Welcome to the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

Lunge feeding Humpback Whales, Mother and Calf

What mother hasn’t struggled feeding her hungry teenager?  No matter what you put in front of them, they gobble it up.   You can blow through a weeks worth of groceries in an afternoon, if you’re not careful.  Can you imagine the cost if your hungry teenager would only eat fresh seafood?  Particularly if they gulp down 4000 to 5000 pounds of krill a day.  Ouch!

So like so many other tourists, whales know to visit Monterey Bay to feast on the freshest seafood around.   In season, it’s a proverbial All-You-Can-Eat buffet.   The humpback whales use a technique of cooperation, where they herd the krill together.  Once the krill are concentrated,  the whales lunge, filling their enormous mouths with krill and seawater.  The whales then squeeze the water out, filtering the krill with their baleen.

We were fortunate to see this action, up close and personal last Sunday afternoon with Captain Jim.   We were aboard the “High Spirits”, a very comfortable whale watching boat of Blue Ocean Whale Watching of Moss Landing California.   We took advantage of the upper deck, which is accessible to passengers, to be able to anticipate some of the action.   While Captain Jim carefully followed between 6 to 8 humpback whales, we watched as they gorged themselves on the krill.   A flock of Sooty Shearwaters also took advantage of the whales herding of the krill by feasting on the leftovers.   The on board naturalist, Kate, said she saw a Black-footed Albatross, but I missed it.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to do another trip.

– Mary Lou Dickson
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