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Half Moon Bay Gray Whale Watch Sightings: May 7, 2016

By Chris Biertuempfel

California sea lions waving as we start our trip. © Chris Biertuempfel

Even before Saturday’s whale watching trip left the harbor in Half Moon Bay, two California sea lions were happily splashing around near the boat and one raised a big flipper out of the water, waving as our trip began. We would experience another marine mammal ‘wave’ at the end of our excursion.

A gray whale with a distinctive white spot. © Chris Biertuempfel

Heading south from the harbor, we quickly spotted a cow-calf pair of gray whales traveling close to shore. The mother had a very distinctive white spot on her flank, making photo identification among naturalists much easier. The whales steadily moved up the coastline and in a short time we spotted another whale between our boat and the horizon and we began observing the new whale.

During the middle portion of our trip, we observed 3 more gray whales, individually moving north along their northward migratory route. We were then called away by a report of a gray whale breaching about a mile from us.

A gray whale's fluke. © Chris Biertuempfel

We located the whale, but its breaching behavior had ended and we watched it move north. Not to disappoint avid fans, a gray whale dove and raised its massive fluke as a fitting finale to this exciting trip.

Bird watchers onboard also had an eventful morning, spotting:

A Common Loon. © Chris Biertuempfel


Chris Biertuempfel manages Oceanic Society’s California-based programs, continuing the non-profit’s tradition of ocean faring expeditions that began in 1972. Also, he leads whale-centric expeditions in California and Mexico as a naturalist. His work as a photographer from such trips has been featured in several media outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle and ABC News.


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