Tag Archives: stagnaro

monterey whale watching

Lunge Feeding Whales, Sea Lions

Saturday 12/3/16 We had some great looks at a large group of lunge feeding humpback whales on Saturday. The whales were dining midday out at Pajaro Canyon, alongside hundreds of California sea lions. These are late season whales in Monterey Bay. We are soon expecting to see gray whales on their annual migration between Alaska and Baja California.

Join us on board Velocity or Legacy for an unforgettable adventure on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – one of the top wildlife viewing locations in the world!

Santa Cruz Whale Watching trips run every weekend, and DAILY starting December 20 through January 1.

Photo: Michael Nelson

Photo: Michael Nelson

Dolphins, Blues, Humpback Whales VIDEO

Here is some great video of lunge feeding. The bright pink baleen can be seen as the whale reaches the surface.

Monday, August 29
We started the trip accompanied by a pod of 100 common dolphins, bow riding and traveling along with us through Monterey Bay! Later we found about 10 humpback whales and one blue whale. Today they were diving deep for food! But we got to see flukes and close looks while they were at the surface.

Saturday & Sunday August 27/28
The last two days we’ve had awesome looks at blue whales! Blue whales are in Monterey Bay is large numbers this season, and they are friendly! They’ll swim close to the boat for great looks, and some have been seen lunge feeding!

Also we’ve had very active humpback whales – lunge feeding and showing wonderful surface behaviors. Today one humpback whale was doing a circus routine: a triple tail slap, 3 head throws, and then 3 breaches which it repeated and repeated.   Amazing!

We also had Risso’s dolphins further out in the bay.

Gray whale, Spring migration, Monterey Bay, 3/23/16. photo Michael Nelson

Albatross, Gray and Humpback Whales

Saturday, April 2: Today the fog burned off early and we set off on board Velocity to see what wildlife we could find in Monterey Bay!
We saw

Four gray whales – 2 pairs — near Santa Cruz
One Black-footed albatross (archive photo John Bruckman)
One humpback whale that was lunge feeding, showing lots of surface behavior: horizontal, vertical lunges and rolling around near to the boat.
one tiny sunfish (mola-mola), and many harbor porpoises and otters.

ALBATROSS JUNE 2015 © john c. bruckman

ALBATROSS JUNE 2015 © john c. bruckman

Orca, Monterey Bay, CA. September 2014.
Photo: Michael Nelson

Humpback whales, dolphins, orcas active in Monterey Bay

Thursday, September 4, 2014: Today on Sea Stag Six we saw a pod of 5 orcas, including mama and calf practicing their spy hops together! For quite a while we were also able to observe a group of docile humpbacks surfacing amidst a raft of sea lions. But we have to admit the orcas kind of stole the show.

September 3 – 7: Great trips all week! We’ve been running busy whale watching trips on both our boats – Velocity  and Sea Stag. Every time out we’re seeing humpback whales this side of Monterey Bay near Santa Cruz. We watched a pair of humpbacks right off the Lighthouse/ Steamer Lane.  Whales feeding on large schools of anchovies are being seen from the Harbor-mouth along West Cliff Drive all the way to Natural Bridges. As well as the near-shore sightings we see multiple animals offshore 4-6 miles out over the Soquel Hole and deep water canyons Santa Cruz side of Monterey Bay.  Humpbacks near and far can be seen breaching, tail throwing, pec-slapping – We see about 25 whales each trip!

Common dolphins have been joining us, bow-riding with the boat out in deeper waters, and we’ve been seeing bottlenose dolphins right outside the Harbor, too!

The show goes on: Whales, birds, dolphins still drawing crowds

Whales, birds, dolphins still drawing crowds
By Jason Hoppin
jhoppin@santacruzsentinel.com @scnewsdude on Twitter
Posted:   08/14/2014 04:01:16 PM PDT2 Comments

MOSS LANDING >> The music may have stopped, but the show never really ends.

Humpback whales aren’t getting the same worldwide attention as a few weeks ago, when they practically seemed to be knocking on the doors of beachfront homes. Lunchtime gawkers at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf got an eyeful, as did visitors to Moss Landing State Beach, where the whales came close enough to shore that they seemed eye-to-eye with beachgoers, including a few confused dogs and horses.

