NYC
09/25/2013 09:28 am ET Updated Sep 25, 2013

Whales Off Rockaway Beach Breach Water Right By Boat, Surfer (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

ROCKAWAY BEACH — A trio of whales — possibly humpbacks — has spent the last two weeks off the coast of Queens, feasting on local fish, playing in the water and putting on a show for those on shore.

The giant mammals have been spotted along miles of Rockaway Beach, usually traveling in a pack.

In a dramatic recent video taken by Belle Harbor resident Bobby Leonard, 40, a whale can be seen rearing its head above the water to eat just feet from his boat.

"They're coming in, eating, hanging out," he said. "They're not going to leave until they eat all the bunker." Bunker, or menhaden, also attracts dophins and bluefish.

Leonard, who owns the Spy Store in Manhattan and is an avid fisherman, said he watched the whales from the beach last Friday and decided to go out on his 23-foot Steiger Craft boat for a closer look with his father and brother.

While out in the water, a few hundred feet off the coast near the Beach 70s, Leonard captured a whale leaping out of the water to eat. He said he also saw dolphins.

"It was like the Discovery Channel that day," said Leonard, a married father of two.

A spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Shelley Dawicki, said it's "normal" to find whales along the coast this time of year.

"There's probably a very good source of food there and people are noticing them closer to shore," she said.

Siobhan Mullen, a surfer who lives in Rockaway Beach, rode by the whales on her stand up paddle board last week and captured photos as the whales breached.

"I was kinda just like in awe and super stoked to be able to see them cruising and feeding in their natural habitat so up close," she said. "I felt really blessed and enlightened to see that."

A lifelong Rockaway resident, Mullen said she'd never seen anything like it.

Rob DiGiovanni, the director of the Riverhead Foundation, said the whale sightings are "unusual, but not surprising."

All photos from Siobhan Mullen's Facebook page.

PHOTO GALLERIES
Whale In The Rockaways

CONVERSATIONS