Mar 15 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

This weekend was spectacular for marine mammal observation. Saturday morning’s conditions were perfect for sighting whales: clear skies, small swell and light winds. A total of nine gray whales and two humpbacks were reported. Twenty minutes after leaving Pillar Point Harbor the group encountered a humpback whale traveling north within a mile of land. The boat followed the whale for about 30 minutes during which time the whale dove numerous times lifting its flukes out of the water and allowing the group to get ID photos. A second humpback whale was seen, but the group was unable to re-sight it.

One of more than 30 gray whales seen on March 14 and 15. © Izzy Szczepaniak

While following the humpback whale, a number of blows were seen in the distance. There were 2 groups of gray whales about 200 yards apart. Both groups were very active. Flippers and flukes were visible as the whales were rolling at the surface of the water. The boat headed toward one group and passengers could see that the whales were very close to one another and even touching each other as they rolled at the surface. Several times one of the whales swam on top of another whale pushing the other’s head under the water. While passengers watched the first whale group, the second group was engaging in the same type of behavior. The second group closed the distance between the groups and soon six animals were engaging in “rowdy” behavior that we associate with mating. On many occasions we saw whales turn on their sides with their small pectoral flippers raised. Several times, while rolling on their sides, one of the whales lifted its head above the surface water so that we could see its mouth and two throat grooves. The captain turned off the engines and sat still in the water while this “mating-like” behavior continued. A group of three whales came close to the boat and we saw a whale penis come out of the water confirming that this was mating behavior.

This “rowdy” activity continued for over an hour and then suddenly all activity stopped and the whales were gone.

Sunday morning’s group headed 5 miles west of the harbor and saw 15 gray whales rolling around and over each other right next to the boat, showing tails, flippers and backs. They followed the whales 7 miles north. Whales were spouting everywhere! And passengers saw one small spy hop and a horizontal breach by whales.

The Sunday afternoon group headed southwest for eight miles, then southeast five miles, then northwest three miles before heading back to the harbor. Passengers saw 10 whales, four were just 25 yards from the boat. Equally entertaining were lots of harbor porpoises and hundreds, if not thousands, of long-beaked common dolphins (with babies) actively feeding. The boat moved with the dolphin group for roughly an hour.

Bird species sighted over the weekend included pacific loon, common loon, eared grebe, brown pelican, double crested cormorant, Brandt’s cormorant, pelagic cormorant, surf scoter, buffelhead ducks, black oystercatcher, western gull, common murre, and pigeon guillemot.

Long-beaked common dolphins riding our bow wave. © Nan Sincero

Mar 8 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Saturday morning’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip headed out on a clear, calm, sunny day. Just offshore, passengers sighted a gray whale and watched for about 15 minutes. All saw blow, but hardly any of the whale was visible. Saturday afternoon’s group saw 4 gray whales; two surfaced repeatedly with good views of them sounding, swimming, and blowing. Both groups also saw California sea lions: two in the morning and four in the afternoon. Morning bird watchers saw common loons, 2 black vented shearwaters, 25 double breasted cormorants, 4 pelagic cormorants, 15 surf scoters, 3 Heermann’s gulls, 2 glaucous-winged gulls and 10 rhinoceros auklets. The afternoon group saw 2 red throated loons, a pacific loon and a common loon, 2 eared loons, 4 western grebes, 2 black-vented shearwaters, 25 brown pelicans, 25 double breasted cormorants, 30 Brandt’s cormorants, 5 pelagic cormorants, 12 surf scoters, 4 Herrmann’s gulls, 20 Western gulls, 4 glaucous winged gulls and 5 rhinoceros auklets.

Participants on Sunday morning’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip headed out on another beautiful day with surface chop, a swell of 1-3 feet, and winds at 10 knots. The group traveled 5 miles past the Pedro Point buoy, then south to Martin’s beach and east a mile offshore before heading north back to the harbor. Two gray whales were seen and followed, one breached 7 times! Species of birds reported included a common loon, eared grebe and western grebe, brown pelicans, double breasted cormorant, surf scoter, Western gull and common murre.


