Aug 10 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Izzy Szczepaniak
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include ten humpback whales that came within 100 feet of the boat.

Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise north along the Marin coast to Bolinas before turning west to North Farallon Island and then east to SEFI . The skies were overcast, with a high fog and 10 knot wind causing the sea to roll with swells of 2 to 4 feet.

On the way out, passengers viewed several harbor seals at Point Diablo and were excited to see all three color coats represented, white, black/white, and red! Ten humpback whales, including a mom-calf pair, approached within 100 feet of the boat, delighting passengers and offering a great show. One humpback was spotted just 4 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Other sightings included 8 ocean sunfish (aka Mola molas), a thresher shark, sea nettles, kelp flies, moon jellies and by-the-wind sailors. Other marine mammals spotted included harbor porpoises, starting in the Bay and continuing throughout the trip, California sea lions, steller sea lions, harbor seals and northern fur seals.  

Species of seabirds sighted on this trip included: 2 Black-footed Albatrosses, Pink-footed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Phalarope sp., Western Gulls, Elegant Terns, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin’s Auklets, Tufted Puffins and the Northern Gannet; all were seen flying or rafting by the boat.


Aug 3 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Eric Lichtwardt
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 5 Black-footed Albatrosses, 5 Mola molas, and a Northern Gannet

Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed North along the Marin coast in choppy waters before heading Southwest to the Farallon Islands. During the trip, passengers spotted 5 Mola molas, or ocean sunfish, including one that was approximately six feet long. Five Black-footed Albatrosses were seen flying over the boat and 4-5 Tufted Puffins were seen on the water. Passengers also spotted the blows of humpback whales in the distance.

Other marine mammals sighted include harbor porpoises, California sea lions, steller sea lions, northern fur seals, and harbor seals.

Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included five Black-footed Albatrosses, Pink-footed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Heerman’s Gulls, Western Gulls, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin’s Auklets, Tufted Puffins, and a Northern Gannet.


Aug 2 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Roger Harris
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 2 humpback whales, one thresher shark, and at least 20 Mola molas

Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed North along the Marin coast in choppy waters before heading Southwest to the Farallon Islands. On the way out, passengers viewed a thresher shark breaching twice. Later the boat stopped to look at a Mola mola, or ocean sunfish. During the course of the day, at least 20 Mola molas were spotted, some approximately four feet across.A Mola mola seen on August 2, 2014. Photo courtesy of Linda Boone.

About five miles inside the islands a humpback whale was spotted and passengers were able to view it for about 20 minutes. A second humpback was spotted approximately two miles past the islands. The whale came within a body length of the boat and passengers were able to excellent close views of the animal.One of two humpback whales seen on Aug 2. Photo courtesy of Linda Boone.

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

Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included a Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmars, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double Crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Black Scoters, Surf Scoters, Black Oystercatchers, Heerman’s Gulls, Western Gulls, Caspian Terns, Elegant Terns, thousands of Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin's Auklets, and 14 Tufted Puffins seen rafting on the water and flying by the boat.


Jul 27 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: David Wimpfheimer
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 3 blue whales, approximately 25 Pacific white-sided dolphins, two Mola molas, and 12-14 Black-footed Albatrosses

Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed straight west to the islands in light winds and moderate swell. During the trip, participants viewed three blue whales. Two were seen quite close to the boat and passengers were able to observe their flukes coming out of the water. The whales were seen surfacing four times, once less than 100 yards from the boat.

Approximately 25 Pacific white-sided dolphins were also seen near the whales. In addition, two Mola molas, also called Ocean Sunfish, were spotted during the trip.

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

Species of sea birds seen on this trip included: Good views of 10-12 Black-footed Albatrosses, Northern Fulmars, Pink-footed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double Crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, 1 Red-necked Phalarope, 1 Parasitic Jaeger, thousands of Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, 3 Rhinoceros Auklets, and 5 Tufted Puffins.


