Coastal and west island action.
Today we had great marine mammal sightings along the coast and again to the far west near Santa Rosa Island, with nothing to see in between. The day started off about a mile and a half outside the Santa Barbara Harbor entrance when Captain Dave decided to take a look-see at some birds and common dolphins working on an anchovy ball. No sooner did we arrive on the scene of the action than a medium small humpback whale popped up in the midst. We stayed with this humpback as it moved along just behind the vagaries of the anchovy-bird-dolphin assemblage. On two occasions the whale came up very close to the Condor Express. While all this coastal action was happening, the ocean surface was dead flat, mirror glass calm. A minke showed itself a couple of times, and a very young brown pelican sat on the water looking up at the humans about 2 feet off the hull making a wonderful photo opp.
Captain Dave then pushed the Condor Express offshore to an area where we left a few blue whales late yesterday afternoon. Along the way two things happened: first, we lost the mirror glass conditions as the wind and light chop moved in, and second, we came across a nice megapod of common dolphins, many with little calves. I particularly enjoyed watching the mothers take their tiny babies surfing in our wake waves, as if the were “getting surfing lessons.” Live clean, surf clean.
Upon arriving at the famous island shelf break, Captain Dave steered a direct westerly course taking us up the Channel, against the rising wind and seas, but remaining on the shelf break where all the action traditionally takes place. When we made this right turn we were off the northwest corner of Santa Cruz Island. Almost immediately we got into a pod of Risso’s dolphins and looked at them for a nice period of time. Moving on, we bounced along to the west Dave spotted a HUGE ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and we all got fabulous looks at this beast. You gotta hand it to ol’ Captain Dave. When he gets a good idea of where to find whales, in this case the blue variety, he sticks with it. Onward we trudged on our westward migration another 45 minutes until, you guessed it, Dave spotted the giant slender tall spouts of blue whales. How does he do it ?
The blue whales were sort of circling an area and no doubt feeding on krill somewhere down below us out of sight. The circles were moving them slowly further to the west and when we finally had some fabulous looks, including a friendly close approach, we found ourselves off the west end of Santa Rosa Island looking at San Miguel.
In all, we closely observed one humpback whale, one minke whale, twenty five Risso’s dolpins, one giant Mola mola, two blue whales and there were more spouts from additional blue whales in the distance. At least 2,500 common dolphins had been playing with us during the day
I’ll post the photos sometime tomorrow. http://www.CondorExpressPhotos.com
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