2015 08-18 SB Channel
A thin marine layer pervaded our neck of the Santa Barbara Channel until well past 100 pm, but the warm (70.7F) glass water enhanced all the marine mammal sightings today. We started making tick marks about 2 miles south of the Harbor at 1020 am when we stopped for a medium-large Minke whale. The whale was on a direct intercept course with the Condor Express and came to the boat and ran alongside within a few feet of the hull for several breaths. The nearshore water has cleaned up slightly so this friendly Minke sighting was just great.
Between the Minke #whale sighting and 1105 am when we spied our first cluster of humpback whales, there were several hundred long-beaked common dolphins mostly observed moving around the area. The humpbacks were another story as they had grouped up on a very active oceanic hot spot loaded up with black-vented shearwaters, California sea lions, elegant terns and lots of #dolphins. There were a few subsurface bubble-blasts and lunges at first, then the predators all apparently got the anchovies balled-up near the surface. There were several dramatic surface lunge feeding episode by both single whales and cooperative pairs. It is always amazing to see those silvery anchovies flying everywhere. If they escape being engulfed by whales they face a gauntlet of dolphins, sea lions and sea birds.
Moving a bit further south, around 1145 am we hit an area in which there were at least 10 humpbacks spread out over a mile in each direction. At this point we were about 8 or 9 miles south of Campus Point. A highlight of this sighting was a brief kelping activity by one of the larger humpbacks. We left this area and moved on to Santa Cruz Island. Captain Dave gave his masterful interpretation of the history, geography, and paleontology of the island with emphasis on the world-famous Painted Cave which we found to be amazingly calm and flat inside.
On the way home we found a mega-pod of long-beaked common dolphins in the Lanes, and another humpback whale just a few miles outside the Harbor.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
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