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.
07-31-2015: Calm, Nice Marine Conditions All Day Long, 10-12 Humpbacks Feeding Next To Each Other
The marine conditions have been stellar over the last few days. We have also had more humpbacks show up outside of Moss Landing. We started out this morning with an 08:00 am trip. We had decent visibility to the South and to the West. But there was some fog to the North and to the Northwest.
We left the harbor going very slow. If there were any whales close by I didn’t want to miss them. Because there was a kind of light fog that made our visibility come and go. The fog did start to clear pretty well. But we still didn’t see any whales. They were not where they have been.
But I had the best visibility to the southwest and I could also see large numbers of sooty shearwater birds in that direction. So I made a course for the Southwest and followed the south ledge for about 4-5 miles. I didn’t see anything. I started to get worried. No whales for going on an hour. I don’t know when the last time this happened. I think the last time it took longer than an hour to find whales was going on two years now. This was disturbing. So I decided to head back across the ditch to the north ledge and see if anything was going on over there.
Soon I noticed splashing. Looked like dolphins. So I got off the roof, took the helm back and made a course for the splashing dolphins. That would be the long-beaked common dolphins.
So we spent about 30-minutes cruising around with about 30-50 dolphins as they rode the bow, alongside the boat and in our wake. That’s always fun.
But after a while we needed to start making our way back to the harbor. That’s when I noticed a couple of blows to the north on the inside of the Pajaro Hole. And then two more. And six more. The next thing we knew we were in them. With 10-12+ whales working a 1/2 mile area. They were all around. They would come together and we would see eight whales coming up and cruising by the boat right next to each other. It was some good watching. They were staying up good with short dive times and not going very far when they came up.
And this was pretty much the story for all the trips today. Many whales. But they moved about 2.5-miles to the North.
07-26-2015: More Humpbacks Show up in The Monterey Bay and Moss Landing, Reports of Blue Whales and More
The marine conditions have been unstable over the last week or so. But we have also had some of the best conditions of the year. So it’s been hard to predict.
The afternoon trips have been taking the most hits with generally windy conditions and lumpy seas. The good news is that there seems to be a mass of ocean life moving it’s way up the coast and into the Monterey Bay.
Moss Landing continues to be the sure thing for humpback whales as there have been between four and six humpbacks feeding daily in front of the Moss Landing Harbor for going on 2-years straight now.
We have been getting the occasional tail lob or full-breach. But for the most part it’s been routine whale watching. The warmer water temps seem to have driven the anchovies deeper. So we’re seeing some long dives.
The whole mass of sea life was reported last week south of Point Sur in Big Sur (Humpbacks, dolphins, sea lions, blue whales, fin whales and more). Reports each day over the last week indicate that the whole mass of marine life is moving steadily to the north and into the Monterey Bay.
We expect the feeding action to pick up soon as we have been seeing more anchovies at the surface over the last few days. Today we also heard reports of rampant lunge-feeding off Point Pinos and Marina beach about six to eight miles to the south.
07-23-2015: Humpbacks, Otters and A Friendly Mola Mola
We had mixed results throughout the day today. The humpbacks were scattered on the morning trip. We didn’t see our normal pair right out in front of Moss. So we had to go out about 3-miles to the northwest where we had some great looks at two humpbacks. We did a little exploring but didn’t find much.
On the afternoon trip our two faithful humpbacks were right out front. Then another couple of humpbacks showed up. So we had four scattered animals on the afternoon trip. We mainly stayed the two that had shorter dive cycles. One of them kept giving us the random tail lob, so that was cool.
But the wind picked up and made the going rough heading to the west. We pretty much stayed right out front for the whole trip.
07-20-2015: Moss Landing Humpbacks, A Handful of Surface Lunges, Elephant Seals and More
Another epic day on the Monterey Bay right out in front of Moss Landing. Perfect, calm condition for most of the day. The humpbacks started grouping up more today than they have been.