Jul 20 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Izzy Szczepaniak
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 31 harbor porpoises, 10 humpback whales, and huge pod of 800–1,000 Pacific white-sided dolphins.

Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed straight West towards Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI) in calm seas. Along the way, several harbor porpoises were seen close to the boat, including a calf-cow pair. There were also many sighting of adult Common Murres with their chicks on the water. After observing the thousands of birds at the islands, the boat headed to the Continental Shelf where they saw a total of 10 humpback whales, including a group of 3 whales that appeared to be feeding cooperatively.The fluke of a humpback whale. © Matthew Keller

Other marine mammals sighted included 8 Dall’s porpoises riding the bow waves, a huge pod of hundreds of Pacific white sided dolphins, California sea lions, Steller sea lions, elephant seals, northern fur seals, and harbor seals.Many California sea lions were seen on the trip. © Matthew Keller

Species of seabirds sighted on this trip included: 5 Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double Crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Red-necked Phalarope, other Phalarope species, Heerman’s Gulls, Western Gulls, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin’s Auklets, and Tufted Puffins.A Black-footed Albatross. © Matthew Keller


Jul 19 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Nicole Larson
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 7 humpback whales, a pod of 6 Pacific white-sided dolphins, more than 25 Tufted Puffins, and a rare Northern Gannett.

Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed straight west to the islands on an unusually calm day with virtually no swell. During the trip, participants stayed with two humpback whales that were seen traveling for approximately 20 minutes. Another two juvenile humpbacks were spotted and seen breaching. This encounter lasted approximately 20 minutes.A humpback cow and calf. © Matthew Keller

Other marine mammals spotted throughout the trip included a pod of 6 Pacific white-sided dolphins riding the bow waves of the boat, at least 25 harbor porpoises, hundreds of California sea lions leaping in the water, Steller sea lions, northern elephant seals, harbor seals, and northern fur seals.

Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included: 10 Black-footed Albatross, a Northern Fulmar, 15 Pink-footed Shearwaters, 50-100 Sooty Shearwaters, Double Crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, hundreds of Western Gulls, thousands of Common Murres including many feeding on the water, 40 Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin’s Auklets, Rhinoceros Auklets, 25 Tufted Puffins in the water around the islands and at the Continental Shelf, and a rare sighting of a Northern Gannett.One of more than 25 Tufted Puffins seen on the trip. © Matthew KellerA Northern Gannett seen on July 19, 2014. © Matthew Keller


Jul 12 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Roger Harris
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 12 humpback whales including a calf-cow pair, 5 Mola molas, and 6 black-footed albatross

Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed straight West to the islands in calm seas and high clouds. Approximately 4 miles East of the islands, a pair of humpback whales was spotted and the group stayed with them for approximately 20 minutes. After leaving this pair another pair of humpbacks was spotted approximately 3 miles West of the islands and the group was able to stay with them for approximately 15 minutes. After leaving the islands and heading south along the Continental Shelf, participants briefly watched two more humpbacks and saw more blows in the distance. As the boat left the Continental Shelf, passengers were treated to a view of a female humpback with her calf. Also at the Continental Shelf, participants got good views of 6 black-footed albatross and a few people were able to see 5 Mola molas, also known as Ocean sunfish.

A Mola mola, also known as an ocean sunfish. Five were seen on our July 12 cruise. © NOAA

Other marine mammals spotted throughout the trip included 6 harbor porpoises, 5 Pacific white-sided dolphins, numerous California sea lions leaping in the water, Steller sea lions, northern elephant seals, harbor seals, and northern fur seals.

Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included: 6 western grebes, 6 black-footed albatross, 10 northern fulmars, 20 pink-footed shearwaters, 100 sooty shearwaters, 6 brown pelicans, 20 double crested cormorants, 300 Brandt’s cormorants, 6 pelagic cormorants, 8 Phalarope sp., 6 Heerman’s gulls, 6 California gulls, 300 western gulls, 8 caspian terns, 10 elegant terns, 5,000 common murres including many feeding on the water, 30 pigeon guillemots, 8 Cassin’s auklets, 8 rhinoceros auklets, and 8 tufted puffins.


