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Farallon Islands Whale Watch Sightings: June 25, 2016

By Chris Biertuempfel

Our June 25 Farallon Islands whale watching expedition got off to a promising start when we encountered a group of bottlenose dolphins just outside of San Francisco Bay. During this sighting, we witnessed 12-15 dolphins traveling northwest toward Pt. Reyes. They periodically leapt up and out of the water and splashed through the sea at remarkable speeds.

One of 12-15 dolphins seen on June 25, 2016. © Chris Biertuempfel

>> Click here to see all the photos from this trip.

After the excitement of the dolphins, we made our way out to the Farallon Islands through buffeting winds and unpredictable seas. Our passengers proved to be true, tough explorers and stoically weathered the elements on this open-ocean safari. Their grit was rewarded once we reached our destination as a keen-eyed passenger spotted a Tufted Puffin basking in the sun along with a nearby cormorant

A Tufted Puffin (right) and cormorant (left) at the Farallon Islands. © Chris Biertuempfel
After observing thousands of seabirds and a host of barking sea lions on the islands, we went off in search of whales. It didn’t take long. About a mile from the southeast Farallon Islands we encountered a group of 4 humpbacks feeding together. This group was the first of 54 humpback whales we would encounter, and today they put on an amazing show.

We witnessed a wide range of humpback whale behaviors, including:


A breaching humpback whale on June 25. © Chris Biertuempfel


A pec-slapping humpback whale. © Chris Biertuempfel


A lobtailing humpback whale. © Chris Biertuempfel

And Spyhopping:

A spyhopping humpback whale. © Chris Biertuempfel

It total we saw:

  • 54 humpback whales
  • 1 gray whale
  • 2 thresher sharks
  • 100+ California sea lions
  • 100+ stellar sea lions
  • 20+ harbor seals
  • 12-15 bottlenose dolphins
  • Tufted Puffin
  • Western grebe
  • Brown pelican
  • Double-crested cormorant
  • Pelagic cormorant
  • Brandt’s cormorant
  • Surf scoter
  • Black oystercatcher
  • Common murre
  • And Pigeon guillemot

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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