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Anchovy Slaughter in the Eastern Channel


A massive school of northern anchovies had developed into a tight ball on the surface and was attacked from above and below. Here we see a lunge feeding humpback whale ejecting water from its oral cavity while surrounded by black vented shearwaters. The lunge feeding went on for over an hour and a half today.


Anchovy Slaughter in the Eastern Channel

“Top Notch,” the young adult humpback whale, was watched closely as it lunge-fed on the surface decimating a large school of northern anchovies.  The seabirds, including elegant terns, Brandt’s cormorants, black-vented shearwaters, gulls and (back by popular demand) brown pelicans worked in concert with the California sea lions and numerous long beaked common dolphins to compact the millions of silvery fish into a ball.   The #dolphins picked off a few anchovies around the edges of the bait ball, as did their furry brown brothers (sea lions).   Then the #humpback #whale would appear from below and swallow a giant mass of seawater laden with anchovies.  This scenario repeated itself many times and all on board got great looks at this spectacle of nature for an hour and a half in crystal clear water.  Blue skies and blue water again!  At least one Minke whale was at work in the zone.

As a personal side note, it appeared to me that Top Notch would make several passes through the bait ball then head out to the open sea looking like it had its fill and was going to swim off somewhere.  But alas!  Each time it swam away for a while, it did a U-turn and then hit the bait ball with renewed vigor.   My feeble interpretation of this behavior, based only on opinion and with no research or facts of any kind to back me up, was this:   by leaving the feeding hot spot for a few minutes, the humpback was essentially letting the birds, dolphins and sea lions get the disheveled bait ball back into an easy to consume tightly packed ball.  I’m thinking it all may be an accident, but a fortuitous one for the whale.  None the less it was another magnificent day in the Santa Barbara Channel.  I’ll try to get the photos processed and online sometime tomorrow.

Schedule notes:   Next Monday and Tuesday 10/13 and 10/14, we are closed to public trips…still open for private whale watches and doing regular maintenance.   Next Wednesday and Thursday 10/15 and 10/16, we are also closed to public trips due to private whale watching.   Make your reservations now for the rest of this week and enjoy the spectacle first hand.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor ExpressBiologist and Photographer

on the web:    www.CondorExpress.com/blog

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