07-07-2016: More Killer Whales Show Up, Humpbacks Close to Moss Landing
The action continued today on our 09:00 AM trip. We came across a few humpbacks in the first 30 minutes. So that was nice. We had some nice tail fluke looks before we heard a report of orcas about five miles from our location. So we made a course and we’re on the scene within about 45 minutes. We pretty well stuck with these animals for the rest of the trip.
07-06-2016: Summer Action Heats up Two Miles Outside of Moss Landing
It’s been hit or miss over the last few weeks. We’ve also been hit by strong afternoon winds. So we’ve had to cancel a lot of afternoon trips. But it looks like all the wind and upwelling is starting to pay off. After a slow start to the late Spring and early Summer, the action really kicked into overdrive today.
I’ve mainly been working on the sailboat over the last few weeks, so I haven’t been getting out as much. We’ve had captain JJ running. So I haven’t been able to update the Captain’s Log for awhile. But I’m back now and plan on updating daily.
Excellent day today. We were on long-beaked common dolphins within about 10-15 minutes. Conditions were nice early on. That’s why we’ve pushed most of our 10:30 AM trips up to 09:00 AM. It gives us a better calm weather window to get out further if we need to. Because lately, we’ve needed to.
But today was a big change up. About 15-minutes after we left the common dolphins we saw some splashing on the horizon and what looked like a buoy. But we kept looking at the same area. We kept seeing something coming up and going down.
But it was bigger than a dorsal fin and smaller than lunge-feeding humpback. Our photographer / naturalist Chase thought it was an orca and I thought it was lunge-feeding humpback. Turns out Chase was right. I think it was spy hopping when we saw it in the distance.
As we got closer we were clearly on a single, large male orca. We’ve seen this animal before. It’s been frequenting the Monterey Bay over the last few days. We call him “fat fin” on account of the very wide base of his fin where it rises from it’s saddle.
We were as excited as can be. And it was staying up nicely and traveling slowly toward Moss Landing. And we knew there were dolphins in the area. So things were looking interesting.
Sure enough. This single male orca was making it’s way toward a small group of unsuspecting long-beaked common dolphins. Apparently it’s hard for a single male orca to take a common dolphin. We know he tried because these common dolphins took off in a high-speed stampede. But the orca didn’t seem to have been able to get any of them.
As we were tracking the orca, we came across a couple of humpbacks that were closer in to Moss Landing. So it’s feeling like the good ole days of last year. Close in cetaceans. After a while we had some reports of at least three more humpbacks another mile or two to the south. So we made a course for that location. It wasn’t long before this massive, full-size humpback whale launched itself completely out of the water just off our starboard forward quarter.
Then another one launched. Then they both launched. Very spectacular. Hopefully we’re just getting started and action will continue. I’ll let you know tomorrow.
05-29-2016: The Blue Whale Bonanza Continues, More Humpbacks Move in, Reports of Orcas to the South
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
There is a lot krill in the Monterey Bay right now feeding this massive influx of baleen whales arriving from their winter migration.
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
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.
The blue whales are in the Monterey Bay in numbers that we’ve haven’t seen for a few years.
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.
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.
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.
05-07-2016: Blue Whales, Humpbacks, Common Dolphin and More
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
04-14-2016: Killer Whales Take Down A Common Dolphin
Today was a tough call. NOAA Marine Weather was calling for small craft advisory at 11:00 AM. Our trip this morning was scheduled for a 10:30 AM departure. That doesn’t give us much time before conditions start to deteriorate. So we felt like it would make more sense to reschedule everyone and try and again tomorrow.
I get up very early and conditions were manageable at the crack of dawn. So I decided to take the boat out to see if I could find some orcas. I can do that. It’s one of the great things about owning boats. I have open access to The Monterey bay. I like it that way. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve either been seeing killer whales just about every day or we have heard reports of them being seen by other boats. This is the best orca season we’ve had in a few years. We are having regular sightings. Pretty much daily.
It wasn’t long before I thought I saw what looked like jumping orcas. So I was encouraged. But they were still a ways off. After about 15 minutes of cruising I was on them. And I also saw a gray whale in the area heading north. So I’m thinking this could get interesting. But the killer whales were heading in a Southwest direction the last time they went down. I slowed the boat down a little and kept an eye on the gray whale, wondering if the orcas were going to turn around. After about seven minutes, the orcas popped up about 1/2 mile to the Southwest as they seemed to have held their Southwest course and either did’t notice the gray whale or were not interested.
After about 15-20 minutes of tracking these orcas, I noticed a large pod of long-beaked common dolphins making their way directly toward the killer whales from the direction of shore. I’ve been in this position one other time and I was pretty sure what was about to happen. The next thing I knew there was a huge splash. It was an orca coming up on a common dolphin. The stampede was on after that. Check out the video of the moment the attack happened to see what I mean. Incredible morning out there.
