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A massive and active hot spot in the north Channel

2018 09-21 SB Channel

The northern Santa Barbara Channel (that portion closest to Santa Barbara Harbor) exploded with whales, dolphins and sea lions today.  They were joined by thousands of elegant terns, black-vented shearwaters, phalaropes, gulls, pelicans and a few jaegers.  It was the most massive and active hot spot that I can recall in this region of the Channel.  Total sightings for closely watched species included 16+ humpback whales, 3500 long-beaked common dolphins, and 500 California sea lions.  All the action took place within about 8 miles of the shore.  I almost had to go home and ice-down my camera trigger finger.  The sea surface ranged from a Beaufort sea state of 1 and 0.

Our first taste of what would become an all-day encounter took place about 5 miles south of Hope Ranch where we watched our first megapod of dolphins.  Numerous football-sized calves were in the mix when we passed through nursery areas of the pod.  About 20 minutes later we had moved slightly southwest and encountered another 500 or so dolphins and a single, adolescent (?) whale.  I cannot emphasize enough how the calm ocean surface and bright sun enhanced all of our encounters today.

After following the whale and dolphins, we were about 4 miles south of More Mesa and 2 additional whales located the Condor Express.  One of them came very close to the boat.  This sighting was quickly followed by watching a group of 5 more whales off our port bow, and 3 whales off our starboard.  These whales were heading east in the general direction of a huge dolphin/seabird feeding frenzy.  One of the whales swam into the feast and did some vertical surface lunge feeding…fantastic to see.

Later more and more whales were upon us.  A particularly nice trio surface together, took a breath or two, then kicked up their tail flukes and dove together…as they moved east, and kept up their behavior pattern for over 30 minutes.  Three of the bunch came close to the Condor Express.

We moved further east to explore the glassy waters ahead of the massive hot spots we had been with all day.  Lots of additional dolphins were seen as was a single, small whale.  The whale was on a straight track to the east and a very regular breathing pattern, so hardly anyone was looking in that direction when the little beast got airborne and landed with a monster splash.

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

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