2017 10-04 SB Channel
What I mean when I say that we saw 18+ humpback whales today is that there were certainly a lot more than 18 whales all around the area, but we closely watched 18 of them. We also watched 1300 long-beaked common dolphins. It was a spectacular scene in the Santa Barbara Channel, with bright sunny skies, calm seas and only a light breeze out at Santa Cruz Island.
Captain Dave and his crew got the day off with a bang around 1030am when 200 or so dolphins (spotted in the distance by Tasha) turned out to be actively feeding on a moderately small bait ball on the glassy surface. The bait ball was made up of northern anchovies and the dolphins, plus a dozen or so California sea lions, had the fish in a tight ball that eventually escaped predation by hiding under the boat, perhaps only as a temporary reprieve.
20 minutes later we watched 2 large adult whales following 500 or so dolphins and the whales themselves were followed by 10 sea lions. As I have mentioned before in these reports, and is often the case, the dolphins have superior food locating ability and speed, which the whales then follow to feed on what the dolphins have located and concentrated (into a ball). The sea lions are last to have dinner. In this location there were hundreds of elegant terns, shearwaters and a few other sea birds, also feeding. In the sky, 3 jaegers where chasing terns trying for their share of the bounty. A third, smaller, whale found the hot spot a bit later.
Around 1135am we moved into an area with 4 more whales and about 100 dolphins. These cetaceans were on the move to the next hot spot, about ½-mile east.
Suellen spotted numerous spouts south of our location and closer to Santa Cruz Island. We were on the scene by 1210pm and found lots of whales, of which we watched 10. Hundreds of dolphins were here, too, as were a dozen or so additional sea lions.
After a nice long look at all the whales surrounding the Condor Express, Dave took us on a tour of the northwestern sea cliffs and visited the world-famous Painted Cave…all beautiful in the warm sun with contrasting blue water. On the way home a single humpback was located near a dolphin/bird hot spot. It did one surface lunge and took off. It was a large whale with white pects.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.