Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Feeding Frenzy and Bait Balls

Seawater temperatures have reached record levels this year.  For many years the average sea temperature on the Central Coast has been in the mid 50s.  Today the water temperature ranges somewhere between 62° - 65°.  The warmer water attracts small bait fish such as anchovies, sardines, and smelt.  When the fish are threatened they form into a tightly packed spherical formation, the bait ball. 

For the last few weeks, feeding frenzies have become a frequent occurrence on the Central Coast.  Elegant and Royal Tern, Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Shearwaters by the thousands, Gulls, and the 40 - 50 ft. Humpback Whale are the feeders in the frenzy. 
Pelicans and terns dive from above.  The Pelicans scoop up a mouthful; Terns take only one fish.  Cormorant's and Shearwater's dive for fish. Humpback's with their huge mouths open lunge through the bait ball to the surface, gathering thousands of fish and sometimes a careless pelican into their giant maw.  Meanwhile, Gulls are after the leftovers and what ever they can steal out of the mouths of Pelicans.     (Photos by Mike Baird)
 A word of caution - Getting too close may be hazardous to your health.   Humpbacks weigh about 70,000 lbs. 

1 comment:

  1. So weird about the temperatures , it seems all over the world !
    How nice to be able to see all these kinds of birds catching fish !