Whale Watching at Monterey Bay, 2015

This August we saw humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, and marine birds while whale watching from Moss Landing on Monterey Bay, as we did last last year. Humpback whales returned this summer, as they’ve done the past three years. These humpback whales summer off Washington, Oregon, and California and winter in Mexico and Central America to calve and mate. The sea was calm, but the sky was overcast.

Humpback whales dive, breach, and flap their pectorals above the water, so they put on a great show for folks who come out to watch them. A humpback whale dives with a stand-up paddler in the distance. People also watch humpbacks from boats and kayaks. Humpback whales raise their tail to dive, and they surface to breathe between dives. They exhale from their blowholes, creating a plume of water vapor. The pair of whales near the kayakers were cruising on the surface and breathing.

Humpbacks feed in the summer, feasting on krill and small fish. They dive to fish, usually singly

and sometimes in pairs.

The humpback below is raising its long pectoral fin and slapping the water, watched by three kayakers. The pectoral fin is much taller than the kayakers, and the whale is farther away, which makes the fin smaller in relation to the kayakers. The white plume to the right of the fin is a whale plume. When I first saw this, I thought it was a splash from a diving bird, but review of a series of photos shows that this is a plume from a whale that hasn’t surfaced yet.

pectoral slap, kayaks, and spout
pectoral slap, kayaks, and spout

There were many bottlenose dolphins, riding the bow wave of our boat and jumping.

We saw many birds and a few sea otters. The bird has an interesting beak, but I can’t identify it. Do you know what kind of bird it is? As we returned to port, the sun came out, so the sea otter is swimming in blue water.

During our cruise this year, the whales weren’t as active that day as last year’s outing, and the most of the photos appear monochrome since the ocean took on the gray of the cloudy sky. We saw a few instances of whales lunge feeding, but they were far away. We’ll probably come back next year if the whales return.

In September, a breaching whale landed very close to a kayak at Moss Landing and upended the kayak. The BBC interviewed the couple in the kayak, who thought they were going to die.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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