2017 06-23 SB Channel
7 blue whales, 6 humpback whales, 1 Minke whale and 2,000 long-beaked common dolphins were closely watched today. The day began with a thick stratus layer and drizzle. Later the stratus was a bit thinner and the drizzle stopped completely; there were a few patches or “sucker holes” of bright sun. The ocean surface had very little in the way of swells or surface chop. During the excursion we ran out to the middle of Santa Cruz Island and back. On the way back we took a detour to the west to find more humpback whales and dolphins.
Our first of many dolphin groups found us when we were between Platform C and Santa Barbara Harbor. This group consisted of approximately 600 individuals and they were feeding on northern anchovies. Throughout the day the cetacean predators that utilize the anchovy resource seemed to be feeding deeper than usual. For example, these hot spots had plenty of dolphins and California sea lions, but the only birds were the deep-diving sooty shearwaters. There were no gulls on the surface, no elegant terns or brown pelicans crashing.
Thirty minutes later we were a few miles west of Platform C and found 200 more dolphins feeding along with 3 humpback whales. There were plenty of nice tail flukes from the humpbacks, further evidence of deeper food layers today. After we all had excellent looks at dolphins and knobby-headed whales, Captain Dave continued on his southerly track towards the blue whale feeding grounds north of the midriff of Santa Cruz Island.
On the scene we immediately watched a single giant blue whale that tail fluked on every sounding. Another 150 dolphins happened to be in the vicinity too. Thirty minutes later 4 more giant blue whales were closely watched including one that had a telemetry tag on its left flanks. Researchers from Cascadia Research Collective have been studying blue whales using suction cup tags for the past few days here on the feeding grounds. A medium-large Minke whale also patrolled this area. I’d love to meet a researcher capable of putting a suction cup tag on a Minke out here in the Channel! A few minutes later 2 more giants came near the Condor Express. There were numerous other blue whales were all around us that might have brought our reported total up to 12 or more if we had unlimited time to find and follow them all.
On the way home, Dave deviated to the west and located an additional 3 humpback whales mixed with at least 1,000 dolphins. This was another deep feeding area and was located about 3 miles south of Arroyo Burro.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express