Over the last week or so we’ve been seeing mainly single humpbacks scattered over a 3-5 mile area. So it was nice to see more anchovies at the surface, shorter dive cycles and longer surface time.
07-19-2015: Epic conditions, more whales show up in front of Moss Landing, elephant seals and more
I don’t think I’ve been out in better conditions. Pure glass. T-Shirts and shorts and feeling good.
Between six and eight humpback whales showed up out front and have been working together feeding and staying up nicely.
We’ve even had a couple of random breaches and tail slaps. Today we had massive patches of anchovies at the surface. We also had the occasional big fatty head of the mighty humpback whale popping out of the water as they did some vertical surface lunge feeding. This has me thinking things are starting to heat up.
07-16-2015: Humpbacks, Risso’s Dolphins, Dalls Porpoise, Elephant Seal and More
As we turned the bend to head into the main channel, I spotted a blow. The mighty humpback whale. At this point we are still a quarter mile inside the harbor. I usually don’t say anything. It’s amusing to see the excitement of passengers when they see a blow and discover there is a whale not far from us.
We have had at least a few very reliable humpback whales just outside the harbor everyday for going on two-years straight now. It’s really quite remarkable. So we’ve kind of have a routine now. We start the trip by heading over to the blows just outside the harbor. At least that’s generally been the case for most trips over the last year and a half.
We always like to get some decent looks right out the gate. And depending on how the whales are behaving, we either stay with them or go exploring.
Today the Moss Landing humpbacks were treating us pretty good. We had this one animal do a nice vertical surface lunge. So that was cool. Today we stayed out front for about an hour. After that we headed out to where we were getting reports of more whales and dolphins.
We also came across a few different mola mola’s.
07-13-2015: Humpbacks in Front of Moss, More Scattered humpbacks 8-miles out and More
Humpbacks are still on the prowl and feeding within a mile of the harbor. Pretty much been the routine for the last year and a half.
We also heard reports of a couple more long diving humpbacks about 8-miles to the southwest.
Today the whales were making large circles. For the most part, they were singles. Not really feeding together. They seemed to be feeding separately and deep as they were doing about 7-10 minute dive cycles.
We were getting some great looks when suddenly this massive animal completely launches itself out of the water within about 20 feet of the boat. Quite spectacular.
07-06-2015: Friendly Humpback, a Jumping Thresher Shark, mola molas and More
The action started early in the trip as we stumbled across a lone humpback right out the gate. But soon it was obvious this was not a whale we wanted to watch. It seemed like a ten minute diver. So after a couple of dive cycles we moved on.
After about 10-minutes of running to the southwest I noticed a fish-like animal jumping about 50-yards off to my right. I immediately made a course and grabbed my camera. It jumped a few more times and when we were about 10 yards away it launched right in front of us. That was a rare sighting.
Check out some video from today: Friendly Humpback whales
There were a lot of whales around, but they were scattered into singles and doubles. I’d say 10-15 whales scattered over about a 5-mile area starting just outside the Moss Harbor.
More video from today: Moss Landing Humpback Showing Us Some Love
But all we needed was this one friendly. This animal spent the better part of 30-minutes under and around our boat. Floating below the surface right next to the boat, then going back and forth under the boat. A truly remarkable encounter. One I’ll never forget.
So things have been looking up. Over the weekend the action was mixed from one trip to the next. But overall amazing. We even had one lone orca on the 08:00 AM trip on 07-05-2015. The animal was clearly in hunt mode. So that was fun. We just really never know. Every trip is different.
07-04-2015: Humpbacks Getting Lively in Front of Moss Landing
It amazes me how different each trip can be. Even more so, how different each minute of each trip can be. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what goes down out there. Nature and her behaviors are unpredictable.
