05-29-2016: The Blue Whale Bonanza Continues, More Humpbacks Move in, Reports of Orcas to the South

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

The massive tail fluke of the blue whale can be almost 20′ wide. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com.

What a difference a year makes. We definitely have had a change up in the cycle happening this year. The ocean life and the animals we find here can change or cycle out from year to year.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This humpback decided to throw itself completely out of the water. This is one of the more spectacular things we see out there. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

For example this year, we have had many storms and wind events followed by all day long sun for weeks at a time. These storms and wind events are what drives the productivity in our local system.  Particularly the massive krill swarms. We didn’t have a lot krill in The Bay last year.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

Another blue whale tail fluke. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

We also had a very mild Winter and Spring last year. Last year it was all about the anchovies. It was a full-on feeding frenzy with all the animals often feeding on surface anchovies right in the same area. Birds squacking and diving, sea lions yelping and whales blowing and popping their big heads out of the water as they do a vertical surface lunge.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

Here we see a pair of blue whales on the prowl. Photo: Bob Western, sanctuarycruises.com

Well that was last year. This year there are very few anchovies to be found. The whales seem to be feeding mostly on krill. That little shrimp-like crustacean. Krill is thought to be the main prey item for the mighty blue whale.

Monterey Bay Elephant Seal

This was a very young elephant seal. This one was not much bigger than about three or four feet. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com

The massive abundance of krill close to mouth of the Monterey Bay is what is bringing a large number of blue whales here. We’ve been seeing at least 20+ blue whales in an area about 2-miles in diameter. At times it seems like there are more than that. It’s hard to count them when they start popping up all around. It’s truly a spectacular experience.

Monterey Bay Big Blue Whales

The blue whales are the  largest animals to have ever roamed the earth. The largest blue whale ever recorded was 110′ long. That was down in Antarctica. Most of the blue whales we see here in the Monterey Bay are likely in the 80′-90′ range on the upper end. We’ve also been seeing more humpbacks moving in. Humpbacks are more versatile in what they eat. They eat krill and small schooling fish like anchovies, sardines and small herring.

Monterey Bay Mola Mola

The only thing that isn’t that great is that the big show is about eight to nine miles from port. So we have to run for just under an hour before we get to big show. We have been coming across the random humpback or two as we make our course for where the blue whales have been. They’ve been in the same area for the last week or so. Hopefully they’ll stay. Or maybe even more will show up. We never know. Early July used to be our best time for blue whales. So they did show up a little early. So we’ll go with it.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

A nice look at a blue whale tail fluke. Photo: Bob Western, sanctuarycruises.com

We did have to discontinue our two hour trips for now because the whales have been further out and two hours has not been long enough for a proper whale watching excursion if we want to see the blue whales. At least we don’t have to come as far as the boats coming from Monterey. They have to come more like 15 miles or more. Hopefully everything will start to move closer to Moss Landing. But in the meantime, we’re loving the incredible blue whale action.

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