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Farallon Islands Whale Watch Sightings: August 29 & 30, 2015

By Nancy Heaton

A brown booby and blue-footed booby at the islands. © Peggy Bechtell

Saturday's Farallon Islands whale watching trip had good whale and dolphin sightings. The group headed out in very calm weather that started out partially overcast but cleared later. Winds were 0-6 knots, with seas of 2-4 feet. The group encountered 12-14 humpback whales only 5-6 miles off Muir Beach. Passengers had excellent views of the whales. Because the water was shallow, there were no dramatic behaviors, but whales were showing their flukes during their dives. There were also great sightings of four ocean sunfish, 250 California sea lions, 5 Steller sea lions, 10 northern elephant seals, 20 harbor seals, 2 northern fur seals, 25 common dolphins, 8-10 harbor porpoises and thousands of Fucellia evermanni (kelp flies).

Sunday's boat turned and looked at Pier 39, then went around Alcatraz before heading out the gate. They continued on to Pt. Diablo to look at harbor seals and then went around Pt. Bonita. The boat saw a total of 6 humpback whales and possibly one minke whale. On the way out to the Farallons, passengers viewed two humpback whales with others in the distance breaching and tail slapping, and the boat stayed in the area about an hour to observe. They headed out to the Farallons and saw another whale which was reported as a Minke, but the animal was too far away for our naturalist to confirm the species. On the way back, the boat returned to the place of the earlier sighting, finding one humpback whale giving a great show.

Bird watchers on Saturday's trip saw 2 black footed albatross, 11 brown footed boobies, 1 blue-footed booby, 10,000 sooty shearwater, 30-35 brown pelicans, 20 double breasted cormorant, 300 Brandt's cormorant, 4 pelagic cormorants, 4 black oystercatchers, 30 red-necked phalaropes, 5 red phalarope, 1 parasitic jaeger, 60-80 western gulls, 1 glaucous-winged gull, 1 Caspian tern, 500 elegant tern, 75-80 common murre, 6-8 pigeon guillemot, 1 rhinoceros auklet and 75-80 tufted puffin. Sunday's group saw western grebe, pink-footed shearwater, Buller's shearwater, sooty shearwater, brown pelican, double-breasted cormorant, Brandt's cormorant, pelagic cormorant, black oystercatcher, phalarope species, California gull, western gull, common murre, pidgeon guillemot, Cassin's auklet, and tufted puffin.

Author

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