Mar 1 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Participants on Saturday’s morning Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip headed northwest on a day with early showers that cleared and produced lots of rainbows. One gray whale was spotted, probably heading north, but we lost it after a few blows. This continued with a second and third whale. We saw a few blows, but were unable to determine direction. When least expected, we found another whale about three miles from the harbor and were able to follow it for 35-40 minutes, seeing several breathing cycles and getting to see its head and back. 

As is the nature of wildlife viewing, Saturday afternoon and Sunday’s trips were unable to find any whales. But Saturday we saw many California sea lions on the buoy and one large male hanging out at the dock. Saturday afternoon’s passengers had a spectacular day with great visibility and views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sunday’s passengers saw 3 harbor porpoises, a harbor seal and a raft of roughly 700 feeding birds.

Species of seabirds sighted on both trips included: 15 pelagic cormorants, 40 Brandt’s cormorants, 4 California gulls, 500 western gulls, 4 western grebes, 700 common murres, 20 surf scoters, 2 bufflehead ducks, 200 brown pelicans, 6 white wing scoters, 1 black oyster catcher. 


Feb 22 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Saturday morning’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip participants initially encountered fog with poor visibility, but the captain found a section with overcast visibility leading to sunny skies, as the naturalist and passengers were able to study the geography of the coastline along Pedro Point, Bird Rock, and Devil’s Slide. Whale blows were sighted on three occasions, all within three miles of the harbor before spotting a southbound gray whale near the channel marker buoy. Bird watchers saw common loons, eared grebe, western grebe, surf scoter, more than 65 pelagic cormorants and 200+ gulls.

Participants on Sunday morning’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip had sunny skies with swells of 4-6 feet. Passengers saw the first northbound gray whale migrants of the season. They sighted 6 blows early on, then later several blows and three whales, one showing flukes. Four California sea lions were also spotted lounging on the buoys. Two large bait balls (schools of tightly packed small fish clustered together in a spherical formation for protection) near the shore attracted hundreds of gulls and pelicans, and the pelicans were diving for fish. Other seabird sightings included common loons, western grebes, over 65 pelagic cormorants, 3 surf scooters, over 300 gulls and 200+ common murres.


Feb 15 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Saturday morning’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip participants headed out on clear, calm, sunny day. Within the first 30 minutes, a young gray whale, approximately 35 feet, swam about 150 feet from the boat and took 2-3 breath cycles before breaching. The group also saw a 14-16 foot ocean sunfish (also known as mola mola), and 8 dolphins. Bird watchers saw common loons, western grebe, shearwater species, over 100 brown pelicans and over 25 pelagic cormorants.

Participants on Sunday morning’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip headed north to Pedro Point, then out three miles and south to the harbor. The weather was sunny and beautiful all day with a swell of 2-4 feet,and winds at 5-10 knots. Passengers saw both a gray whale and three humpback whales as well as a California sea lion, a Stellar sea lion, a harbor seal, a long-beaked common dolphin and a harbor porpoise.

Sunday afternoon’s trip headed out to the Pedro Point buoy, then followed a gray whale south for 30 minutes and moved out to see the three humpback whales before heading back to the harbor. Species of birds reported on both morning and afternoon trips included eared grebe, sooty shearwater, brown pelican, double-crested cormorant, surf scoter, Western gull and common murre.


Feb 1 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Participants on Saturday’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip headed west on a sunny, calm day. The exhalation of one whale was seen three times, but no other whales were spotted. Passengers did get looks at over 20 harbor porpoises.

Sunday’s trip headed north to Montara and spotted 7 gray whales. Passengers got good looks at the whale’s backs, blows, and flukes. This encounter lasted for the entire trip as the boat followed this group south to the Ritz Carlton.

A gray whale seen on February 1. © Nan Sincero

Other marine mammals sighted over the weekend included harbor porpoises, California sea lions, and harbor seals.

Species of seabirds sighted on both trips included: Pacific loons, Common loons, Eared grebes, Pink-footed shearwaters, Brown pelicans, Double-crested cormorants, Brandt’s cormorants, Surf scoters, White-winged scoters, Black oystercatchers, Western gulls, and Common murres.

