On Thursday I went whale watching with FastRaft and friends. I expected to see whales — humpbacks are usually in the Monterey Bay during the summer — and there had been reports of Risso’s and other types of dolphins, too.
It turned out to be a great trip (even with the thick fog and swells). The whales were awesome. We saw humpbacks feeding, fin whales cruising nearby, and orcas (killer whales) hunting. Kate Spencer of FastRaft posted some fine whale shots on Facebook.
Fin whales were a new sighting for me and I’ve never seen killer whales while out on Monterey Bay. But what I found even more amazing were the black-footed albatrosses. About 8 miles out, off Marina, the orcas had killed and abandoned a harbor porpoise. (We heard the pod later got a harbor seal, too.) After watching the whales, Kate took us back to the albatrosses. [Thanks, Kate!]
Around the dead porpoise were several albatrosses and a few western gulls. The black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) is a pelagic (open-water) bird — it spends nearly all of its time gliding on a wingspan of 76 – 85 inches (193 – 216 cm). I have taken photos of them on the wing before, and they’re beautiful fliers, but that’s nothing compared to close-up views. These birds were feeding right next to us. Here are some of my best shots. I’m not including anything too gory (and there was plenty of that with the partially eaten porpoise).
Finally, a reminder. The population of black-footed albatross is supposedly stable, yet it’s classified as “near threatened” due to today’s ocean issues: fishing practices, pollution and plastic, climate change. What you do on land every day can have a positive or negative impact on amazing ocean life that we seldom see. They’re out there trying to make a living, as we all are, and making better use of your reusable water bottle or driving fewer miles can make a difference.