The continuous cacophony of hundreds of elegant terns calling back and forth all day provided a sharp musical accompaniment to the whale and common dolphin sightings. Captain Eric, along with his deckhand, “ojos de águila” Auggie, located 4 main foci of activity starting just outside Santa Barbara harbor, and ending about 7 miles north of beautiful Santa Cruz Island. Skies started with a thin stratus layer and ended with partly sunny skies. Temperatures were moderate all day. Seas had a light breeze with little or no swell, and water clarity was poor near shore and pretty good offshore. With those things in mind, here’s a summary of events:
Just one mile out from the harbor entrance buoys a nice feeding aggregation of long-beaked common dolphins were seen breaking the glassy surface upside down, all around the Condor Express, hunting patches of northern anchovy and other bait fish. We followed the group as the hunt moved slowly east and just outside the anchorage.
Moving southwest, our next hot spot came just after 12 noon and was located inside the Southbound Lane. Lots of common dolphin activity, with aerial support from at least 100 elegant terns, brought our attention to an area that ultimately provided one humpback whale and two Minke whales. Several California sea lions also joined the hunt and came up to the boat several times to see what was going on.
40 minutes later we had moved south of the Lanes entirely and found our second humpback whale in another area full of dolphins and terns. The number of shearwaters seen today was much less than a week ago, and a single phalarope sat on the water pecking plankton at this location.
On our voyage back home, about 5 miles out from the harbor entrance, a very large ocean sunfish or Mola mola, was laying on its side, and cooperated for a short while as the whale fans got a look at this marvelous fish. Not too long after the Mola sighting Augie found our last pod of dolphins only a mile off the beach. We probably saw at least 1,000 dolphins today.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
PS Our thoughts and prayers are going out to Steve Rogers tonight.