But they’re still out there, in abundance, entertaining visitors from across the globe.

“It was amazing because at one moment you don’t know where to see, there’s a lot to look at,” said Laetitia David, who lives outside Versailles, France, and is touring the western U.S. with her husband, Alain.

The couple took a tour this week with Moss Landing-based Sanctuary Cruises, one of several whale-watching boats operating out of the region that have been teeming with passengers.

The giant schools of anchovies that seem to yawn from shore out to the horizon have dissipated, a phenomenon that drew more whales but that seems to have been punctuated by the unfortunately stinky harbor die-off in Santa Cruz.

There are always more visitors to Monterey Bay, and last weekend Monterey Bay Whale Watch’s posted pictures of killer whales leaping out of the water in its Facebook page. Of course, birds, seals and dolphins can always be found in abundance.

You might even see another rarity of you’re near the water these days – surfers without wetsuits. Water temperatures at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Monterey Bay buoy are in the mid-60s this week, well above normal even for late summer.

And that buoy is 30 miles offshore. Near-shore temps are certain to be higher, all the result of calm skies that have ground to a halt the phenomenon known as upwelling, where winds churn ocean waters, bringing cooler, nutrient-rich deep sea water to the surface.

“It’s just a lack of northwest wind, which gives us upwelling along the coast,” National Weather Service forecaster Steve Anderson said. “The cold water isn’t coming to the surface, which allows the water temperature to warm up.”

The warm water has nothing to do with El Niño, Anderson stressed.

Santa Cruz Whale Watching’s Ken Stagnaro said the lack of upwelling have kept the krill counts low, which could be why there haven’t been reports of blue whales so far.

But Stagnaro said there’s still plenty to see on the water. “We had sightings of killer whales feeding on a sea lion a few days ago,” Stagnaro said.

The show must go on, after all.

SOURCE: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_26338917/show-goes-whales-birds-dolphins-still-drawing-crowds

Breaching humpback whale, Monterey Bay, CA
August, 2014 - Photo: Jolynne Jones

Whale Watching in Monterey Bay is as good as it gets right now!

August 6, 2014:
The last several trips have included many different awesome behaviors from multiple humpback whales, as dozens of animals continue summer feeding in Monterey Bay. In the last week we have seen breaching, tail throws, pectoral slapping and even surface lunge feeding from the animals. We have also had bow riding Dolphins and giant ocean sunfish (Mola Mola) come under the boat! Whale Watching from Santa Cruz in Monterey Bay is as good as it gets right now!


Humpback whales, Monterey Bay, CA., July 2014 Photo: Aaron Neff

Humpback whales, Monterey Bay, CA July2014 – Photo: Aaron Neff

Read on for highlights and photos from recent trips this amazing summer in Monterey Bay!

August 5, 2014:
Whale watching out on the Sea Stag Six private charter, they saw a mother humpback and her calf breaching in unison, along with many more active whales and a mola mola!

Mola Mola (Sunfish), Montery Bay, CA August, 2014 - Photo: Jolynne Jones

Mola Mola (Sunfish), Montery Bay, CA
August, 2014 – Photo: Jolynne Jones

July 19, 2014:
Friendly humpbacks circle the boat up close! They breached, pec slapped and threw their flukes countless times. We saw approximately 40 whales just 20 minutes out from Santa Cruz.

The ultimate selfie!  Thank you Adam Strauss

The ultimate selfie!
Thank you Adam Strauss

July 20, 2014: See for yourself! Thank you to Aaron Neff and Sean Kelley for sharing their awesome images of humpback whales, jellies, California sea lions and otters!

