2017 06-13 SB Channel
Fantastic! The weather and sea conditions turned around and became quite nice overnight, and consequently it was much easier to search for and find wildlife. There were several highlights of the trip today. A late northbound gray whale, three humpback whales, three Minke whales and more than one thousand long-beaked common dolphins were closely watched. The late northbound gray whale was a surprise.
We had just pulled away from the sea lions on the outer Santa Barbara Harbor entrance buoy when I spotted a spout close by and a little bit to our west. It was heading up the coast, and before we even got a look at it, its behavior suggested it was a gray whale. The last gray whales passed by our area several weeks ago, thus today’s sighting was a rarity. It was a solo, large whale. During this sighting a couple dozen dolphins swam past heading east.
About 15 minutes later we had changed direction and were heading east when a mega-pod of dolphins, in a line that stretched several miles, came to the Condor Express and rode out waves. There were many spots of small anchovy schools in the water, and the dolphins were feeding upside-down on the fish. Another highlight of the trip was the sight of pairs and trios of dolphins surfing our side wake. As the boat pushed anchovy schools out to the side, the surfing dolphins would flip upside-down to feed as they continued to surf. After dining, they’d right themselves and continue surfing until the next batch of little silver morsels came along.
South of Platform Houchin and north of Habitat we encountered most of the wildlife action today. Here we saw large hot spots of anchovies form, masses of sea birds and dolphins feeding, and several humpback whales surface lunge-feeding in the middle of things. Rope and her calf were the primary actors in this feeding activity, and both fed on anchovies together. Apparently the little one has already been weaned?
Minke whales patrolled the periphery of the hot spots everywhere we went, all day. Five small “Frisbee-sized” ocean sunfish (Mola mola) were also seen.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.