Weather conditions in Half Moon Bay on Sunday, May 15 included light cloud cover and moderate swells. Exiting the harbor, there was a large flock of Double-crested Cormorants flying close to shore with a few Brown Pelicans mixed in.
About 30 minutes into our excursion, we observed a gray whale surface and blow in the distance. Shortly after, two whale watchers reported a large splash, possibly from a breaching whale about a half-mile south of our position. We stopped to see if we could spot this exciting behavior, but after a brief wait our attention was drawn towards two whales traveling north, close to shore.
We soon discovered these two were a cow-calf pair of California gray whales and observed them for around 20 minutes. After this sighting, there were 4 additional gray whales, including another cow-calf pair near the entrance to the harbor. Upon arrival back at the dock, there were 3 California sea lions awaiting our return and they lazily posed for pictures as passengers got off the boat.
In total, we observed:
And a number of birds:
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.