Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Fall migration isn’t just for the birds!

During the fall months, humpback whales begin their long migration from cold, food-rich waters in the north to the warm waters of the southern calving grounds. The whales usually seen closest to the California coast move from the Pacific Northwest coasts to the waters off Mexico. Unlike their larger cousins, blue whales, humpbacks eat small fish in addition to krill and hunt along their migration route. We’ve recently seen a sudden influx of humpbacks around the island as a large wave of migrants coming down from the north are drawn in close to the island by large schools of bait fish like anchovies.

A feeding flock comprised of humpback whales, gulls, and sea lions. Photo by Theresa Rizza


On one incredible day, August 10th, we were able to count 106 whales in the waters surrounding us and observed feeding flocks, sea lions, and sea birds in every direction. The massive feeding event continued into the next day and sea conditions were good enough for us to take one of the on-island boats out for a closer look. It was an absolutely breathtaking experience!

A humpback whale lunge feeding. Photo by Theresa Rizza


A humpback whale swallowing a mouthful of anchovies alongside California sea lions and western gulls hunting the same prey. Photo by Theresa Rizza