04-05-2016 Amazing Orca Encounter Gray Whale Calf Predation Event
Check out some video from today:
Today was one of the most enjoyable and entertaining days ever out on Sanctuary for Orca lovers. We came upon a small pod of six Orcas just after they had killed a gray whale calf. We missed the actual predation event (which for some might seem a relief) but were able to hang with these whales for over two and a half solid hours in the same place while they milled about, frolicked and dove down below to munch on the gray whale carcass. We only got a brief glimpse of the poor gray whale calf as it bobbed up for less than a minute to the surface. So this was not a gory or gruesome observation event. Instead, we had active, curious and playful Orcas putting on a show to the delight of our passengers. There were three major highlights: a full sized male orca charging at our boat and then taking THREE breaches right next to the boat, the same male swimming at our bow, then cruising along the full side and back of the boat within two feet giving us all a thrill of a lifetime and then having four large orcas blasting towards us from the outer bay and taking a synchronous airborne leap right next to the boat. There was enough tail slapping and close surfacings to keep everyone enthralled for the entire trip. A separate pod of four Orcas came blasting in from the Outer Bay and spent the last hour with us as well. We can only assume they were partaking in some of the meal as well. A bit unusual was the presence of two rather stationary humpback whales right at the predation scene. They bobbed up and down taking breaths and hung around for the first half hour which was indeed curious. A black-footed albatross came in and circled for the last hour giving all excellent views of this awesome seabird. Well – this spring Orca season is getting off to a grand beginning. We expect this to continue through mid-May with the northbound gray whale mother:calf pairs coming through Monterey Bay in strong numbers. What an amazing Orca day!
04-01-2016: Surface Krill Swarms In Front of Moss Landing, Humpback Surface Lunging on Krill, Killer Whales On the Outside
We were on a couple of humpbacks within a few miles of leaving the harbor. We had some decent looks. But this animal was in search mode. It would go under and come up 10-15 minutes later a quarter mile away. So we only stuck around for a couple of dive cycles. Early on we heard reports of orcas about 10+ miles to the southwest. So we always had that in our back pocket. But that’s about an hour run for us. And that’s if they don’t change course and start heading away from us. So I was a little reluctant as first.
We weren’t planning on going out there because orcas can just take off and be gone if they are not on a kill. But as I was monitoring the movements of the killer whales on the radio with another boat that was with them, it appeared as though they were heading our way. So I made the call to set a course and make a break for the killer whales. It took us about 45 minutes to get on them. They changed course and started heading north. But we did finally catch up to them and tracked them for about an hour before they just suddenly took off at 10-15 knots to the west. It was quite something to see. They took off at near full cruising speed doing what we call “porpoising.” This where they jump out of the water as they move quickly through the water, much the way smaller dolphins do. Unfortunately, they were moving quickly through the water away from us. So that was that. And with the wind picking up and choppy conditions, there was no way we could keep up with them.
So we started making our way back toward shore when we heard reports of a humpback whale surface lunge-feeding on krill just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. So that was good news. We had a nice grand finale on the way in. The sighting turned out to be excellent.
We could see krill swarms all over. We haven’t had any good surface-krill swarms for a few years. Maybe this will be a good year for the mighty blue whale, largest of all the cetaceans. Our Spring cycle is doing what it’s supposed to. The water temps are down between 50 and 53. We’ve been having some heavy afternoon winds and good sun all day long.
So, because of the unique geological feature of the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon, we get an abundance of phytoplankton and as a result, abundant marine life productivity. Phytoplankton attracts the krill. Which is eaten by birds, fish and whales.
We’ll see what happens today. Stay tuned for the report from today.
03-30-2016: Killer Whales, Humpbacks, Common Dolphins, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Elephant Seal, Beautiful Marine Conditions
Today was exceptional. We were on about 100 or so common dolphins right out the gate. I could see the dolphin-water splash pattern before we even left the harbor. So that’s always nice. Often this time of year we’re going for an hour or more before we find any whales or dolphins. Not the case from late April through November. We often have humpback whales just outside the Moss Landing Harbor. In the Summer, people can sometimes get good looks right from the jetty rocks at the Moss Landing Harbor entrance.
Just as we left the harbor, we also had heard reports of a couple of humpback whales about four miles from our position so we made a course and were on the scene in about 25 minutes. We had great looks at these two humpbacks. But they did seem to be feeding deep. But they were consistent on their course and a 3-5 minute dive cycle. So that was nice.
Then we heard reports of orcas about another four-miles to the West and heading our way. So we had one more look at the humpbacks and made a course for the black and whites. They passed up an elephant seal. That’s usually one of their favored meals. So they must have eaten recently. After we got on them, they were pretty much on a northbound course in travel formation. That’s when the whole pod is in a line next to each other and they are just moving along at five to ten knots. So that’s what they were doing. So we watched them for about 45-minutes before decided to let them go on their way heading up the coast. We came across at least another 6-8 whales on the way in. They were mostly in groups of two.
