2015 06-05 SB Channel
Turquoise, milky streaks of water still persist along the mainland coast and now have appeared as bands of color off the north face of Santa Cruz Island. I took a plankton sample (20 micron net) today and will try to analyze and photograph tomorrow. Various UCSB and SBCC professors have said publicly the blue water is caused by a group of phytoplankton found mostly in warm water called coccolithophores. This may be true, but the water was 62F near the mainland and 59F off Santa Cruz today…not what I’d consider “warm.” Nonetheless, the mammal show was off the charts today.
Around 1050 am, 1mile north of Hogan, we found a tightly-packed hot spot with a very big and contiguous mass of anchovies. Instead of the wild flocks of diving elegant terns we had earlier this week, today it was big brown pelicans everywhere. Amid the 200 or so long-beaked common dolphins feeding on this condensed banquet, we found one large adult humpback whale. This whale must have thought it was in humpback heaven with all that food. We watched continuous and uninterrupted surface lunge-feeding for about an hour…it was still going on when we left for Santa Cruz Island.
An interesting point about this surface feeding lone whale: all of the lunges were horizontal, some forward, some upside-down, others sideways. Each lunge was followed by some rolling around, pectoral fins in the air, etc. This caused me to ponder why no vertical lunges were seen. Was it a matter of individual feeding style? or perhaps vertical lunge feeding works better in cooperation with groups of humpbacks, and not alone?
On the way to Santa Cruz Island the winds increased slightly, but it remained a bright, sunny warm day. We watched a Minke whale for 2 minutes. Captain Eric took us on a tour of the northern sea cliffs and found some pocket beaches with sea lions hauled out in the sun. Near Cueva Valdez keen-eyed naturalist Sophie spotted a bald eagle sitting in a tree, high atop the cliffs.
The trip home was relatively calm and relaxing until we got about a mile outside Santa Barbara and found a 200-animal common dolphin stampede inside the milky turquoise water. I had to make a decision, sample the plankton or photograph the dolphins. I chose the plankton. Special thanks to Captain Eric, Tasha, Carolyn, Sophie and Debbie for helping out.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
I’ll post today’s photographs this weekend.