. But if they find a mother and calf close to shore, they likely won’t be holding back.

After spending about fifteen minutes observing this mother and calf pair, we decided to head to deeper water where we had reports of many feeding humpbacks a mixed pod dolphins. Conditions were perfect. Sunny and warm with smooth seas. After about 45-minutes of running we spotted our first spouts. Pretty much about 5-6 miles right out in front of Moss Landing. But as we got closer to the area, we didn’t see them again after about 10-minutes of waiting. Because we weren’t far from at least three or four other pods of humpbacks, we didn’t stay with these animals. Watching what we call a 15-20 minute whale makes for more whale waiting than whale watching. So we moved on.

And it’s a good thing. Because within a few minutes we saw the obvious sign of dolphins. When it’s smooth like it was today it’s easy: Hundreds of splashes in the distance. So we headed over and had found at least a thousand scattered Risso’s dolphins and a couple of hundred Pacific white-sided dolphins. We thought we even saw a some common dolphins breaching. Excellent dolphin sighting. As we cruised through the area we had a few of the Pacific white-sided dolphins buzz the boat and ride the bow. That’s always fun.

After about 30-minutes of dolphin amusement. We figured we had better get back to the whales. So we headed back out the humpback zone. The weather turned pretty quick. It went from smooth calm water to lumpy wind chop in about 30-minutes. At first it was no big deal. But after about 45 minutes of being with the whales, it because quite bouncy affair. By that time is was already almost 2:00 P.M. and time to head back to the barn. So we rode the weather and enjoyed a nice surf back to Moss.

Excellent weather and marine conditions are forecast for the next few days. We also getting into the time period we start to see the largest variety of marine wild species and encounters. Looking over the log books, historically, we get a large number of Orca sightings during the next couple of months and we are also most likely to witness orca and gray whale encounters.

So book a trip and we’ll see you out there.

About Michael Sack

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