We seem to be settling into a consistent Spring cycle over the last week or so. That means calm, decent sea conditions in the morning and howling winds and unruly seas in the afternoon. Sunny all day long. This is when our “upwelling” starts to kick into high gear. We are starting to see some shallow phyto-plankton layers.
The humpbacks have been pretty well scattered over the last couple of days. We’ve had a few days this week with surface lunge-feeding humpbacks. Not the rampant kind of lunge-feeding that we see closer to Summer and Fall. Often accompanied by a feeding frenzy of diving pelicans, terns, shearwaters and sea gulls. Today was more like the occasional, random lunge-feed by one animal. The anchovies have also been scattered. We haven’t seen the big dense surface patches of anchovies that we expect to see as we get closer to mid-April.
So far this winter, our humpback whale population seems to be settling back into what we would consider a “normal” migration cycle. Our humpbacks historically migrate to the warmer southern climates from January through late March to give birth and breed.
Most of the humpbacks in our population did migrate away from the Monterey Bay. to Southern Mexico and as far south as Costa Rica. I would say that we have had more whales show up in The Bay today. Hopefully they will find food and stay.
03-18-2016: Lunge-feeding Humpbacks Right Out Front, 300-500 Common Dolphins
We had a big change up in the system today. We had between 4 and 6 humpbacks feeding just outside the harbor entrance. Not just feeding, but surface lunge-feeding. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s been a while. So it’s nice to see some close in lunge-feeding again.
Today we never went more than a couple of miles out. We were pretty well on the action within about five minutes of leaving the harbor and stayed with whales or dolphins for the entire three-hour trip.
We’ll see what happens today. Check back later this evening for an update.
03-17-2016: Nice Marine Conditions, Humpback Whales, Gray Whales, Common Dolphins and More
We’ve been fortunate to have a run of nice weather. So we haven’t really been limited on where we can go. And it’s a good thing because most of the action has been pretty scattered. A lot of long divers lately. We think they’ve been feeding deep on limited amounts of krill. They also appear to be more in search mode than full-scale feeding. We’ve been having some 20-minute whales. When we come up against this, we usually move on. But we’ve also come across a chronic breacher or two. We also saw our first gray whale mother and calf pair the other day. There have also been a lot of black-footed albatross around.
The orcas can’t be far behind. We generally start to see orcas more frequently as we get closer to April and then into June. The Monterey Bay is notorious as an ambush zone for orcas predating on gray whale calves with their mothers as they make their way north to Alaska from their birthing grounds in the warm water lagoons on the Pacific side of Baja (Check out National Geographic’s coverage of an Orca attack on a gray whale mother and calf from aboard the Sanctuary.
We’ve been running every day this week and hope to continue this schedule through Easter. Also we’re going to start doing some sailing tours for those who want a quieter marine life experience. Only six passengers per cruise. Give us a call or go to our reservation booking page to see the schedule for sailing tours.
02-07-2016: Humpbacks Return, Many Common Dolphins in The Bay, Warm and Glassy Conditions
Many humpbacks appeared in The Bay today. We didn’t see them in large concentrations. We were mainly seeing singles and doubles. But we also heard reports of humpbacks to the south toward Monterey as well as up off Santa Cruz Point and Steamer Lane.
It will be interesting to see if they stick around. That would be awesome. We’ll start running more trips if that is the case. For now we’re still mainly running Friday thru Sunday. The weather has been amazing over the last week or so. Warm and glassy, calm ocean conditions.
02-05-2016: Nice Looks at a Trio of Gray Whales, 300-500 Common Dolphins, Warm Sunny Conditions
Today turned out beautiful. It’s a good thing the conditions were nice, because we had to go for an hour and a half before we came across anything. We enjoyed some excellent looks at a nice group of three southbound, gray whale travelers. They were staying up nicely as we tracked them for a handful of dive cycles.
With conditions so nice, we decided to head out a little further to the West until we got the ledge of the canyon where it dropped off to over 4,500 feet deep. We followed the ledge north until we got to where we call “The Corner.” The ledge of the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon turns toward Moss Landing at that point. We always find more productivity along the ledge of the canyon. Fortunately both the northwest ledge and the southwest ledges both lead to Moss Landing. Because the Moss Landing Harbor mouth is where the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon begins. So we followed the ledge in and that’s when we came across these long-beaked common dolphins.
By the time we left the grays as they journeyed south to Baja, we were almost to Cypress Point. That’s the north end of the Carmel Bay. So it ended up being a nice ride. Until the humpbacks show up again in April, we will likely be running 4-5 hour trips. Stay tuned.
