The last few weeks have been full of so many amazing sights throughout my travels that the blog posts will be a bit piecemeal, but I really wanted to post some photos from a few days we spent in Monterey where I got to visit the fantastic Monterey Bay Aquarium and see California transients on a whale-watching trip.
They Monterey Bay Aquarium is a place that does it right. They don't hold any pinnipeds or cetaceans in captivity but have extensive stunning exhibits and provide excellent information; it's not hard to spend an entire day there. They also maintain the excellent Seafood Watch program, which are the best reference for making sure you're eating sustainable seafood in any US region. I took the RicohGR along and here are some of my favorite shots from the day:
|The jellyfish exhibit is always one of the highlights|
|While the colors are amazing, I think some of the photos look pretty stunning in black and white too!|
|A glimpse into what a bait ball might look like from underwater|
|The two-story kelp forest exhibit|
|Clown fish with anemone in the coral reef exhibit|
|Staghorn hermit crab|
With so many reports of orcas in Monterey Bay over the preceding days, and having woke up with a good feeling about the day, we decided at the last minute to go out whale watching from Moss Landing with Sanctuary Cruises. Good choice! Even just leaving the harbor we saw a ton of wildlife including a variety of birds, harbor seals, sea otters, and an abundance of California sea lions.
As we cruised offshore we came across several humpback whales, the first of which fluked nicely for us.
After one dive, as we waited for the whale to resurface, we were surprised when it lunged upside down right off the port-side bow!
On the next surfacing we got a great look at the humpback's double blow holes:
A bit further on we spent some time with a pair of humpbacks traveling together:
We started motoring away from these guys when the captain learned another boat in the area had spotted orcas! Not too far away were about half a dozen whales, a group of California transients. These orcas are considered part of a different population than the West Coast transients we regularly see in the Salish Sea, though the populations do have some overlapping territory and have occasionally been seen to intermix. In fact, the whales we saw - known as Emma's group after the distinct female CA140 Emma - were seen in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on January 8th before first being spotted in Monterey this season on February 21st. Here's my first photo of a California transient:
I've dreamed of seeing orcas in Monterey Bay, and while sightings have been especially good in recent weeks, I felt incredibly lucky to have seen them. (While of course the very next day they got to witness this same group of whales take down a gray whale calf - which would have been amazing to see - the orcas were gone entirely for several days after that.) We heard they had just finished feeding on a long-beaked common dolphin (a species I still have yet to see!) and when we got there instead of stopping to play after feasting they were clearly on the move. It's a whole different challenge watching and trying to keep up with the whales in the open ocean, especially since it was a pretty choppy day! We were still graced with a few excellent looks as the captain did his best to keep up with them.
They were mostly in travel mode, but we did get to see two huge spyhops - I captured one here, in my favorite photo from the day:
All too soon it was time to say goodbye and head back to port, although at that point it was a relief to move with the waves and wind rather than into them!
We saw a couple more sea otters on our way back to the slip, concluding an awesome few hours on the water!