California sea lions - always fun to see!

Humpback, blue and 2 kinds of dolphins

2017 09-10 SB Channel

There was a weird little chop on the water and the atmosphere was a bit humid as the northern edge of a tropical storm pushed into southern California.  It was not a problem as far as comfort goes, nor for finding wildlife.  Earlier, before the trip left Santa Barbara Harbor, a gentle rain squall deposited a few drops.  Total sightings for the day included: 1 blue whale, 150 California sea lions, 1 humpback whale, 750 long-beaked common dolphins, and 500 short beaked common dolphins.

Captain Eric and his crew steered a course for the mid-Channel NOAA buoy, but before we could get even ½ mile offshore a couple hundred long-beaked common dolphins located the Condor Express.  Several dozen California sea lions were also in the mix. Almost an hour later, a much larger pod of long-beaks found us near the aforementioned buoy.  Our friend, Dino, located a single, small humpback whale in the middle of the dolphins and there were several dozen additional sea lions here too.  This humpback did not sound.  It kept on a northwesterly course heading and only left the surface for a few minutes after every 5 or 6 breaths…then it popped right back up again.

Another hour passed until Dino, once again, put his keen eyes to work and located a very tall spout.  By this time we were south of The Lanes and west of the NOAA buoy.  The spout belonged to a well-known female giant blue whale, “Camelo.”  Today Camelo was on a singular course heading west and had a 24 minute down time, which is the longest any of us could remember in a long time.  We ran east with the surface chop and light, balmy breeze behind us for a while, and then headed back towards Santa Barbara.

Before long a large herd of short-beaked common dolphins located us.  There was some degree of animation and excitement as multiple animals got airborne.  In fact, one individual leaped so high and covered so much distance in the process, we commented that it must be getting ready for the dolphin Olympics.  The other memorable characteristic of this short-beak herd was the number and size of the calves present.  This was definitely a nursery pod, and some of the youngsters were very small.

About an hour later, and much closer to home, our last sighting of the trip as a mob of about 15 California sea lions.  These were friendly to the boat and curious, as they always are.  There were several sub-adult males in the group, characterized by their mid-sagittal crests.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
Bob Perry
Condor Express

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