Eye to Eye with a Humpback

photo by Koen Veenstra

What a day on the bay. The krill is rebounding with another generation of abundant, yet tiny krill swarming in massive patches close in to Moss Landing. The blue whales are coming back into the bay quite close to land in only 250 feet of water. Today we observed one huge blue whale surface lunge feeding repeatedly. What a sight to view the massive mouth of a blue gaping at the surface and the enormous throat bulging out with pleats extended. It was in slow motion as the whale lunged on its side, exposing its large pectoral flipper high above the water’s surface along with its long side and half of the tail fluke.

As if this sight wasn’t enough, we soon came upon a group of humpback whales quite actively surface feeding.We love it when the krill is so close to the surface that we can scoop it up and show people these marvelous little packets of food energy. We even got some brave souls to sample the krill. It’s quite tasty if you like salty fishy tidbits!

Back to the whales. What a wonderful display today. We lost count of the many flukes and open mouth surfacings as they feasted on the krill. We even got a look inside of a whale’s mouth, showing its pink palate and rows of brush-like baleen.On an unusual note, we observed a humpback with a unique bifurcated (or split) right fluke tip giving it a tri-tip affect.

Then there was yesterday. We spotted three separate leatherback sea turtles. Quite the treat. And each gave our passengers long close-up viewings. These severely endangered sea turtles come into Monterey Bay to feed late summer to early fall on the abundant jellies we are now seeing in full force. The sad news of a large leatherback found dead in the bay yesterday tempered our joy at viewing live turtles. It appears to have died of natural causes, but with so few of them left, we don’t want to lose a single turtle except through old-age. The other jelly-gobbler, the huge mola (ocean sunfish) has also been spotted daily this week.

On the birding side, we have just begun to see many red-necked phalaropes and we spotted our first northern fulmar of the season today. The endangered marbled murrelet was seen this week also.

More highlights this week included a great view of a lone bull orca, close-up breaching humpbacks and a pair of friendly humpbacks that cavorted with our boat for a good half hour. Each day is different out here and we appreciate the surprise and variety of what our bay offers. We are also appreciating the incredibly calm sea conditions this week!

In case you missed Dorris’ interview on NPR’s All Things Considered a few weeks back about the blue whales, here is the url:

http://www.npr.org/2012/07/06/156390709/blue-whales-drawn-unusually-close-to-shore-in-calif

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