02-03-2016: 30 Off-Shore Type Orcas, 500 Common Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and More
The winter has been rough on the whale watching. We’ve been running trips mainly on Friday, Saturday and Sundays. And we have also been running our longer 4-hour+ trips. It’s pretty clear at this point that no humpbacks stuck around the Moss Landing area this winter. So I guess last year was a fluke. We had a couple humpbacks early in January, but after that we haven’t seen them.
So it’s back to the “gray whale grind” as I like to call it. This usually means heading out to where the “gray whale highway” is. Unfortunately that’s about 10-15 miles out. Sometimes we’ve been lucky and have had sightings just outside the harbor or some dolphins a couple of miles out. We’ve been doing pretty well with the dolphins, actually. Mainly long-beaked common dolphins. But we really never know what we’re going to see. We could have orcas show up anytime anywhere on The Bay. Speaking of orcas…
Today was incredible. It did take us 1.5 hours before we really saw much. So it was kind of a rough start. But once we were in the zone things got really interesting.
At any rate, we’ve been seeing excellent long-beaked common dolphins. So, that has been nice. Long-beaked commons, as we call them, love playing in our wake and riding alongside the boat. It is really neat to see. Especially in smooth, clear water on a nice sunny day. We have had those sprinkled in over the last couple of months. The occasional warm sunny day. Pretty far and few between.
January was very stormy. We had to cancel more than not. It’s mostly been gray whale watching. Maybe every other trip we’re getting glimpses of young, southbound gray whales cruising along the coast just outside the harbor.
We more often see this happening during the gray whale’s northbound migration. And more often than not it is a mother and calf. They will cruise by the harbor area just outside the surf line. We believe the mother bring their calves along the shore to avoid predation by orcas, aka killer whales.
If the weather cooperates, we’ll be running Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Once the humpbacks start showing, we’ll getting back to it and running more trips during the week. There’s still a lot to see out there when the weather cooperates.
12-28-2015: Humpbacks Feeding Right Out Front, Perfect Conditions
So far so good for winter whale watching. We still have about six humpbacks feeding in front of Moss Landing. There’s also been a lot of birds working the area feeding on anchovies.
The weather has been unstable for the last few weeks. So it’s been hit or miss. But when a nice weather window opens like we’ve had over the last couple of days, we’re loving it.
Most of the action has been just outside of the harbor. We have done some exploring and more often than not, things are pretty quiet out there beyond three miles. No birds, no anchovies, no whales.
I did do an early morning scouting trip this morning and came across about 200-300 common dolphins right outside of the harbor. But we didn’t see them on our 10:30 trip.
Right now it’s all about the weather. So when the weather has been nice we’re on it. We’ve also heard reports of orcas in the area. So we’re always keeping an eye out for the big black fin of the male orca.
For the moment we’re planning on running as much as possible to take advantage of the humpbacks right outside the harbor. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of months. We may be looking at a repeat of last years historic event where 6-10 humpbacks didn’t do the normal migration to Southern Mexico. They stayed here for the entire year. We plan on running most days for the next few weeks as long as the humpbacks stick around. Stay tuned for updates.
11-29-2015 Greeted by a Breach!
Sunday’s Whale Watch – Flat, beautiful water and a chilly breeze from shore made today a beautiful day already, but our 10:30 trip was greeted a little ways out into the bay with a breaching humpback! It gave us at least four breaches and some pec slaps, while its traveling companion threw a tail lob and then headed in a different direction. While this whale put on a show, we watched in awe. As it left, we spotted a small group of long-beaked common dolphins. As we played with the dolphins for a while, they led us back toward a group of diving birds. A hundred more common dolphins, pelicans, sea lions, and lunge-feeding humpbacks rounded out a really spectacular day out on the water. Photo: Vicky Stein
Friday, November 29, 2015 Great Lunging Whales!
Yesterday morning our first trip was seeing lunge-feeding humpback whales before we even left the harbor mouth. An enormous flock of birds (brown pelicans, Heerman’s gulls, cormorants, and murres, among others) dove into the water as the whales lunged vertically out of the water, mouths open wide. I’m sure the view from the beach was good, but the view from our deck was incredible. Here’s a shot of three whales, in different stages of their lunge. Check out those baleen plates, and the big pink inside of the whales’ upper jaws- the last thing those anchovies will ever see.
Both yesterday and today we were treated to some amazing tail flukes, whales parading by our boat. Sometimes the light was just right (I think it could be because the sun is relatively low this time of the year) for some nice rain-blows, as Captain Mike likes to call them. The condensing air from the whales’ breaths forms pretty little rainbows over the surface of the bay!
On both days, we also had the chance to spend some time with hundreds, if not over a thousand long-beaked common dolphins. Tricky to photograph, because they’re so fast, I managed to get one shot of a juvenile and its mother surfacing right alongside the Sanctuary. Any day with dolphins is a great day!