To us a lot of the behaviors we see seem random. Like breaching, tail-lobbing, pectoral fin slapping or friendly behavior. Today was a good example: On one of our trips, we had been waiting for a single humpback to come up from a dive. This animal was doing some long dives and then staying up for only a few blows and then down again. I’m talking a 7-10 minute whale. That’s what we call a ten-minute whale. When they’re doing 7-10 minute dive cycles. After a couple of ten-minute dive-cycles, I usually head out and look for greener pastures. I mean a guy can only take so much.
And after this whale’s second dive, I waited for about 5-minutes before I started to head out. Just as I was about to put it in gear, this massive animal launches itself completely out of the water. Then it continued to carry on at the surface slapping it’s pectoral fin against the water and rolling around and generally staying at the surface with short dive-cycles. Then after about 30-40 minutes of this, the animal just seem to leave. The rascal gave us the slip.
07-02-2015: Acrobatic Humpbacks in Front of Moss, Mola Molas and More
We started out the day with thick fog as we departed on our 08:00 am trip. I’m always nervous when we have fog. I just can’t help it. Even though the whales have been pretty much in the same area in front of Moss Landing for about the last year and a half, thick fog always makes me wonder if we’re going to find whales. Seriously, when we can’t see more than a boat length away in any direction. It makes it hard. But we haven’t been skunked by fog in probably well over a year.
These humpbacks can range up and down the whole California coast. Over the last year and a half there have been about 10 whales feeding between the harbor entrance and about 5 miles out. Sometimes they are closer, sometimes they are further. We never really know. So fog is always a risk.
Once we got into the area of where we’ve been seeing whales, we just kind of slowed to near dead in the water, looking all around the boat to the extent that we could and listening, smelling. That’s right, often these humpbacks have a foul smelling breath that fouls up an area. After about ten minutes of this, a full size humpback popped up and blasts a loud blow off to our starboard. It was kind of surreal, what with the fog and all.
We could hear other blows in the distance, but our visibility was masked by the fog. But as we inched in the direction of the blows, a large humpback popped the better part of it’s head and body out of the water and crashed down to the water. I call these chin slaps. This animal did this repeatedly. Then another one joined in and followed it up with a nice tail lob.
Now we’re talking. This is the kind of action we love. It was hard to get photos though because of the thick fog. But these things were going off. We had multiple breaches right next to the boat.
As the morning went on, the visibility got better and made for some excellent conditions. We did have some patchy fog as the day went on, but the whale action was fantastic.
06-29-2015: Six to Eight Humpbacks in front of Moss, Close up Tail-lobber, Sea Otters and a Massive Mola Mola
Marine conditions were not ideal today. Early on as we left the harbor visibility was poor. We had some solid patches of dense fog. So that’s never good. We used to get worried when we had dense fog.
But lately, because the 6-8 humpbacks have been consistently in the same area, we can usually find them. Even if we need to turn off the engines and listen and then move in the general direction of where we hear blows. We’ve found whales in fog on more than one occasion using this technique.
Luckily is wasn’t long before a brisk wind blew the fog away. But with the wind came some pretty lumpy conditions. It was manageable, but a pesky 1′-3′ wind chop made for some rocking and rolling.
The good news is that we had about 6-8 whales right out in front of the Moss Landing Harbor. One of them was putting on a show with massive tail lobs and tail slaps.
Then on our way back in, we got up-close personal with a 6-foot mola mola and a baby mola only about 1 foot diameter.
Of course we always love to see the Southern sea otter. We almost always get great looks at these cute animals. After all, Moss Landing is the center of their range.
06-26-2015: Humpbacks Still Just Outside Moss Landing, One Lone Orca Yesterday
The Moss Landing Humpback whale action continues just outside of our harbor. Early in the trip we had one humpback less than a mile from the harbor. We tracked this lone humpback for about 45 minutes before heading out to the west in hopes of finding more whales, dolphins or maybe even orcas. We never really know unless we head out.
After about about twenty minutes of cruising we started to see blows and then tail lobs and breaches. So we were onto some active whales.
