06-04-2012: More Lunge Feeding Humpbacks, A Female Elephant Seal and another Blue Whale

Humpback whale gives us a close up look at it's baleen. Photo: Sack, 06-04-2012

Massive krill swarms continue to be the good news out on the Monterey Bay. It all starts with the krill. The krill bring many species of marine life to the Monterey Bay and are the main reason the Monterey Bay is so rich in marine wildlife diversity. We’ve been collecting quality specimens of surface krill for the last few days. Looking at these tiny shrimp-like creatures (about the size of your small finger nail) makes you wonder how some of the largest animals on earth eat some of the smallest animals on earth.

Humpback whale spy hops to check us out. Photo: Sack, 06-04-2012

“They taste just like the small shrimp you put on your salad”, Sanctuary Cruises Naturalist Giancarlo said about the krill he just netted for a UCSC krill researcher. He should know. Giancarlo takes delight in popping a live krill or two in his mouth for a mid-morning snack. Passengers are either amused or confused. But we have had passengers join him for a krill snack.

The humpback whales continue to be a sure thing out here on the Monterey Bay. Despite some patchy fog early on and a persistent drizzle sometimes turning into light rain, we came upon a feeding humpback three miles outside of the harbor. We spent about an hour watching this animal gorge on surface krill. They are wasting no time feasting. You would too if you had just spent three months far off the coast between Southern Mexico and Central America. That’s where most of the population we see in The Bay goes to breed and give birth. And they don’t eat that much when they are down there. They rely more on their blubber layer that they build up gorging on krill, anchovies, sardines and small herring off of the Pacific Coast from early April until December.

The chronic lunge feeding we've been seeing over the last month or so has been just remarkable. Abundant surface krill sets the stage. Photo: Sack, 06-04-2012

What a nice show. Not only were the animals lunge feeding about every few minutes, but they also gave a nice spy hop or two every once in a while. So far this season is shaping up to be a remarkable year for marine wildlife on the Monterey Bay.

A lone female elephant seal hanging out there in the middle of The Bay. Photo: Sack, 06-04-2012

We also came across a lone female elephant seal that was just hanging out there in the middle of The Bay.

After spending about an hour with a handful of more lunge feeding humpbacks, that was about all everyone could handle. The persistent drizzle would not let up and it was also a bit on the cold side. So we decided to make our way back toward the harbor.

As we were about two miles outside the harbor, I noticed an unusual blow about a half mile to our southeast. It looked like a blue whale blow to me. You can tell because it’s more like a blast than a blow. And the spout usually goes higher. So we made a slight diversion to the southwest to investigate. Sure enough, the mighty blue whale. These animals can get up to 90 feet long. They’re the largest animal on earth. And it was only about two miles outside of the Moss Landing Harbor! We had some really nice looks of it’s rostrum, small dorsal fin and long back before the gentle giant showed us it’s tail fluke, popped up again with a mighty blow and made a course for the southwest. Nice way to end the trip.

About Michael Sack

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