03-09-2012: Massive Steller Sea Lion again today at sea lion dock, Large Male Orca Ten Minutes Outside of Moss Landing Harbor and Three Cooperative Gray Whales

Steller Sea Lion in Moss Landing

The same Steller Sea Lion we saw last Sunday in the same exact spot. Photo: Sack 03-09-2012

Another excellent day of marine wildlife viewing on the Monterey Bay. Just awesome. I love when we find cool animals early in a trip. It started out before we even got out of the harbor. We noticed what appeared to be the same Steller Sea Lion that we say last Sunday in the same position he was on the “sea lion” dock below the Sea Harvest restaurant near the Highway One bridge.

We believe this animal weighs about 2,000 pounds and probably about 9′ long. We stopped by to check him out and take some photographs. It’s amazing how much larger this animal is than the California Sea Lions around him.

Orca off Moss Landing on the hunt.

Orca off Moss Landing on the hunt. Photo: Sack 03-09-2012

Then, 10-minutes into the trip a passenger came into the wheel house and yelled and pointed that they just saw an orca. And sure enough, a few seconds later a large male orca dorsal popped just off our starboard bow. Very exciting. These are among my favorite animals to watch out there. This big guy couldn’t seem to find any mammals in the area to eat. He kept heading out and then back toward shore. And then he finally settled for a cormorant bird that he gulped down in one bite.

The coolest thing we saw the animal do was when he did a massive “spy hop.” Spy hopping is when they position themselves vertically and pop their head and body up out of the water. And this animal did a huge spy hop. This was very rare behavior for such a large animal. We often see younger orcas do this and usually just with their head and maybe a 3-4 out of the water. But this animal came out at least 6-8′ out of the water. It was almost like a breach. But it didn’t come completely out and land on it’s side. It came straight up and just kind of came straight down.

I’m so disappointed that I wasn’t able to get a photograph of this. My timing was off. I just couldn’t get a shot off in time. All I got was the splash after it went under. Oh well. It’s real challenge getting good shots out there.

After almost two hours of hanging out with this magnificent animal, we decided that we wanted to head out and find some gray whales. So we headed out to the southwest toward where we had heard the last reports of some grays.

California Gray Whale

California gray whale cruises off Point Pinos on it's way to the Bering Sea. Photo: Sack 03-09-2012

The report was over an hour old so we weren’t sure it would be such a good idea to go all the way. Seeing as these animals are moving between three and five knots toward the north west. So after getting almost to the area, we decided to head south and find some other grays out off of Point Pinos. That’s where we’ve been finding most of the gray whales these days.

And sure enough, as soon as we got into the zone, there they were. So we ended up spending another hour and a half getting excellent looks at three very cooperative gray whales. Nice surface time, good blows and a couple of good tail flukes.

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