But of course as not long after we got on the scene they seemed to have taken a break. But we did get to see a few close up tail-lobs.
Yesterday we had a killer whale a few miles out from the harbor. So that was a nice break from humpbacks. Especially when the 20’+ animal made a course for us and submerged under the boat just a few feet from us, popping up on the other side.
06-24-2015: Moss Landing Remains the Hotspot for Humpbacks
Nothing new to report really. Six to eight humpbacks continue feasting on the abundant anchovies just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. They have been doing pretty routine humpback whale behavior. Basically going down and coming up. Seem to be either feeding deep or in search mode. We have some long dive cycles lately. But when they come up we’ve been getting some great looks.
Still no reports of much else in The Bay. We did hear some reports today of a small group of Risso’s dolphins and another report of a small group of pacific white-sided dolphins quite a bit further out.
We’ve still been doing some exploration runs as we head out four-five miles. We have ran across some Mola Molas and the occasional elephant seal. We have also been seeing a lot of “egg yolk” jellies. But not much else.
Conditions have been nice in the morning. And we expect that to be the case for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But we never really know with the weather.
06-19-2015: Moss Landing Humpbacks Still the Main Show in Monterey Bay
Two miles outside of Moss Landing Harbor continues to be where the main action is on the Monterey Bay. Most of the whale boats from Monterey and Santa Cruz continue to make their way over to Moss Landing for the big show.
As usual, by the time we got to the the jetties at the Moss Landing Harbor mouth today, we were already seeing blows. So the plan has been to get on a nice group of humpbacks and hope they do something interesting.
We’ve been getting the occasional tail-lobber or breacher. But for the most part, the interesting encounters were groups of six-eight humpbacks cruising, diving and feeding together just a few feet from each other. After an hour or so we heard reports of Pacific White-sided dolphins about 3-4 miles away. And what with all the boats in the entire whale watching fleet right out in front of Moss Landing, I figured we did’t want to crowd the animals, so we made a course for the pacific white-sided dolphins.
I was sure we were going to get to them. They were reported to have changed course and were now moving away from us to the west. But we kept going and eventually caught up to them. So it was worth the extra 40-minutes of travel time out there.
We have not heard any recent reports of concentrations of animals in other parts of The Bay. So it continues to be Moss Landing for most of the action.
06-18-2015: Humpbacks Still in Holding Pattern Just outside of Moss Landing
We didn’t have an active group of whales today, we had decent numbers. They seemed to be in search mode. Doing some long dives.
Check out this video from a couple of days ago:
Every once in a while they would come across some shallow anchovies and stay up for a bit.
06-17-2015: Six-Eight Humpbacks Feeding Again Just Outside Moss Landing Harbor
Here’s some video from a couple of days ago:
The humpbacks seem to be in a holding pattern. Most of the whales seem to be just outside the Moss Landing Harbor. Lately when we head out a little further to do some exploring we’re still not finding much. So the action continues to be just outside the harbor.
If you’re going whale watching on The Monterey Bay, it’s very likely that you will end up in front of Moss Landing. Whether you go out of Santa Cruz or Monterey, all the boats are pretty much coming over to Moss Landing.
We have plenty of room on our Friday 10:30 AM trip, our 08:00 AM weekend trips and 10:30 trip on Saturday. Smaller groups and more facetime with the whales.
06-16-2015: Humpbacks Comming up and Going Down Right Outside Moss
The humpback whale action continues to be just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. We haven’t been seeing many dolphins lately. They must have found another place feed over the last week or so.
We’ve still been heading out about 3-4 miles to take a look around and haven’t seen much. In fact, there’s been nothing outside of Moss Landing.
All the action has been right out in front of the Moss Landing Harbor. The salmon fishing has picked over the last week or so. That has caused quite the flotilla right in the middle of it all.