Humpback whales, Monterey Bay, CA July 20, 2014 - Photo: Sean Kelley

Humpback whales, Monterey Bay, CA
July 20, 2014 – Photo: Sean Kelley

California sea lion, Monterey Bay, CA July 20, 2014 - Photo: Sean Kelley

California sea lion, Monterey Bay, CA
July 20, 2014 – Photo: Sean Kelley

Humpback whales, Monterey Bay, CA July 20, 2014 - Photo: Sean Kelley

Humpback whales, Monterey Bay, CA
July 20, 2014 – Photo: Sean Kelley

Beautiful Jellly, Monterey Bay, CA July 20, 2014 - Photo: Sean Kelley

Beautiful Jellly, Monterey Bay, CA
July 20, 2014 – Photo: Sean Kelley

Sea Otters, Monterey Bay, CA July 20, 2014 - Photo: Sean Kelley

Sea Otters, Monterey Bay, CA
July 20, 2014 – Photo: Sean Kelley

July 22, 2014: Dozens of humpback whales, blows near and far in every direction! We passed several juvenile male humpbacks that were exploring up near Santa Cruz to get out to Monterey Canyon near Moss Landing to where we found numerous whales and activity: tail throws, breaching and surfacing – some near the boat! the whales were surrounded by rafts of 100s of sea lions. Along the way we discovered a pod of about 20 Dall’s porpoises, very fast animals, very sleek and with black and white coloring similar to killer whales. The porpoises zoomed alongside and under the boat!

Santa Cruz Whale Watching trips depart out of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor aboard Velocity or Sea Stag Six, offering fully narrated 3-4 hour tours of the amazing wildlife and vistas of our Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. See our complete schedule here: SCHEDULE AND TICKETS

October, 2011
Humpback whales feeding in Monterey Bay

Whale watching humpbacks in Monterey Bay

Sunday, June 22, 2014: Whale watching on Monterey Bay – Friday and Saturday both whale watching trips saw about 15 humpback whales over the submarine canyon. Its feeding time in Monterey Bay!

Humpback whales come to feed in the waters off of Santa Cruz, Moss Landing and Monterey each year from spring through fall. Join us for amazing whale watching, also dolphins, blue whales, birds, and amazing marine life.

Gray Whale, Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz. Photo: Teddy Daligga. January 15, 2012 (Stagnaro archive)

Dan Haifley, Our Ocean Backyard: Gray whale time

By Dan Haifley

Special to the Sentinel
POSTED:   01/03/2014 03:53:13 PM PST

The year 2013 saw an unusually busy humpback whale season on Monterey Bay, driven by the upwelling of nutrient-laden waters feeding plankton, krill, anchovies and other small fish which attracted them.

While there are still humpbacks in the bay, California gray whales have begun their twice-a-year glide through Central Coast waters as they first head south to where they rest, breed and give birth in warmer Mexico, then return north to their feeding grounds off Alaska.

Gray whales were first spotted migrating through Monterey Bay in December. They’re best observed from a boat run by an experienced whale watching captain and crew. Ken Stagnaro, who owns the Velocity that takes guided whale tours out of the Santa Cruz Harbor, says that while humpbacks are more animated when they visit the Monterey Bay to feed, the grays use the central coast as a thoroughfare and stay focused on their long trek. But their speed and force is constant, said Stagnaro, so finding and following them is easier. “They are very majestic to watch, especially when they breech,” he says.

Their southern destinations are balmy Baja California waters where females can mate, give birth, then nurse and nurture their young at spots including Laguna San Ignacio, Laguna Guerrero Negro, Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Magdalena Bay. Mating can also happen during their southern migration. While they can sometimes be friendly to humans in Baja California, they’re not as approachable during mating and birthing.

Their gestation period is about a year after which calves are born live, most at around 15 feet in length and weighing 1,500 pounds. They put on weight and grow as they nurse on mother’s milk, more than half of which is fat. They can ultimately grow up to 50 feet, weigh as much as 40 tons and live 80 years. Their population is believed to be as high as 22,000, up from previous years.

Around the middle of February, they head north to Alaska for their summer feeding, primarily on a small crustacean called “amphipod macrocephela” which is nourished by algae that drops from sea ice in the Bering and Chukchi seas. They’ll also eat smaller amphipods, which can look like a type of shrimp under a microscope. If they do need to eat during their migration they’ll forage in the sea floor’s mud, sand and silt.

The best period for viewing the northward migration is February through May. This portion of their journey is more social and leisurely than the southbound trip. Mothers and calves can be spotted in April and May, and sometimes they travel close enough to shore that they can be seen from high points along the coast.

