August 19, 2016 – “Glassy and gorgeous all day” is how Captain Dave described things today. The excursion was filled with fun stuff including 1 humpback whale, 50 Risso’s dolphins, at least 3,000 long-beaked common dolphins, hundreds of pelagic red crabs, nearly 100 California sea lions, and several Minke whales in the area.
Not far offshore the dolphins found the Condor Express and this match-up continued throughout the day as the boat moved from hot spot to hot spot on a southerly course heading. The lone humpback whale was observed about 9 miles out from Santa Barbara, and fluked-up generously. It was with hundreds of dolphins (no surprise) and dozens of sea lions. Sea birds also shared the dinner table.
Near The Lanes two distinct pods of Risso’s dolphins found the boat. Each group was made up of around 25 individuals. Common dolphins were around, too, but did not interact with the Risso’s.
A wonderful tour of the western end of Santa Cruz Island included Dave’s eloquent discourse on the geological origins of the island, the Chumash and early ranchers. He told the story of the eradication of invasive species the with corresponding rebounds in prehistoric biota…recent removal of the island fox subspecies from the endangered list, and so forth. A nice trip inside the world-famous Painted Cave found abundant pelagic red crabs again.
The trip home was a non-stop play session with common dolphins.
SPECIAL NOTE: Two days ago, on August 17, we reported a small fin whale in the Channel. An analysis of photographs taken of this animal recently revealed diagnostic features which indicate this may have been a rare Byrde’s whale sighting, not a fin. Specifically, the Byrde’s has three plates across the top of its rostrum. This is primarily a tropical and sub-tropical species and although acoustic monitoring has suggested an increase in the number of Byrde’s whales in southern California, only two or three documented sightings are in the literature. Among dietary items for the Byrde’s are reports of them feeding on pelagic red crabs off Baja California Sur.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.