Today the whales were pretty much just going down and coming up, giving us the occasional tail fluke. Pretty routine. They were also staying under for longer. That leads me to believe they were down there doing more searching or deeper feeding.
We had a few almost 10-minute divers. Then they would often pop up a half mile away from where they went down.
06-15-2015: Lively Mother and Calf Humpbacks, Lunge-feeding Molas Sea Otters and More
We’re starting see more mola molas in The Bay. Also known as the “giant ocean sunfish.” These animals can get to be over eight feet in diameter. Most of the ones see are in the two to five foot range.
The molas mainly feed on jellies. But lately we’ve been seeing them feeding on the velella velellas, AKA “by the wind sailors.”
The humpback action was all around. Mostly close in just outside of the harbor. On our three to four hour trips we have been doing a little exploring.
Today we headed out about 4-miles and didn’t see anything out there. All the action seems to be right out in front in Moss Landing.
06-13-2015: More Young Humpback Hijinx, Mating Sea Otters and More
The last couple of days we’ve had overcast, fog-like conditions in the morning giving way to clearer conditions as the day goes on. After the first hour or two, it’s been clearing up nicely.
That’s when we start seeing blows all around. The occasional breaching in the distance. Often when we head out to a breaching whale the animal just keeps on doing it. Sometimes they just stop and you don’t see them again. The marine life out here is very unpredictable. I guess that’s what makes life interesting out here.
For me, it’s almost an addiction. To see the rare encounters. To get the perfect photograph or video of that rare encounter. And if we’re lucky enough to stumble across the rare encounter or behavior we can only hope that all the elements come together for good media production.
That’s what drives me. I love marine life photography and video. Conditions are everything. When everything comes together it’s quite the rush. Light wind, small swell and good light at the right angle and I’m as happy as can be.
06-10-2015: Humpbacks Still in Front of Moss Landing in Large Numbers, One Chronic Jumper
It just keeps on getting better. Moss Landing continues to be the hot-spot for large concentrations of feeding humpbacks and the occasional dolphins. The anchovies are bunching up against the canyon ledges and the humpbacks seem to be taking advantage of it.
The weather is everything out there. I always look to forward to calm days like we had today. Warm and glassy. Very little wind and no swell.
As has been the case every day for the last year and a half, today we were on the action as soon as we left the harbor.
In fact, we were seeing blows before we left the harbor. So that’s always cool. After about 30-minutes of hanging with a handful of whales, we noticed a breacher about a mile out to the west so we made a course and the show was on.
Another chronic breacher. This animal jumped completely out of the water at least 20 times. Then it would surface on it’s side and slap it’s massive pectoral fin against the water.
We pretty much spent the rest of the trip watching this humpback throwing itself out of the water and slapping it’s pectoral fin for almost 2 hours.
05-31-2015: Many Humpbacks, Common Dolphins, Sooty Shearwaters, Feeding Otters and Active Orcas
The Summer action is here. The only thing missing are large numbers of blue whales. But we did see one a few days ago and it looks like the humpbacks a little further out are feeding on krill. So hopefully we’ll start seeing more blues showing up.
But the humpbacks are out in force right outside of Moss Landing all the way out to about 10-miles out. Probably 30-50+ of them along that stretch. We had about 20 of them within a mile or two of the Moss Landing Harbor today. Which is nothing new really. The area just outside of Moss Landing Harbor is definitely worthy of what all the captains are now calling the “Moss Landing Marine Park.”
There have been least 10-20 humpbacks within a mile or two of the harbor consistently occurring alongside hundreds of common dolphins and increasing numbers sooty shearwater birds, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions and the occasional killer whale hunting party to name just a few. Its quite remarkable. One can usually stand on the beach in Moss Landing and see the unmistakable blows and tail flukes of the humpback whale. Sometimes the occasional breach.