Despite the winter chill in the wind, it’s been a sunny and wonderful weekend so far out of Moss Landing. Monterey Bay has delivered spectacular views, sunshine, and lots and lots of marine life. Come out and visit us and the whales!
11-21-2015 Lots of Humpback Action Right at Moss Landing
11-22-15 Amazingly we have lots of whale action still at Moss Landing. Saturday there were at least 8 humpbacks lunge feeding a the harbor mouth and we’ve had Risso’s and Common Dolphins almost every single trip this week. We haven’t seen the orcas for a week now – but we know they could show up anytime. The sea lions were gathering in a big mob and foraging along with the humpbacks yesterday, which makes it even more exciting. We have space on our 2 pm trip today and well as both trips tomorrow. We are running daily trips all week except Thanksgiving Day (we don’t ask our crew to miss holidays with their friends and family).
10-22-15 Humpbacks are active today
After a slowing trend in whale activity this past week, it picked up today. We estimate 100breaches in the bay with lots of pec slapping today. Dolphins too.
10-15-2015: Very Active Whales, More Lunge-Feeding, Common Dolphins and More
October 15, 2015 Very Active Humpbacks at Moss
The activity patterns of our local feeding humpbacks keep us guessing. Today’s trips were filled with breaches, pec slapping and tail lobbing. Yesterday we had sleepy whales in the morning along with great bow riding common dolphins and then surface lunge feeding and breaching, slapping whales in the afternoon. This week we’ve noticed that the whales are more scattered and tend to be cruising around in smaller groups of only 2-3 whales. Their activity varies from very active to quite sleepy with longer dives. Our sense is that the schools of anchovies are not as dense, so the whales are working a bit harder to fill their bellies. However, usually at least once a day we are lucky to locate large groups of cooperative feeding whales at the surface. The classic “surface lunge feeding” events are truly a sight to behold. They arise straight upwards with their enormous throat pouches bulging out and filled with anchovies.
We’ve started offering afternoon photography cruises lasting four plus hours into the dusk. The lighting is great and the behaviors tend to be more exciting at this time of day.
09-25-2015: Thirty to Forty Humpback Whales Continue Feeding Frenzy Just Outside of Moss Landing
The action has been rampant in front of Moss Landing lately. This is seriously some kind of wonder of the world. These humpbacks have been gorging within a few miles of Moss Landing for at least the last couple of months. The quantity of anchovies required to sustain this is staggering.
The larger animals are thought to eat up to 3,000 Lbs. pounds per day of anchovies. The humpbacks also eat krill when it is around. But the last couple of years they have been eating mainly anchovies. I have to wonder where the anchovies keep coming from. They seem so abundant. We believe it’s because the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon is so vast and productive.
We have been observing a variety of surface behavior. Tail-lobbing, breaching, lunge-feeding, pectoral fin slapping and all manner of general hijinx.
The conditions have been mixed. Some of the afternoon/evening trips over the last week had some rough conditions. But we’ve also had some amazing evenings and sunsets. We’re looking forward to calmer conditions as we get closer to October. We are also planning on doing some marine life photography workshops in October. They’ll be 4-5 hour+ trips from 02:00 PM until dusk. Limited to 20 photographers. Check our online calendar in October for dates, times and pricing.
09-20-2015: Humpbacks and Common Dolphins Continue to be the Sure Thing In Front of Moss Landing
We had a few days last week with rough going in the afternoon. The conditions have been nice for morning trips and most of the day. Today it was nice all day long.
Earlier in the week we were fortunate enough to witness a rare orca predation event on long-beaked common dolphins just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. It was incredible.
We had already been tracking a pod of about seven orcas when we could see the unmistakable splashes of dolphins coming our way about a mile to the north. We suspected this could be interesting.
The orcas disappeared when the dolphin pod was within about a 1/2 mile of us. After a few minutes, the dolphins immediately jumped (all 500 of them) at once and took off in a mass, rapid stampede to the East. It was quite the sight to behold.
Today the conditions were outstanding. Very warm, decent sea conditions. There was a pesky little lump, but pretty amazing overall. Sightings varied throughout the day. These animals were moving around. So we had mixed results. At times the whales seemed to scatter. Maybe spread out as they went into search mode.
But then we also had them come together as they worked groups of 10-15 or more. Seeing and hearing 10-15 of these massive animals surfacing and fluking together is incredible.
There was also the random breach or tail-lob in the distance and some limited surface lunge-feeding. But that was also pretty random. On the 05:00 PM trip 15-20 humpbacks came together and were working an area just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. They would surface all at once right next to each other, blowing in succession.
It looks like the conditions should be nice for the morning trips in the coming week. We never know with the afternoon and evening trips. When the weather comes together, you can’t beat the evening trips. What with the beautiful sunsets and perfect lighting. But sometimes the wind comes up and we have to cancel. Hope to see you out here.
