Gray whales, dolphins, and a record number of Mola mola

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A surface mud plume from bottom-feeding gray whales.

2022 06-08 Santa Rosa Island

It was a tale of two “Channels,” weatherwise today. High overcast skies and slightly seas were experienced for the first 14 miles outbound from Santa Barbara Harbor. Then, as we made the turn and pulled into beautiful Becher’s Bay, Santa Rosa Island, the ocean surface became perfectly flat, but a northwest wind howled down from the island and made it a bit breezy on the whale grounds. On a positive note, the ocean water was very clear in the Channel and at the island. Sightings included: 1000 (estimated) ocean sunfish (Mola mola), 3 gray whales, 350 long-beaked common dolphins and 1 floating, deflated Mylar helium balloon.

Our first mammal sightings were inside Becher’s Bay where a handful of Pacific gray whales are still, after more than 1 month, still residing and bottom-feeding at the island. Today we closely watched 3 adult whales. There were some very close and friendly approaches by these whales, and surface mud plumes were the visible evidence suggesting there was bottom-feeding going on. (See today’s photograph).

On the trip home, according to Captain Dave, we watched dozens of ocean sunfish (Mola mola) surface schools of various large sizes between 200 and 800 individuals each. As reported last week, these were small, 8 to 10-inch diameter, “dinner plate” size fish. Nobody on board, including Dave, has ever seen so many juvenile Mola.

About 4 miles out from the harbor entrance we stopped to visit with a nice pod of common dolphins.

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

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