On September 22nd, 2013, amateur photographer Tory Kallman joined captain and naturalist Nancy Black on an all-day whale watch fundraiser for the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
Hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of the humpback whales that enter Monterey Bay to feed on krill in the summer months, Kallman was instead treated to the spectacle of a whale feeding frenzy.
This year, an explosion of anchovies in the bay has provided a feast not only for humpback whales but also for sea lions, brown pelicans, and even the largest of all mammals, the blue whales.
According to Kallman, the group of humpback whales were engaged in a feeding behavior called ‘cooperative lunge feeding.’
The whales blow large underwater bubbles that herd the fish into tight schools or ‘bait balls.’ The whales then lunge upward in unison, mouths open, catching large mouthfuls of the fish and straining out the water through their baleen plates.
“Although it isn’t uncommon to see the whales feed, you really need a lot of conditions to align to see this type of surface lunge feeding behavior,” said Kallman. “Often they feed below the water, so you don’t see the kind of surface activity we did in this case.”
Lunges for anchovies tend to be higher and more pronounced than typical krill feeding, making it quite a sight for whale watchers.
“The whales we were watching exhibited this lunge feeding behavior for well over five hours,” said Kallman.” This was an exceptional day.”
According to Monterey Bay Whale Watch, humpback whales have continued to lunge feed on anchovies in Monterey Bay into October.