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Baltimore by the Sea

Friday, September 05, 2014

Tales of Whales in Monterey

Elegant Terns accompanied us on the way in and out of the harbor today
A few of the passengers on board in Monterey

 Today was day one of my birthday weekend full of salt water and hopefully, loads of birds. We set out from Monterey Harbor. My birding buddy Don was on board too.

On the way out of the harbor, passing the California Sea Lion & cormorant coated jetty
Passing by the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the way out to sea
This summer there was a lot of cold water along the coast. Cold water rises in up-wellings. I think it's because cold water floats - think ice cubes - which is weird because cold air does the opposite, it sinks. I mean, WTH? Cold water carries nutrients and mini-critters up to the surface so hoards of sea birds and whales show up for the feast.  So there were lots of Humpback Whales before we even navigated out of the harbor.
You can see how close to shore these Whales are.The birds are
gulls, some Brown Pelicans and hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters
Flukes as the Humpback dives
Humpback's back
 Barbara and her sister Suzi spent many days this summer, watching Humpback Whales diving and feeding just off shore. It was a wonderful phenomenon, enjoyed by hundreds if not thousands of landlubbers this year.
Sooty Shearwater taking to the sky
Red-necked Phalaropes
A pretty pair of cocoa-colored Common Murres, probably juvenile
Around noon an immense pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins came up on the boat, riding the slipstream and headed at bat-out-of-hell speed to who knows where. I love dolphins and I particularly enjoy seeing them in massive pods because it so surreal. 
Hundreds of racing Long-beaked Common Dolphins
Steep Leap
Everyone loves a Dolphin's tail
Not to be greedy or ungrateful, but whenever I get such nice close ups of dolphins I end up wishing that the day had been a tad sunnier. I mean, imagine the photos above all in blue? Hey, can't have it all I suppose.

The neatest things I saw all day were Dall's Porpoises. They are amazing! Shaped like old throw pillows these water babies can still scoot through the water faster than any other cetacean. They are always an immense treat. They're so fast they're hard to get shots of, even with video.

The only still shot I managed to get of a Dall's Porpoise - it's headed left

We hit a spot where everyone and their finny friends were fishing - Sea Lions, Whales and lots of shearwaters. It gave a nice chance for photographing genuine Whale Tails, by which individual whales are ID'd by nosy scientists.
Wrong side of the tail for an ID, but still a nice barnacled, sea weed edged tail
Look at the white marking, Orca or shark bite fluke and again with the barnacles
Not too many bites out of this tail and it's all black
You can see the Fur Seal (?) fins on the left, and a rather obvious Whale on the right
Stellar's Sea Lions, larger than California Sea Lions
are appreciative of a good little bouy
A Sea Otter in the Harbor as we head back to the pier
Well, it was great day for birds and mammals today, even if I didn't show off much of the birds we saw. Shame was, I was unable to get a bird that would have been a lifer for me; there were a few Manx Shearwaters. There were so many hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters in front of me and I couldn't pick out the one Manx. Rats! Oh well, another day perhaps.

Here is a look at the three Cetacean species we saw today. Oh, and keep in mind, when a Dall's Porpoise hits the surface for that scant fraction of a second, they're using that time to breathe.

It was a long day, around ten hours. When we hauled into port, Don headed home and I headed north to a Half Moon Bay motel, get some sleep and await tomorrow's pelagic.

Full report of this trip with Alvaro's Adventures.

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