Common murres in flight. © Nan Sincero

A gray whale fluke. © Nan Sincero


 

Jan 18 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Participants on Saturday’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip in the morning headed west 15 miles in moderate seas. Three gray whales were spotted during this trip. Two sightings were only fleeting blows, and the third whale was spotted heading south. The boat paralleled this whale for 15 minutes. Passengers were able to see the whales’ fluke prints in the water and track its progress.A gray whale seen on January 17, 2015. © Pete Winch

Brown pelican seen January 17, 2015. © Pete Winch

The afternoon trip on Saturday also spotted three gray whales. The first was seen heading south and came within 60 feet of the boat, giving passengers got good looks at its back and flukes. This whale also swam on its side occasionally, sticking its pectoral fin out of the water. The second whale was spotted as it was travelling south. It was a smaller animal that came within 50 feet of the boat, also showing its back and flukes. This encounter lasted 10 minutes. The third whale was encountered 15 minutes from the harbor and passengers also got good looks at its back and flukes.

As is the nature of wildlife viewing, Sunday’s trip was unable to find any whales. Other marine mammals sighted over the weekend included harbor porpoises, California sea lions, and harbor seals.

Species of seabirds sighted on both trips included: Pacific loons, Common loons, Eared grebes, Western grebes, Black-vented shearwaters, Brown pelicans, Double-crested cormorants, Brandt’s cormorants, Surf scoters, California gulls, Western gulls, and Common murres. 


 

Jan 11 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Gray whale fluke on Jan 11, 2015. © Sky Webb RoadParticipants on Saturday’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip headed west under sunny skies and calm seas. Approximately five miles west of Half Moon Bay an adult gray whale was spotted traveling south. Passengers were able to observe this whale breaching and the encounter lasted for 45 minutes. A second adult gray whale was observed approximately 9 miles west of Half Moon Bay. Passengers got good looks at its back, blows and flukes.

Participants on Sunday’s trip also enjoyed sunny skies and flat seas. Approximately 6 miles west of Half Moon Bay an adult gray whale was spotted. This whale was possibly female due to its wide girth. The whale came within 100 feet of the boat and passengers were able to see its blows and listen to it exhale. This encounter lasted for an hour and a half.

Other marine mammals sighted over the weekend included harbor porpoises, California sea lions, and harbor seals.

Species of seabirds sighted on both trips included: Pacific loons, Common loons, Eared grebes, Western grebes, Northern fulmars, Pink-footed shearwaters, Sooty shearwaters, Brown pelicans, Double-crested cormorants, Brandt’s cormorants, Surf scoters, Black oystercatchers, Herring gulls, Western gulls, and Common murres.


Jan 4 2015 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Participants on Saturday’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip headed southwest under sunny skies, light winds, and small swells. Approximately seven miles west of Half Moon Bay, the boat spotted a pair of gray whales and another individual whale. The boat followed this group and another two gray whales for about 40 minutes. During this time, passengers sighted another 8-10 whales all around the boat for the remainder of the trip. 

Participants on Sunday’s trip also enjoyed sunny skies and flat seas. Passengers were able to spot four gray whales throughout the trip. The first pair was somewhat far off, but passengers were able to get good looks at a second pair. 

Other marine mammals sighted over the weekend included harbor porpoises, California sea lions, and harbor seals.

Species of seabirds sighted on both trips included: Eared grebes, Western grebes, Black-vented shearwaters, Brown pelicans, Double-crested cormorants, Pelagic cormorants, Surf scoters, Heerman’s gulls, California gulls, Western gulls, and Common murres.


 

Dec 28 2014 (All day)
Half Moon Bay

Our 2014-2015 Half Moon Bay gray whale watching season is off to an exciting start!

Participants on Saturday’s Half Moon Bay gray whale watching trip, the first of the season, headed southwest under beautiful, sunny skies and encountered four gray whales traveling together. The encounter lasted for about an hour. Participants also viewed three harbor porpoises as they returned to Pillar Point.

Participants on Sunday’s trip also enjoyed sunny skies and flat seas. They were able to view two gray whales and 11 harbor porpoises.

Other marine mammals sighted over the weekend included California sea lions and harbor seals.

Species of seabirds sighted on both trips included: Pacific loons, common loons, eared grebes, western grebes, black-vented shearwaters, brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, pelagic cormorants, surf scoters, Heerman’s gulls, California gulls, herring gulls, western gulls, and common murres.