09-12-2015: Humpback Whale Breaches on Kayakers, 30-40 Whales Right Outside Of Moss Landing, Long-beaked Common Dolphins, Incredible Spectacle
It just keeps getting better and better. Today we saw a lot of active whales. A lot of different whales seem to be breaching and tail-lobbing more than normal today. So we always appreciate that. It’s quite a spectacle to see a 45-foot plus animal launching completely out of the water. We call this a full-breach.
Today a couple of kayakers were very lucky. They came very close to getting crushed to death by the mighty humpback whale. A full-size humpback can weigh in at 40-tons. That’s a lot of heavy blubber that would surely flatten a kayaker if the whale had a direct hit.
This was one of the more dangerous situations that I’ve seen out here. Here we were, minding our own business, checking out large quantities of humpback whales as they surrounded us in the Sanctuary. When all of a sudden, this massive full-size whale does a full 180-degree breach.
The only problem is that it landed on two kayakers on a tandom rig. Pretty serious situation. Kayak whale watching can be extremely dangerous. And one should realize that humpback whales are wild animals and totally unpredictable. It’s a very uncontrolled environment out there. Just like any wilderness experience.
Most of us who have hiked or camped in bear country take the same chance with wild animals and this can also be dangerous. Especially up in Alaska grizzly country. Many hikers have been mauled or killed after coming across a grizzly mother and cubs and accidently startle them. But these are the risks we take to enjoy nature. What about wandering around in the African Savana? There are dangerous animals there too. Buffalo, Moose and bears in Wyoming? Attacks on humans occur in these areas regularly. Mountain lions in the Santa Cruz mountains? The point is that if you’re going to be going into the wilderness and coming into contact with large wild animals, you just need to be aware that you are putting yourself at great risk and if you get hurt, that’s your problem. Especially with humpback whales. It’s just you and the whales. There’s no defense if a 40-ton humpback whale decides to come near you. Tail lob on you or breach on you. And that’s your problem if you put yourself in that position. Some people like it. You just never know.
If people want to go kayaking with whales and they get hurt or killed, that’s their problem. A human on a kayak has very little impact on a humpback whale. The humpbacks could care less. They are so massive they would very unlikely feel anything at all coming into contact with a human on a kayak. They weigh 40-tons for crying out loud. All they want to do is feed. The danger is probably less than hiking or camping in grizzly bear country. I can safely say that more people have been maimed or killed by bears, snakes, lions and tigers than have been by humpback whales.
I think it’s dangerous for people to go rock climbing. But I don’t plan on encouraging some kind of ban on rock climbing. If people want to rock climb and get enjoyment out of it, then good for them. Most kayakers show respect out there and just sit patiently and enjoy. But I see the idiots who ruin it for everyone else by power-paddling around, almost chasing after the whales. There always seems to be a least one person who is overly aggressive. Don’t chase the whales. It’s really pretty simple. Stay back 100 yards from an area where whales are known to be. Often, they are hunting fish in large areas and often will give you a pass by.
Speaking of kayaking with humpback whales, Giancarlo and I cracked it before dawn and paddled out in the dark to one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve never seen so many whales in one place. I particularly liked it because they were all within a mile of the harbor. I could hear humpbacks trumpeting and the loud smack of breaching before I even launched from our sailboat in the south harbor.
At first we could only hear them. Then we could see the silhouettes of tail flukes and dorsal fins as they humped up for a dive. After about 15-minutes daybreak was on and we could see blows pretty much as far as we could see and hear them in all directions. As the sun rose low in the sky, the warm orange glow became overwhelming. Truly an incredible experience. Be sure to check back for part two of the video I shot on labor day with Giancarlo.
A common murre chick gets fed by it’s father. Photo: Michael Sack 09-11-2015
09-09-2015: Tail-lobbing and Breaching Humpbacks, Bowriding Common Dolphins, Warm and Glassy Conditions
As I sit here in our sailboat, in the stillness of predawn darkness, I can hear the unmistakable smack of humpback whales breaching and the loud trumpet blows of excited humpbacks. It’s really amazing to actually hear whales while I’m sitting right here in our sailboat in the harbor. Remarkable.
The Fall feeding frenzy is on. We’ve been really having some nice feeding and breaching events for the afternoon trips. Especially that 05:00 pm. There’s nothing as better than when the conditions come together. Sunset on the ocean is almost magical. The warm glow of everything around you as the sun reflects off the ocean.
Our perfect fall conditions seemed to have set in. Warm and glassy with the living good all day long. And humpbacks in large numbers. I’m talking almost too many to count.
And they have been working together in tight groups. I would estimate 30-40 humpbacks or maybe even more. It’s hard to count them all before they all go down.
We’ve also had a few random killer whale sightings, so that is always nice. They seem to be going after the long-beaked common dolphins we’ve been seeing pretty much everyday.
