Mirror glass conditions with Risso’s dolphins, humpback whales, common dolphins and sea lions.

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A Risso's dolphin in clear, glassy Santa Barbara Channel waters.

2021 05-31 SB Channel

After a few miles of adequate visibility the fog settled in for most of the day. As was the case today, fog often means glassy surface conditions. Closely watched mammals included: 4 humpback whales, 2 Risso’s dolphins, 250 long-beaked common dolphins, and 100 California sea lions. It was a memorable Memorial Day.

Just 4 miles out from Santa Barbara Harbor we watched 2 humpback whales. Both of our humpback sightings were of mother/calf pairs. This first pair was actively feeding, including both surface lunge feeding and that curious “surface chomping” we’ve reported recently. Captain Colton reports seeing the ventral groove blubber expanding during this “chomping” today.

Continuing towards Santa Cruz Island we were discovered by a pod of common dolphins in the northbound shipping lanes. Shipping lanes are not much fun in the fog, except for dolphin sightings like this. At one point Colton had to hold steady until a large southbound bulk carrier passed by our location on its way to the ports of LA/Long Beach.

A glassy yet foggy visit to the Painted Cave on Santa Cruz included a trip inside the outer chamber and then a short look at the adjacent sea cliffs, grottos and caves. Right near the mouth of The Cave, as we exited, we found a pair of friendly Risso’s dolphins. The water at the island was very clear and blue, which greatly enhanced our looks at these big, bulbous-headed dolphins.

Moving to the West End of the island, our last sighting of the day was some quality looks at the second cow-calf humpback pair. This pair was being pestered by some sea lions and the calf “got excited.” It rolled around, swiped its tail and waved its long pectoral flippers in response to the furry brown pinnipeds.

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

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