Among 7000 dolphins, a Minke whale and hundreds of sea lions, a humpback mother-calf pair stole the

2022 07-04 SB Coast

Happy Fourth of July to all!

It was a spectacular day along the northern section of the Santa Barbara Channel as both the sea conditions and sightings were amazing. It was a sunny, glassy day with a small, long-period swell. Additionally, the water remains very clear which always enhances the wildlife viewing. We closely watched: 3+ humpback whales, 1 Minke whale, 7000 long-beaked common dolphins and 100 California sea lions. (The + sign means more were in the area but we did not closely watch them).

Just one mile outbound from the harbor we had a nice Minke whale encounter. The whale seemed to be travelling and did not dive deep. It also passed close to the Condor Express a few times. The water clarity allowed us to study this small baleen whale in great detail when it came close.

Captain Devin moved the boat offshore about 5 miles then ran west paralleling the mainland coast. As has been the case for at least a week, this region has been full of northern anchovy bait balls which, in turn, have attracted the attention of hungry dolphins, sea birds and sea lions. Devin estimates that common dolphin pods stretched along this path from the harbor to at least Platform Holly (where we made a southeasterly turn). Many of the scattered dolphin pods today were at least 1000 strong. It has been a record-breaking week for dolphin encounters.

While watching dolphins near Holly, our deckhand and staff photographer Adam spotted a spout about a mile south of the Platform. On the scene, the humpback whale spout was joined by a mother humpback with her very young calf. There were 2 or 3 additional humpbacks in the near distance, but the calf (as many of them are) was very active, so we stayed with it and watched closely.

The clear water allowed us to see, photograph and obtain drone footage of the mother-calf interactions as well as the bright white pectoral fins of the calf. The juvenile also had distinctive rake marks from an orca attack…but was in great shape overall. The little whale rolled around, slapped its white pecs, did a few tail throws, spy-hopped and came close to the boat several times. It swam under mom a few times which led to the speculation that it may have been soliciting nursing. On one occasion, the mother whale got underneath the juvenile and lifted its entire body upward and out of the water slightly. It was a phenomenal encounter to be sure.

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

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