Today was epic. We had excellent looks at humpbacks. The best humpback encounter today was when a herd of about 4-6 full size humpbacks started heading toward us in stampede formation as they kept surfacing and blowing repeatedly until they came at us broadside and all dove under the boat as they threw their tail flukes up and went under within about 10-feet of us. They all popped up on the other side about 30-yards away.
After that spectacle, I wanted to go do some exploring, so we headed out along the north ledge when we came across more common dolphins and a little more room to cruise. They like to bow ride and leverage the energy from our wake to jump out of the water as they follow us. It’s a lot of fun to see them buzzing by under water and jumping out of the water just below the rail. We did stop and put the hydrophone in but they were more interested in cruising around, so we didn’t get any good vocalizations.
As we were nearing the end of the trip today (we had about another 30-minutes) we received a report of killer whales about 5-miles north of us and decided to extend the trip and throw the dice. Well let me tell you, it paid off with a very active show of killer whales just going nuts. Just like the old days of 5-6 hour trips. Sometimes it happens that way. We left at 10:30 am and finally got back to the dock at just after 4:00 PM. But it was incredible.
Moss Landing still seems to be a well kept secret. Except for those in the know. It’s quite baffling to see the Monterey boats taking out hundreds of people on each trip and running trips all day long. I guess most uninformed tourists don’t know any better. We seem to get the hardcore nature nerds (that’s a compliment, because we’re nature nerds too) who do their research and know that Sanctuary is by far the best boat to go out on and Moss Landing is by far the best place to depart from.
Would you rather be on a large boat with 60 to 100+ other people and have to travel an hour or more across The Bay to the “Moss Landing Marine Park” before you see any animals? Or see whales blowing before you even leave the harbor? If you knew any better the answer is obvious. I’m trying to help you here.
We usually don’t carry more than 30 passengers on our boat and our viewing platform is much closer to the water. Today on both trips we had about 25 passengers. We also have Awesome marine biologists on every trip. It’s more like a learning adventure.
Going out of Moss Landing passengers get by far the most face time with all the wildlife. Seriously. We’re with humpback whales and dolphins usually within 10-minutes of leaving the harbor. I just thought I should let you know.
05-20-2015 Spring Conditions and Reliable Humpbacks at Moss Landing
This past week we have had humpback whales consistently circling within a mile or so of Moss Landing Harbor. There aren’t large numbers – usually 2-10 whales at a time. They are clearly in feeding mode as they circle methodically. We get good looks at their surfacings and flukings with an occasional breach or tail lob. The stars have been the mother calf pairs that are about five miles out. The calves are curious and sometimes playful, so we’ve been treated to some very close visits and also some good behaviors like tail lobs and pec slaps. We’ve also had a few days of very active feeding frenzy behavior with 10-12 humpbacks along with hundreds of sea lions and birds all working on a large school of anchovies a few miles to the southwest of Moss.
We believe there are still some gray whale mothers and calves heading north and this Memorial Day weekend likely will be the last chance this season to catch a view of these whales and perhaps also encounter the hunting pods of orcas associated with them.
It’s not all about whales out there – The Rissos Dolphins are being spotted more often now and they always give us good looks. Bow-riding LB Common Dolphins are still a presence in the bay and we encounter them most days.
Our educated prediction: With these daily afternoon winds, we are expecting the krill blooms to begin soon which will attract more baleen whales into the bay.
05-08-2-15 Adorable humpback calf showing off
Lovely conditions today – sort of magical out there. This was the calm AFTER the storm. We were treated to at least five sets of humpback whale pairs from right off Moss Landing to about five miles out. The big treat was a new calf with its mom spending lots of surface time giving us great views. It breached several times right near the boat for all to see! To top it all off we had bow riding LB Common Dolphins playing alongside the boat on the way in. A gray whale mother and calf were spotted on our early am trip right outside the harbor heading north. The otter sightings todays were extra special as well with several feasting in huge crabs right by the boat. It was sure a swell day out there!
