August 1, 2016 – Santa Barbara Channel –
Captain Eric and his crew crafted a great excursion today which traversed the entire width of the Santa Barbara Channel and yielded a wide array of species sightings, including: 1 northern elephant seal, 14 offshore bottlenose dolphins, 1 flying fish, 2,000+ long-beaked common dolphins and 3 humpback whales.
The conditions were excellent with a calm sea surface, little to no wind (except in Santa Barbara Harbor), and thin stratus that never produced fog. Things were gray in the morning and brightened up a lot during the trip. Eric set a southwesterly course for the west end of Santa Cruz Island with stops along the way.
About 1 mile offshore the species observations got rolling with a wide area with several hundred common dolphins dispersed into smaller actively feeding pods. Upside down hunting was evident all around this area. The common dolphin groups continued to be seen all across the Channel.
Near the 50-fathom curve, amidst the common dolphins, the first humpback whale was watched. It had short down times and actually surfaced right next to the boat after a couple of the dives. Eric continued his trek towards the Island.
About 2 miles north of The Lanes two more humpback whales were viewed, again they were surrounded by common dolphins. These two swam under and around the boat a few times, but when the dolphins moved, they followed.
Next Eric gave everyone a great guided tour of the western end of Santa Cruz Island, and took them into the mouth of the world-famous Painted Cave. Numerous guillemots were flying into the cave with fish in their beaks, then back out with empty beaks…it is that time when there are chicks in the nests down in the cracks which penetrate the Cave walls.
On the way home, quite near the Cave, the always highly animated offshore bottlenose dolphins found us and followed us for a while both in the water and in the air. Further along the route home Eric was able to get close enough for wonderful looks at a large elephant seal resting on the open ocean surface.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express