Whale watchers in California were treated to a rare sight this week when a blue whale swam inland to feed near Monterey Bay's submarine canyon. 

Wildlife photographer Slater Moore, who filmed the encounter with his drone, is no stranger to observing impressive feeding behaviour (he's even watched sea lions hunt sharks!), but this latest sighting blew him away. 

And it's no wonder: not only do blue whales spend much of their enigmatic lives far offshore, but (as we've discussed before) they're also surprisingly picky eaters, feeding only when the payoff is worth the energy. Because of this, very few clips of blue whale feeding behaviour exist on record. 

"This is by far one of the coolest things I have ever filmed from the drone," Moore wrote on Facebook. "I was walking around the boat talking to everybody about how nice the sea conditions were ... then we saw the largest animal on Earth."

Moore filmed the filter-feeding giant during a recent expedition with Discovery Whale Watch (DWW). Whales of all kinds are particularly abundant in the Bay this time of year, as many species are completing their migrations along the Pacific coast. Moore and the crew also managed to spot several humpbacks and a fin whale (featured below).

"The blue whale stole the show for us," says the DWW team. 

Oregon State University marine biologist Dr Leigh Torres notes that bird's-eye footage like this is extremely valuable for scientists. She and her team recently used aerial surveillance to study blue whales off the coast of New Zealand, and they too were able to capture feeding behaviour in action. 

"It’s hard to get good footage from a ship," says Torres. "And planes or helicopters can be invasive because of their noise. The drone allows us to get new angles on the whales without bothering them."

Should you be tempted to send your own mechanical eyes into the skies, it's important to remember that guidelines recommend keeping a safe aerial distance of at least 1,000 feet (300m) from marine mammals in the wild.


 

 
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Top header image: Screengrab/Slater Moore Photography