• About Us
  • Blog
  • Store
  • Contact
  • Login

Farallon Islands Whale Watch Sightings: September 26 & 27, 2015

By Nancy Heaton

The Farallon Islands' iconic arch. © Ellie Buechner

Saturday's Farallon Islands whale watching trip started out with a short tour past Pier 39 and around Alcatraz, then out the Golden Gate heading north. The skipper turned north before Pt. Bonita and found humpback whales feeding on the other side of the entrance, near the light. The whales were feeding, rolling and breaching, and the boat stayed for an hour or more before continuing on toward the Farallon Islands. Soon, they found and watched another set of feeding whales, then continued toward the Farallons.

A dead leatherback turtle was found entangled in fishing gear. © Dianne Arrigoni

Sadly, the boat encountered a dead adult leatherback turtle with the neck tangled in fishing gear (read more about this encounter). The sight was disturbing; a terrible death from nets intended for other marine species. Moving forward, just before the Farallon Islands, the passengers saw a 5 foot Mola mola (ocean sunfish).

On Sunday's trip, the swells were at 2 ft. with a high overcast sky. The boat motored 10 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge to find 4 humpback whales deep dive feeding, and of course birds feeding with the whales. The passengers had great looks of backs, blows and flukes of whales. About 10 short beaked common dolphins swam by, but did not ride the boat's bow wave.

The boat arrived at the Farallon Islands and the naturalist talked about historical and social aspects of the islands. Passengers saw steller sea lions, California sea lions, harbor seals and many northern fur seals in the water at Muronga Bay. The boat stayed for 45 minutes and circumnavigated the entire island. People got beautiful pictures of the arches. On the trip home, passengers had great looks at 10 whales vertical lunge feeding. One whale peduncle slapped 3 times near the boat. Hundreds of gulls, shearwaters, terns, cormorants and murres were also feeding. For a finale, about 15 harbor porpoises were seen on the way into the Golden Gate entrance.

Bird lovers enjoyed pink-footed shearwater, Buller's shearwater, sooty shearwater, brown pelican, double-crested cormorant, Brandt's cormorant, pelagic cormorant, California gull, western gull, caspian tern, Forster's tern, common murre, a blue footed booby, 6-7 brown booby each day and a normally elusive northern gannet.

Author

Nancy Heaton is Oceanic Society's former Local Programs Coordinator based in Ross, CA, USA.