SF sea watch -- Cetaceans, 5/14/16

Paul Saraceni

Saturday morning (7-9 AM) I sea-watched with Ken Schneider and Hugh Cotter from the closed parking at the south end of the Great Highway. Overcast, light S/SW winds, excellent visibility to the horizon.

There was clearly a lot of fish action, with all the fishermen out on the beach and a couple of moving "feeding frenzies". This contributed to good numbers of regular bird species and an outstanding show of cetaceans described below.

Observations of local interest:

Surf Scoter 30+ 
BLACK SCOTER 1 m./1 f. (continuing w/Surf Scoter flock)
Red-thr. Loon 1
Pacific Loon 40+ (numerous northbound-pulses and many attending the "feeding frenzy")
Common Loon 3
Western Grebe 30+ 
Clark's Grebe 7
Brandt's Cormorant 300+
Double-cr. Cormorant 6
Pelagic Cormorant 2
Brown Pelican 40+
Whimbrel 20+
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 4
Common Murre 120+
Pigeon Guillemot 4
California Gull 200+
Caspian Tern 10+
Bank Swallow 22

The real highlight of the sea watch was the sea mammals. About 1/2-2/3 out to the horizon there was a major feeding frenzy including 2 frequently-breaching HUMPBACK WHALES. While watching those we observed a large group of dolphins moving about and leaping through the air in unison.  With some fine digi-scoping skills, Ken managed to get some identifiable photos of the dolphins -- COMMON DOLPHINS, either Long-beaked or Short-beaked -- can't figure out particular species from the distant photos though Long-beaked is the more-likely species of the pair for near-shore occurrence. Here are links to Ken's distant photos:  http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/3172977

Closer to shore we observed 3 GRAY WHALES (1 & 2) heading north.

Here are our cetacean totals:

California Sea Lion 10 -- hurtling through the air in the feeding frenzy near the Common Dolphins
Bottlenose Dolphin 6 -- a few near the Gray Whales and a few out towards the frenzy
Long-beaked/Short-beaked Common Dolphin 80-100
Gray Whale 3
Humpback Whale 3 -- the 2 stars of the frenzy plus at least 1 blow observed away from them

Paul Saraceni
San Francisco

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