Report of orcas outside the bay today straight West, so we are hoping for them this weakend inside the bay. This is the highest probability weekend for Orca sightings in Monterey Bay as the largest concentration of gray whale mother:calf pairs are heading through this week.
04-20-15: Orca Pod on Gray Whale Kill, Humpbacks and Sea Lions in Feeding Frenzy just oustide of Moss Landing
Incredible sightings today. It looks like the orcas are starting to come around regularly now. Early on into the trip we heard reports of orcas on a gray whale calf kill about 3-4 miles from the Moss Landing Harbor. So as soon as we left the harbor we knew we were in for a good trip. I set a course for the location of the killer whale action and bumped up the RPMs.
Check out this humpback whale feeding frenzy video.
We didn’t get more than a mile or two before we started coming across the mighty blows of the humpback whale.
We stopped for a bit and had some nice looks at a few humpbacks. But we soon continued on the killer whale action.
On the way in we found ten humpback whales in a massive feeding frenzy along with hundreds of sea lions. Quite impressive. The last two days we have had great humpback displays within a mile of Moss with breaching, pec slapping and tail lobbing. Then there are the hundreds of Long Beaked Common dolphins feeding within a few miles of Moss daily. Did we mention the four blue whales that have been in the bay for four days straight feeding? It’s good out there now.
04-16-15: Orcas on the Hunt, Blue Whales, Humpbacks and More
Check out some of the video we shot. Amazing out there today – as we exited the harbor mouth a lone humpback whale greeted us with a breach. This was a good sign.
Ten more minutes and we were with a pod of Orcas on the prowl. We were treated to multiple breaches by the youngest whale in the clan.
We were patient, waiting our turn to view them closer and letting the Monterey whale boats leave the scene. As soon as we were alone with the pod, they came right up to the boat and circled us within a few feet! It gets better. Up pops a large harbor seal and it swims right to our boat, hugging the side for protection.
The orcas were swarming and the seal along with the Sanctuary were the center of their attentions. This dramatic predator prey interaction played out as expected. The harbor seal became lunch for the Orcas and our passengers had the wildlife observation experience of a lifetime!
It’s hard to beat a good Orca event like this, but the show was not over. We ventured out further and found several huge blue whales inside the bay.
All aboard got many good looks at them as they turned and came towards Sanctuary. It was awesome! To top it all off, we had black footed albatrosses soaring around them. It was a good day.
04-14-2015: More Humpbacks Showing Up, Common Dolphins, Risso’s and More
The Monterey Bay marine life action is just starting to kick into high gear. We’ve been having 20-25 knot plus northwesterly winds in the afternoons and sunshine all day long. This creates what we call upwelling.
Upwelling is when the cooler, nutrient rich waters from the deeper waters (particularly along the ledges the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon) reach the sun exposed upper stratus of the water column. Then, through photo-synthesis, we have these massive phytoplankton blooms. That’s what the krill eat. And of course, the humpbacks and blue whales feed on the krill.
Hopefully we’ll start seeing more surface krill blooms. We’ve already seen some scattered swarms. But not in big numbers.
As we get closer to June we should start to see more blue whales coming into The Bay as well. But for now, we’ve been seeing close in long-beaked common dolphins on every trip.
They’ve pretty much been hanging out feeding just outside of the harbor. We’ve also had feeding humpback whales just outside the Moss Landing Harbor. We haven’t had the kind of all day lunge-feeding we had a couple of days in March. But we have had some good breaching action and friendly behavior as well as the occasional surface lunge.
It’s also getting to be that time of year where we should start to see more orcas coming through.
In fact, I’m thinking of doing some early morning orca scouting trips for people who can’t get enough. Here’s the deal, if you are already going out on one of our other trips that day, we’ll throw in the 3-hour+ dawn-patrol orca scouting trip for $10.00 more. Likely smaller groups on these dawn patrol trips. We’re going to do them periodically but try and do them every Thursday and Friday. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.