Monthly Archives: May 2016

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.

05-23-2016: It’s All About the Blue Whales Today, Humpbacks Going Strong

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

This is a massive blue whale. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 05-23-2016.

Today we had blue whales in the Pajaro Hole. That’s straight northwest of the Moss Landing Harbor. We came across a few full-size animals. Had to be 80′ long. Nice conditions and scattered humpbacks most of the trip.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

Blue whale tail fluke. They don’t always show us their tail fluke. So this was nice to see. :Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 05-23-2016

There is a lot krill in the Monterey Bay right now feeding this massive influx of baleen whales arriving from their winter migration.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

More blue whale tail fluke antics. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 05-23-2016

Blue whales, humpback whales, fin whales are species we are likely to see when we have these massive krill swarms throughout the Monterey Bay. We also heard reports of more blue whales and killer whales further out.

05-22-2016: Blue Whales Show up In Large Numbers Throughout The Bay, Humpback Whales, Reports of Orcas, Dolphins

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

A blue whale goes down for a dive. A full-sized blue whale’s tail fluke can be 20-feet wide.

The weather has been a challenge over the last week or so. Between the thick fog and heavy winds, it hasn’t been all fun and games. But we’ve managed to find whales and dolphins on days that we’ve been able run.

Moss Landing Gray Whale

This gray whale was photographed from the beach right out in front of the Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Bob Western.

The blue whales are in the Monterey Bay in numbers that we’ve haven’t seen for a few years.

Moss Landing Puffin

Here is an excellent look at a Tufted Puffin. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

We’ve been able to do most of our morning trips. But even some of the early morning trips have been canceled because of wind and steep swell.

Monterey Bay Risso's Dophin

Here a Risso’s dolphin breaches. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

For the most part we are pretty well into what we would consider a normal Spring weather cycle. That is, somewhat calm conditions in the morning and rough windy conditions in the afternoon.

Moss Landing Sea Lion

Moss Landing sea lion feeds on a nice sized salmon. Photo: Bob Western.

But this windy weather is why we have blue whales in The Bay right now. Blue whales mainly feed on krill. All the wind we’ve been having has been good for productivity and has spawned some massive krill blooms.

Monterey Bay Common Dolphin Calf

Here’s a common dolphin calf trying to keep up with it’s mother. Photo: Bob Western

05-07-2016: Blue Whales, Humpbacks, Common Dolphin and More

Lunge Feeding Humpback Whale

We’ve been seeing a lot of this sideways lunge-feeding by the humpbacks. They seem to use this technique more often when they are feeding on krill. :Photo: Michael Sack

The Spring action is on. In fact, we’re starting to regularly see blue whales and fin whales now. Usually more of a Summer species. So we’re off to a great start. We are starting to see massive swarms of krill. More than we’ve seen in at least a few years. That’s also why we are starting to see more and more blue whales and fin whales.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

It’s like I always say, the family that eats together, stays together. Photo: Michael Sack.

We had two massive, easy watching blues feeding in the same area as a couple of humpbacks. We had some nice looks at these massive animals. Thought to be the largest animal that has ever roamed the earth. Second only to the fin whale.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

We’ve also been seeing a lot of breaching. I think they’re all jacked up on krill. Photo: Michael Sack

And their main prey item is the abundant krill we have in the Monterey Bay. At least that is the case this year. Last year we had very little krill. This is mainly due to the wind patterns. We just didn’t get the strong northwesterly winds we normally get in the Spring.

Moss Landing Minke Whale

We even had a few good looks at a Minke whale earlier in the week. Photo: Michael Sack.

This year we seem to be in what might be considered a normal cycle. That is heavy northwesterly winds for days and all day sun. That’s what drives our productivity in The Bay.

Moss Landing Sea Lion

This sea lion nabbed what looks like some kind of eel. Photo: Michael Sack.

We’re also getting regular sightings of killer whales and expect this to continue into June. We heard reports of killer whales today, but they were about 18 miles out when we heard about them during the second part of our trip. Just. That’s almost a two hour run for us. Looks like the Spring action is in full-swing.

Moss Landing Krill

This is a small krill “ball”. Photo: Michael Sack

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

A young humpback does what we call a “tail-lob”. This one was doing this repeatedly for about 30-minutes. Photo: Michael Sack