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Farallon Islands Whale Watch Sightings: October 2014

By Brian Hutchinson

Following are the naturalists' sightings reports from our Farallon Islands whale watching programs during October 2014.


Date: Sunday, October 19, 2014
Naturalist: Izzy Szczepaniak
Highlights: Sightings of more than 14 humpback whales, 25 harbor porpoises, and a rare green sea turtle

Participants on Sunday's Farallon Islands Nature Cruise started the day in heavy fog which gave way to perfect sunny skies for the rest of the day. During the trip, passengers got good looks at 14 humpback whales slapping their flippers and breaching. Passengers also saw 25 harbor porpoises and were treated to a rare sighting of a green sea turtle.

Other marine mammals spotted on the trip included harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern fur seals. Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included: Western Grebes, Northern Fulmars, Buller's Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Brandt's Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Phalarope sp., Heerman's Gulls, Western Gulls, Elegant Terns, and Common Murres.


Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014
Naturalist: Roger Harris
Highlights: Sightings of more than 12 humpback whales

Participants on Saturday's Farallon Islands Nature Cruise began the day with a two hour cruise of the bay. Passengers enjoyed learning about the harbor seals and California sea lions that are prevalent in the bay. At around 10:00 am, the boat headed out the Golden Gate and up the Bonita channel. The weather was warm and sunny, with almost no wind and gentle 4-5 foot swells. Approximately 10 miles off shore passengers spotted two pairs of humpback whales. They got good looks at their backs, blows, and flukes. The blows of another 8 humpback whales were spotted in the distance. Passengers also spotted 5 harbor porpoises on this trip.

Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included: Eared Grebes, Western Grebes, Pink footed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Brandt's Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Jaegers, Heerman's Gulls, Western Gulls, Elegant Terns, and Common Murres.


Date: Sunday, October 12, 2014
Naturalist: Gail Broesder
Highlights: Sightings of more than 26 harbor porpoises, many seabirds, and the Blue Angels air show

Participants on Sunday's Farallon Islands Nature Cruise headed north up the coast and then west to the Farallon Islands. During the trip, passengers spotted more than 26 harbor porpoises. At the islands, passengers enjoyed the abundance of migratory bird life.

After returning to the bay a little early due to large swells, passengers were treated to the Blue Angels air show. Other marine mammals spotted on the trip included harbor seals, California sea lions, and Northern fur seals.

Species of seabirds sighted on this trip included: Western Grebes, Northern Fulmars, Buller's Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Brandt's Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Phalarope sp., Heerman's Gulls, Western Gulls, Elegant Terns, and Common Murres.


Date: Sunday, October 5, 2014
Naturalist: Roger Harris
Highlights: Sightings of four humpback whales

Participants on Sunday's Farallon Islands Nature Cruise headed west to Southeast Farallon Island in choppy seas and fog. At the islands, passengers enjoyed birds feeding and common murre chicks and their dads calling to each other. After visiting the continental shelf, the boat headed back on a southerly route towards the Golden Gate. Approximately 7 miles southeast of the Golden Gate Bridge, 4 humpback whales were encountered. The whales showed their blows, backs, and occasional flukes. This encounter lasted for 45 minutes.

Other marine mammals spotted included harbor porpoises, harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern fur seals.

Species of seabirds sighted on this trip included: Horned grebes, Pink-footed shearwaters, Sooty shearwaters, Brown pelicans, Brandt's cormorants, Pelagic cormorants, Heerman's gulls, Western gulls, Elegant terns, and Common murres.


Date: Saturday, October 4, 2014
Naturalist: Susan Sherman
Highlights: Sightings of four humpback whales, including a calf-cow pair, more than 100 sea lions, an extremely large Mola mola, and a juvenile blue footed booby.

Porpoising California sea lions. © Matthew Keller

Participants on Saturday's Farallon Islands Nature Cruise enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day with flat seas. At the islands, participants observed feeding flocks of birds and listened to common murre chicks and their dads calling to each other. Also at the islands, participants were treated to a rare sighting of a juvenile blue footed booby. Upon leaving the islands, more than 100 California sea lions were encountered heading northwest and were seen porpoising as a group. As the boat returned to the Golden Gate, 4 humpback whales were viewed diving and feeding off of the Cliff House. This sighting included a calf-cow pair that has been feeding in the general area of Seal Rock for the past two months.

Other marine mammals spotted throughout the trip included over 30 harbor porpoises and harbor seals. A very large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) was also spotted during the trip.

Species of seabirds sighted on this trip included: Pacific loons, Western grebes, Pink footed shearwaters, Sooty shearwaters, Brown pelicans, Double-crested cormorants, Brandt's cormorants, Black oystercatchers, Red phalaropes, Phalarope sp., Parasitic jaegers, Heerman's gulls, California gulls, Western gulls, Elegant terns, and Common murres.

Author

Brian Hutchinson is Oceanic Society's director of outreach, co-founder of the State of the World's Sea Turtles Program, and program officer of the IUCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Brian holds a B.A. in zoology from Connecticut College, and has been working to advance global marine conservation for more than a decade.