Their coastal highway gets busy as the southern and northern migrations coincide during February, although the southbound whales travel further offshore than the northbound ones do. They travel from 38 degree waters to those that are a balmier 70 degrees. When they leave Alaska they can have up to 8 inches of blubber to sustain them on journey and when they return they have just 2 to 3 inches left. Mothers need more, said Stagnaro, to nurse their young on the trip north.

You can see them as they perform their annual ritual — now as they head south, and later if you want to see them head north.

Dan Haifley is executive director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey. He can be reached at dhaifley@oneillseaodyssey.org.

Year of the Whale: 2013 brought a marine show unlike any other

By Jason Hoppin
Santa Cruz Sentinel
POSTED:   12/28/2013

MOSS LANDING.– Just when you think nature couldn’t impress you more, something like 2013 happens.

This was year the Monterey Bay turned the dial up to 11, producing a months-long carnival of lunging humpback whales, bird clouds, dolphin wizardry, frenzied sea lions, playful killer whales and even visits from marine royalty — blue whales.

“Best year I’ve ever seen and best year anybody’s seen that I’ve talked to,” said Giancarlo Thomae, a 25-year-old UC Santa Cruz graduate whose near-daily forays onto the bay, by boat or kayak, helped document Mother Nature’s best production in a long time.

The wildlife display on Monterey Bay was selected by Sentinel staff as a top newsmaker in 2013.

The true stars were hundreds of humpback whales that lingered for months in the northeast part of the bay, with some here even still. People crammed tour boats, hopped on paddleboards and leaned out over wharf railings for a glimpse, and were almost universally rewarded with one.

The spectacle was due to the presence of huge numbers of anchovies, epic schools that boat captains said would go on for miles. Their numbers were such that a school even rushed in to the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, leading to an October die-off that fouled the air for weeks.

Why the anchovies? People cited a healthier ocean, a lack of sardines or predators such as salmon and a cool-water cycle coupled with normal upwelling of nutrients from the underwater Monterey Canyon.

“The canyon is just basically a big giant doorway to the open ocean, and it’s right here on our doorstep. That’s what makes it so special,” said Ken Stagnaro of Santa Cruz Whale Watching. “We’re pretty lucky to be here. You get these animals up and down the coast, but not really condensed like this.”

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, first-hand looks at marine life began to rival the interpretive exhibits, the open sea becoming an attraction alongside jellyfish and kelp forests. Guests flocked to an outdoor pavilion for a look at birds, sea otters and especially abundant whales.

“We have a new interpretive station at the Aquarium. We call it ‘Today on the Bay.’ A lot of us said one of the best exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the Monterey Bay itself,” said Jim Covel, director of guest experience training and interpretation. “We’ve got a front-row seat here.”

Photographers such as Thomae and Bonny Doon’s Jodi Frediani procured amazing shots of the activity. Through the Internet and social media, word spread and the photos became apertures into life on the water, a rabbit hole through which the whole world seemed to want to jump.

“Let’s put it this way: before all this happened, there were times when we barely had enough people to go out. It really blew up,” said Thomae, who worked for Sanctuary Cruises Whale Watching this summer. “We had people calling us from Hong Kong, Sydney, all over the world, saying, ‘Oh the whales are thick? I want to go.'”

One Thomae photo showing a local kayak guide, Karen Hatch, framed by the body of a whale went viral. It was featured everywhere from CBS’ “This Morning” to the German news magazine Der Speigel.

Despite widespread TV coverage, tour captains say the biggest impact came when the most traditional of all media, The New York Times, weighed in. The newspaper produced a popular multimedia story on Monterey Bay.

“You know what? Hands down, nothing got the response like when the New York Times article came out,” Stagnaro said. “The phones just went crazy.”

Once near extinction, humpbacks are a species on the rebound. That is one reason Stagnaro thinks they’re here to stay year-round, as long as there’s enough food.

“I don’t expect it to change anytime soon,” he said.

Even around Christmas, the show continued. Normal patterns of migratory grey whales are coming through, but several humpbacks remain in the bay, along with a handful of killer whales.

“Weather permitting, you could see whales for pretty much 365 days in the Monterey Bay during the year,” Thomae said.