09-02-2015: The Lunge-feeding Continues in Front of Moss Landing, Common Dolphins, Birds, Sea Lions in Feeding Frenzy
Moss Landing continues to be the hotspot for marine life. The anchovies just keep on showing up. There is no place else in the world where within 10-minutes of leaving our harbor you can be with 20-30 humpback whales sharing a feeding frenzy with hundreds of common murres, brown pelicans, sooty shearwaters, pink-footed shearwaters, cormorants, seagulls, common dolphins, sea otters and more. Moss Landing is truly one of the marine life wonders of the world.
The sound is incredible. The squacking father murres and their chirping chicks, seagulls, the blows of the mighty humpback whale, the occasional thunderous smack of a breaching humpback. It’s amazing auditory experience. Often times I’ll shut off the engines and this really adds to our multi-sensory marine life experience.
09-01-2015: Epic Day, Rampant Lunge-feeding All Day Long, Orcas Take Down A Common Dolphin
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we had a day like today. Sure, we’ve been seeing a lot of surface lunge-feeding pretty much everyday. But today was over the top.
Early in the trip, we drifted around just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor with 20+ whales swimming all around the boat, often popping up within 10-feet of the boat. Seriously, we had them literally popping up in all directions. At the bow, both sides and at the stern. Moss Landing Marine Park style.
But a mile out to the west, I had my eye on a large group birds that seemed to be working a large school of surface anchovies. After about 30-minutes I noticed the unmistakable big, fatty head of the mighty humpback whale popping up out of the water.
I still wasn’t convinced to leave this large aggregation of humpbacks that were circling the boat as the worked together feeding just below the surface. But then I saw two big fatty whale heads pop up together. This was looking good. So we decided to make a course and head in that direction.
The only problem was that there were so many whales all around us, we were pretty well pinned down. So I waited for my break. Kind of inching my way toward the west, away from the humpback whale mayhem that surrounded us.
We were finally able break away and made our way out a mile or so out to the west were the bird action was and where there were a couple humpbacks doing the occasional surface lunges.
As we approached, we could see more whales in the distance making their way toward what appeared to be surface anchovies as far as we could see. And the common dolphins, birds and whales were working it in full frenzy mode. One of the better feeding frenzies I’ve seen.
Then we heard a report of orcas not far from our position. We could see the unmistakable tall black fin of the killer whale about a mile away. And they were making their way towards Moss Landing. It was hard to leave the frenzy that were in the middle of. A couple of times, the surface anchovies creeped up under our boat and all the animals followed.
That was too close for comfort, so I was forced to bump the engines to scatter the anchovies as we slowly moved away from all the action. It’s one thing to be observing all the action from a safe distance, but quite another to actually be right in the middle of the action.
After another 15-minutes, we decided to leave the frenzy and go check out the orcas. As we approached, we could see that they were in pursuit of a common dolphin. They had separated this unfortunate dolphin from the rest of the pod and were in hot pursuit. We could see hundreds of dolphins blasting away from the scene as they stuck together in a close pod and were leaping out of the water as they scurried around. It was quite a spectacle to behold. You can see the video of the dolphins as the BBC Big Blue Live helicopter was up above us filming. Very cool. Moss Landing delivers once again.
08-31-2015: Lunge-feeding Humpbacks All Week Long, Common Dolphins, Random Breachers, Tail-slapping, Tail-lobbing and More
The productivity of the waters just outside of Moss Landing just keep on producing. It’s really hard to fathom. We’ve had at least 30 humpback whales feeding almost 24-hours a day for more than a month now.
And these animals can eat up to 3,000 lbs of anchovies per day each. It’s hard to wrap your head around. That is a massive amount of the 3″-4″ little anchovies. And they just seem to keep on coming. It really is a testament to the incredible productivity we have happening just outside of our harbor in Moss Landing.
It has been so incredible over the last two years, that for the first time in recorded history we had at least 10-humpback whales that did not make their normal migration to the breeding and calving grounds south of Puerto Vallarta in Southern Mexico. They just stayed here and fed right outside of our harbor in Moss Landing. We have had good numbers of reliable humpbacks every single day since March of last year.
I’m still amazed that more people don’t whale watch out of our sleepy little fishing village here in Moss Landing. People who know do. On any given day, one can go out on the beach and see the blows of whales and tail flukes as they feast just off shore.
We often have passengers that have gone out of Monterey or Santa Cruz just to find out that they had to motor an hour or more to The Moss Landing Marine Park before they see any decent whale activity. They seemed to feel duped. At least that what they say.
It’s pretty funny to witness. Of course, the Monterey boats show up and we’ve already been watching whales for an hour or more and then they have to leave so that they can get back to pick-up another 150 passenger load. Big whaling over there. Serious business. Meanwhile, we’re still there aboard our beloved little Sanctuary taking in the spectacle from our ocean level decks while the other boats have to take off. Leaving passengers wishing they were still watching whales aboard the Sanctuary. We call it Sanctuary envy. Those in the know go out of Moss Landing aboard the Sanctuary.
