First boat trip of the season

Alvaro Jaramillo

Hi all,

  We were out yesterday on a Farallon Island trip from Pillar Point Harbor. It started out foggy but cleared for ok to good visibility for much of the day. This was a memorable trip, amazing for the numbers of birds and just fantastic moments. The highlight was a pod of about a dozen “Bigg’s” or Transient Killer Whales right at SE Farallon Island. The whales were curious and playful, approached our boat, swam underneath and then some started jumping out of the water, twirling, splashing. It was simply spellbinding! The group included a gray individual, likely leucistic which is almost surely “Frosty” who has been seen between southern California and British Columbia from what I understand. The Killer Whale experts will look at the photos and sort out exactly who was involved and which pod this was.

   The birds included hundreds of thousands of Common Murres, carpeting the cliffs of the island along with nice views of all of the alcids that breed on the islands including Tufted Puffin. The best views were of puffins on the water, the one on the cliff was a bit far away. Unfortunately, no boobies were seen. We saw masses (tens of thousands) of Sooty Shearwaters and likely would have seen more had some of the trip had better visibility. Pink-footed Shearwaters, Northern Fulmar, and several Black-footed Albatross rounded out the seabirds. A few folks saw Ashy Storm-Petrel. There were several small flocks of female (bright colored) Red-necked Phalaropes. These are likely returning birds from the north, perhaps breeding happened early? Female phalaropes leave the breeding grounds as soon as they are done laying eggs, so their southern arrival is quite early. However, these appear earlier than normal to us.

    The ocean is alive this year, all of those spring winds have created a lot of food out there. We saw groups of Humpback Whales with attending feeding shearwaters, and some breaching whales right close to Half Moon Bay. Gray Whales made a good showing on the island, and we had great views of Northern Fur Seals, Steller’s Sea Lions as well as California Sea Lions. The numbers of Brown Pelicans close to shore are big, again chasing after all of the food. Coming in, a substantial number of Sooty Shearwaters were essentially right at the beach.

    The bird report is here:


The whale show was really once in a lifetime. We seldom see Killer Whales, and have never seen a show quite like this one! We cannot guarantee that they or some of the other birds and mammals will be around next week, but we do know you won’t see them unless you head out on a boat 😊. If you are keen, many of our Farallon Is. Trips are sold out, but the one next Friday (July 1) still has some spots. Assuming the weather allows us to get to the islands, big numbers of birds are a sure bet, and there is always a surprise or two.


What a great start to the season! Thanks Malia, Chris, Alan for your help.




Alvaro Jaramillo