Novel Gray Whale Behavior

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Bottlenose dolphin and a gray whale in the Santa Barbara Channel.

2022 01-07 SB Channel

“A quality whale near the boat is worth a dozen spouts in the distance.” You can quote me on that. Conditions were cooler today with low clouds and fog throughout the Channel. Seas had a little bit of bump from winds to the far west. Totals for the day included 4000 long-beaked common dolphins, 50 offshore bottlenose dolphins and 1 Pacific gray whale.

On course for the western shores of Santa Cruz Island, and about 10 miles from home, the first of two large mega pods of common dolphins were exceedingly friendly. This pod and the afternoon pod both spent quality time surfing our bow, side and stern waves.

After a nice tour of the world-famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island, we spotted a spout close by. It turned out to be a large, adult gray whale on its southbound migration. It was not in a big hurry to get down to Baja California and spent a lot of interactive time with a highly animated and inquisitive pod of offshore bottlenose dolphins. As the two species engaged with each other, the whale demonstrated some rare and unusual behaviors…near the Condor Express the whole time.

It swam around upside down most of the time we were there. (Captain Dave estimated 70% of its time was spent this way). If that was not enough, it also did a series of what normally would be called “chin slaps,” but, as you recall, the beast was upside down. So, to be more accurate, it did a series of “head slaps!” The whale-dolphin interactions continued throughout.

On the way home we watched the second large mega pod of common dolphins.

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

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