08-24-2015: Non-stop Lunge-feeding on the Early Trip, Continues For The 10:30 AM Trip
Sorry about not updating the Captain’s Log over the last couple of weeks. I injured my hand/wrist pretty bad so I’ve been having a hard time shooting and writing. Very hard to type. So I’ll have to be short on the text for another few days. Trying to type and operate computer, but it’s still a bit painful. But I did manage to pop off a few decent photo’s this morning. So here they are. I should be back at it by Friday.
08-23-2015: Orcas Take Out a Young Harbor Seal Next to The Sanctuary, Twenty to Thirty or More Humpback Whales Invade Moss Landing, Random Breaching, Tail-lobbing, Surface Lunge-feeding
Epic times in the Moss Landing Marine Park. The humpback whale action has been constant over the last few weeks right out in front of Moss Landing. We have had consistent large numbers of humpbacks within a mile or two of the harbor. At least 20-30 whales working in groups as well as scattered about.
There has also been consistent but random lunge feeding with 3-4 whales popping their big fatty heads up out of the water simultaneously with mouths agape chasing anchovies out of the water. It hasn’t been rampant lunge-feeding, but enough to to get some amazing looks.
There was one day last week when we had many whales breaching all over pretty much all day. So that was incredible.
Check out some video from today:
On our last trip today just as we were heading in, we came across one of our best orcas encounters ever. These four killer whales had a harbor seal pup pinned up against the Sanctuary. Passengers had quite an amazing close up encounter. At some points they were close enough to touch. Of course, we do not allow touching. Absolutely no petting the killer whales please. What a day. They were still out front of Moss Landing at dark. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow. If I wanted to see killer whales, I would get on one of our boats tomorrow. You never know. Life in Moss Landing is good. Maybe not so good if your a harbor seal. But I’m just saying.
08-11-2015: Lunge-feeding, Breaching and Tail-lobbing Humpbacks, Bow Riding Dolphins, Molas and More, Best Action So Far This Year
08-08-2015: Moss Landing Whale Park, The Real Greatest Show On Earth
Tom Steinstra was serious when he called what’s happening in Moss Landing right now “The real greatest show on earth.” Check out this video and you’ll see what he means:
There has been an absolutely remarkable spectacle happening just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor over the last three to four days. Fifteen plus humpback whales have been feeding together on a mass scale.
The main reason this happens every year just outside of Moss Landing Harbor is because of a very unique geological feature found just outside the harbor.
It’s called the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon. And the formation begins right at the Moss landing Harbor entrance.
It’s larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. Within the Monterey Bay The Canyon can get to over 6,000 feet deep. Further outside the Monterey Bay The Canyon can get to 12,000 feet deep. This is known as an upwelling zone. We see massive marine life productivity along The Canyon ledges. Fortunately for us, it all starts right at the Moss Landing Harbor entrance. So we see massive humpback whale feeding events within five minutes of leaving the harbor.
08-06-2015: 15+ Humpbacks Feeding With A Large Herd of Sea Lions
There has been a big change over the last few days. The anchovies seemed to have bunched up nicely and it’s bringing the humpbacks and sea lions together. We’ve been seeing between 15-20 whales in front of Moss Landing for months now. However, they’ve been pretty well scattered over 2-3 mile area. They’ve also been coming up one at a time, breathing and going down. They have also been generally staying down longer with short surface times.
Over the last few days we’ve had 10-15 whales working with about 100 sea lions as they feast on the anchovies. Today, they were all right there next to each other and coming up all at once. It’s quite a spectacle.
First all the sea lions start popping up, splashing and barking. Then all the whales start popping up within feet of one another. The loud sound of their blows blasting one after another as they all surface. This is more what we were seeing during last summer’s massive feeding frenzy.
They’ve also been doing more surface lunge-feeding, spy hopping, breaches and tail-lobbing. The action seems to heating up. We’ll see what happens on Friday. Stay tuned for updates.
08-04-2015: Perfect Conditions All Day Long, 10-15+ Feeding Humpbacks In Front of Moss Landing
More humpbacks seemed to have shown up over the last few days. We have also been seeing large areas of anchovies at the surface.
At first the massive schools of anchovies appear darker areas of water. I’m talking large areas, like 1/2 mile or more in diameter. As you get closer and look down into the water, all you can see is anchovies. Right there at surface.
This has created perfect conditions for vertical surface lunge-feeding. Although we have no been seeing rampant lunge-feeding, there have been the occasional big, fatty whale heads popping up out of the water.
Today was all about the breaching and tail-lobbing. We had very active whales today. Many, many breaches, tail-lobs and tail slaps. It was remarkable. All day long on all trips, the jumping didn’t stop.