Jul 6 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Izzy Szczepaniak
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 2 blue whales, 12 humpback whales, and 7 bottlenose dolphins.

Participants on Sunday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed straight west towards Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI) in moderate seas. Several harbor porpoises were spotted on the way to the islands. At the islands a blue whale and her calf were spotted. The pair was observed swimming slowly and making frequent stops. It appeared as if the female was nursing the calf throughout the 30 minute encounter.A blue whale mother and calf seen near the Farallon Islands on July 6, 2014. © Matthew Keller

As the boat left the islands and headed south, 12 humpback whales were spotted feeding five miles south of the islands. The humpbacks were all around the boat and were observed breaking the surface of the water with their mouths open after a feeding run. Other whales were seen skimming along the surface of the water feeding and several were observed lobtailing.One of 12 humpback whales seen near the Farallon Islands on July 6, 2014. © Matthew Keller

At SEFI, harbor seals, California sea lions, and Steller sea lions were seen hauled out on the rocks and California sea lions were also observed in the water throughout the trip.

Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included: Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmars, Buller’s Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Double Crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Heerman’s Gulls, Western Gulls, Caspian Terns, Common Murres feeding their young, Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin’s Auklets, Rhinoceros Auklets, Tufted Puffins, one Peregrine Falcon, and a rare Northern Gannett.


Jun 7 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Susan Sherman
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of 12 blue whales and 3 humpbacks.

Another exciting weekend for whale watchers! Participants on Saturday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed straight west towards Southeast Farallon Island. The weather was slightly overcast with mostly calm seas interspersed with the occasional 5 foot swell. Approximately 6 miles east of the islands passengers encountered 12 blue whales and 3 humpback whales. The humpbacks were seen feeding and coming up with their mouths open, then showing their flukes as they dived down for more krill. Participants also got good looks at the blue whales' side flippers and backs as they were feeding. The whales stayed with the boat for an hour.

Other marine mammals sighted included over 15 harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and California sea lions.

Species of sea birds sighted on this trip included: Pink-Footed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Double-crested Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Red Phalaropes, California Gulls, Western Gulls, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin’s Auklets, and Tufted Puffins.


Jun 1 2014 (All day)
Farallon Islands

Naturalist: Alicia Retes
Boat: Salty Lady
Highlights include sightings of more than 25 humpback whales.

Participants on Sunday’s Farallon Islands nature cruise headed west with patchy fog in the morning and moderate seas. Upon reaching the Farallon Islands, passengers were treated to large groups of Common Murres floating on the water and nesting on the cliffs. A few harbor seals were seen basking in the sun at the edges of the rocky shore and California sea lions were barking in rhythm with songs and whistles of the birds.Large groups of California sea lions were seen. © Alicia Retes

After about 40 minutes the boat left the islands and headed southwest toward the Continental Shelf where they were surrounded by humpback whales for approximately 45 minutes. Passengers enjoyed watching more than 25 humpback whales in small herds of 3 to 5 with California sea lions leaping in between the whales. Several whales came within 50 feet of the boat giving excellent views of their bodies, flukes, and blows. The whales gave a great show of behaviors including flipping, twisting, fluking, spy hopping, and tail slapping.More than 25 humpback whales were seen. © Alicia Retes

Species of seabirds sighted on this trip included: Western Grebes, Northern Fulmars, Brown Pelicans, Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Red-necked Phalaropes, Heerman’s Gulls, California Gulls, Western Gulls, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, and Marbled Murrelets.Whales were seen in groups of 3 to 5, with California sea lions among them. © Alicia Retes

A large group of California sea lions swims near the boat. © Alicia Retes