Notes from our all-day whale watch with the American Cetacean Society

Bob Perrycommon dolphins, Condor Express, ELEPHANT SEAL, humpback whales, minke whale, San Miguel Island, Santa Barbara Channel, sea lion

Northern elephant seals and California sea lions on the sand at San Miguel Island today.

2017 07-29 SB Channel-All Day ACS

Skies were overcast with a thick marine layer with some mist/drizzle in spots.  In the afternoon of this 8 ½ hour trip the sun finally broke out. The sea surface was mill pond glass for the first few hours.  As we moved towards the islands and beyond, and the day ran its course, a light breeze picked up.  There was no chop, only a gently rolling south swell. Totals for the day included: 3 humpback whales*, 2 Minke whales, and thousands of long-beaked common dolphins.  Hundreds of pinnipeds were also seen.

After departing Santa Barbara harbor at 815 am, our first sightings took place near Platform Holly.  Here we were greeted by about 100 dolphins (in several small groups) swimming through the surface oil, and 2 Minke whales that came to the surface side-by-side a couple of times. Captain Dave and his crew continued on a westerly course.

About 15 minutes later, a single humpback whale was observed and we slowed to watch it.  We were a few miles west of Holly at this time. There were numerous groups of common dolphins here too.  The whale fluked-up regularly and also greeted us with at least 4 non-consecutive breaches.  This got the whale fans on board up and on their feet.  It was the semi-official trip kick-off point.  We stayed with this showboat whale for quite a while, hoping it would continue breaching.

Dave took the boat on a southerly path, heading for the San Miguel Passage and the waters south of the Channel Island chain.  Along the way at two more humpback whales were watched, and *there were a couple more in the distance that we did not have time to pursue.  Again, multiple small pods of dolphins continued to find the bot all along our route.

We ended up several miles south of San Miguel Island in an area where large concentrations of surface feeding blue whales had been reported more than a week ago.  A search pattern was laid down but no giant blue whales were to be seen.  Dave ran up close to the pristine pocket sand beaches near the southeastern portion of the island.  Here we saw dense concentrations of northern elephant seals and California sea lions hauled out.  Both species were highly vocal and some of the youngsters were playing in the surf and beyond.  (There are two hurricanes off Baja California that have joined forces, and we were beginning to see the wave trains from the southwest as they arrived on the back side of the island).  On the long journey home to Santa Barbara, hundreds more dolphins came to the boat and played.

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