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Farallon Islands Whale Watch Sightings: October 16 & 17, 2015

By Nancy Heaton

A humpback whale seen on October 17, 2015. © Eric Saltmarsh

The weather Saturday was calm, with only one section of fog that cleared later; our Farallon Islands whale watching trip headed straight to the Farallon Islands and found a total of 5 humpback whales, all traveling south. The group first saw 2 humpbacks with a third in the distance. The boat followed the humpbacks to the islands, seeing blows and flukes, then moved past the islands about 6 miles west of SE Farallon. There, a blue whale was on one side of the boat and a breaching humpback on the other!! The boat then moved past the islands on the windward side, before returning home. In addition to whales, passengers saw 2 blue sharks, California sea lions, northern (Steller) sea lions, harbor seals, northern fur seals and harbor porpoises. They also saw long chains of apolemia (or string jellyfish) at Fisherman's Cove and Fucellia evermanni (kelp fly).

Bird watchers were thrilled to still see a blue footed booby, along with western grebe, black-footed albatross, Buller's shearwater, sooty shearwater, brown pelican, double-crested cormorant, Brandt's cormorant, pelagic cormorant, a black oystercatcher, parasitic jaeger, California gull, western gull, Caspian tern, common murre, 2 tufted puffin, and 8 brown boobies.

A blue whale in front of the Farallon Islands on October 17. © Eric Saltmarsh

Sunday's Farallon Islands whale watching trip went from Sausalito to Duxbury Reef before heading to the Farallon Islands then finally home. The morning had rough seas, with 5 ft to 7 ft swells and wind spray all the way to the islands. But seas turned calm by the late afternoon. Total whales spotted for the day: 11 humpback whales. A feeding flock of birds joined an adult humpback whale 6 miles from Duxbury Reef. The whale was surface lunge feeding on anchovies and passengers got great looks at extended throat pleats, blows, back and the top of the mouth. On the way to the islands, the blue footed booby flew parallel with the boat so that everyone got a great look! At the islands passengers saw brown boobies, pelicans, cormorants, gulls, sea lions, fur seals, elephant seals, and a harbor seal. Passengers watched an adult male sea lion eating a salmon with birds getting scraps of fish. On the way home, the group found about 8 humpback whales blowing in the distance and watched 2 adult humpbacks deep dive feeding 10 miles from Golden Gate entrance. The skipper turned off the engine and the adult humpback whales stayed near the boat for 45 minutes. Once again, passengers had great looks at dorsal fins, backs, flukes, and blowholes. At Point Bonita, humpback whale was breaching about 3 miles in distance. Passengers said they had a truly great day!

A view of the Farallon Islands on October 17. © Eric Saltmarsh


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


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