2017 04-24 SB Coast
High winds were forecasted for our region of the Santa Barbara Channel, but Captain Eric and his crew got lucky and ran a single, fantastic trip at 12 noon and got back to Santa Barbara harbor without any weather problems. There were 7 gray whales and 4 bottlenose dolphins on this trip. The high point was a close look at a very unusual behavior: a gray whale calf ejected mud through its baleen while on the surface.
12 noon A mother gray whale and her calf passed by the inside harbor entrance buoy as the Condor Express was slowing down to visit the buoy sea lion population. Eric slowly followed the pair as they headed north just a dozen yards off the breakwater. At Leadbetter Beach, the calf took up rolling around and spy-hopping which was a wonderful show of youthful exuberance.
Near the Boathouse Restaurant a second cow-calf gray whale pair was spotted playing in the surf zone. The calf left the waves, with mother following behind, and made a bee line to the boat where it rolled, blew bubbles underwater and looked up at its fan club on the Condor.
Further west, where the kelp grows in a straight line paralleling the Goleta Pier due to an underwater pipeline on which it attaches, a third mother-calf gray whale pair was traveling with a third, adult, whale. At one point the trio dove down for about 4 minutes only to surface right next to the boat. As everyone looked eyeball-to-eyeball with the whales, the calf ejected mud through its baleen while on the surface. This may indicated feeding or at least playful biting of the bottom sediments, then filtering it. This is similar to the feeding method used by all gray whales when they reach the fertile bottom deposits in Alaskan waters…not often seen in our region.
Finally, there were 4 coastal bottlenose dolphins that came to investigate the whales and the boat. Three of the dolphins were adults, and one was a very small brown juvenile. Wow.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express