04-19-2012: Breaching, Tail-lobbing, Lunge Feeding, Pectoral Fin Slapping Humpbacks All Around, Drive-by Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Cruising Risso’s Dolphins, Friendly Orcas, Excellent Marine Conditions

Lunge feeding humpback about 10 miles southwest of Moss Landing. Photo Welch, 04-19-2012

It just keeps getting better and better. Today was truly one of the most absolutely incredible days we’ve had out there. Of course, I live for days like today. Both Dorris and I have chosen to make showing folks the awesome Monterey Bay marine wildlife our main focus in life.

Today was one of those days where we exceeded our goal. Of course, we like seeing the marine wildlife more than anyone. So we were just beyond ourselves today. We really didn’t want to go in. But, you know, for most normal people, 6.5 hours on The Monterey Bay with the most incredible marine wildlife in the world is a bit much. Most people will never see what we saw today in a lifetime of trying.

A young orca shows it's excitement after a sea lion kill. Photo: Welch, 04-19-2012

Once I get all the video processed, you’ll see what I mean. This week has likely been one of the most incredible weeks we’ve had on the Monterey Bay. I have so many high quality photographs and video since Sunday, I haven’t even been able to process it. Between running the boat and keeping up with maintenance, reservations etc., it’s hard to imagine what is involved and how much quality footage I’ve shot over the last few days. So stay tuned over the next week or so and you will see some excellent orca and humpback whale media we produced from the Monterey Bay. Just amazing.

A happy humpback shows us what a "pec-slap" looks like. Photo: Welch, 04-19-2012

It’s hard to put into words the incredible experience we all had today. But I’ll try.

It started out with the humpback whales. The first pair we were with showed a couple of blows and that was about it. Not very impressive really. So we decided to move on to some reported Risso’s dolphins. We could also see whale spouts all around the area. So we knew it would make sense to check out some dolphins before we got into the humpbacks.

On the way to the Risso’s, we also had a nice glimpse of a couple of gray whales. The Monterey Bay has really come alive with marine mammals over the last week or so! Once we got into the zone, they were everywhere. Gray whales, humpbacks, Risso’s dolphins, Pacific White-sided dolphins, black-footed albatross and reports of orcas back toward Moss Landing. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this for marine wildlife enthusiasts. Truly an experience of a lifetime. We’re out there every day and today was just something else. And we expect the sightings to just get better and better as we move into the late Spring and Summer.

One of the many humpback "tail lobs" we witnessed today. Just incredible. Photo: Welch, 04-19-2012

After checking out some Risso’s, we headed over to where we noticed some humpback spouts. That was a good move. Next thing we knew, these animals were launching tail lobs every few minutes if not less. We had to have seen 20-30 tail lobs in less than a half-hour.

A tail lob is when one of these 40’+ animals launches it’s tail out of the water and smacks it down on the surface of the water and makes this massive splash. Stay tuned for the video coming soon to see what I’m talking about. They also were doing what we call “pectoral slaps”. This is when they slap their massive 15′ pectoral fins on the surface of the water. And on top of that, we also witnessed some massive lunge feeds. This is where they come up out of the water with their mouth wide open and take a big mouthful of krill.

Then, as we were trying to leave to find some orcas, one of these massive humpbacks decided to breach. This is were they launch their entire body out of the water. Probably one of the most spectacular things we see out there. Imagine a 45′ animal coming completely out of the water. Just amazing.

So after a few hours of whale and dolphin behavior overload, we decided to head to back toward Moss Landing, which is where 90% of the orca sightings occur. I mean why not? We were on a roll. Might as well keep it going.

And sure enough, on the way back, a few miles outside of Moss Landing, there they were. A friendly pod of between 8-10 orcas. Just amazing. I wish I had the strength to process and edit the video tonight. But I need to get some sleep so that we can do it all over again tomorrow. I just keep getting more and more incredible video footage each day. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Likely more incredible video footage and still photographs.

About Michael Sack

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