Image: Huge adult humpback whale – vertical lunge feeding on anchovy schools.
2023 05-21 SB Channel
Overcast all day. No wind. Sightings broke many records today including most humpbacks on a single trip this year AND most whales and dolphins in massive hotspot close to shore. Today’s numbers are as close as possible best estimates: humpback whales =23+, long-beaked common dolphins =4000+, Minke whale =1, and ocean sunfish (Mola mola) =2.
The first three humpbacks and a quick-swimming Minke whale were sighted just 1 ½ miles out from the harbor entrance. There was a pair of whales with a single…. all in travel mode. About ½ mile further out we found the first small pod of dolphins, but that did not last for long. As we enjoyed our 200 or so “first dolphins,” cetaceans of all types converged on our location (now 3 – 4 miles offshore), and formed a semi-stationary 2-mile-long hot spot that lasted for the rest of this wild trip.
Several mega pods of dolphins, each over 1000 animals, were now upon us. Tall spouts, tails and all sorts of behaviors (continue reading!) marked the arrival of 20 or more humpbacks to this zone. Whales came and left throughout the encounter. Numbers of whales at any one time were in the high teens. We witnessed prolonged episodes of vertical lunge feeding humpbacks near (within a few feet of the boat) and far. (See today’s photo for an example). Large anchovy bait balls were seen throughout the day. Many whales made close and friendly approaches. One whale stood on its head and threw its tail non-stop for 10 minutes. Many more spouts were seen in the distance.
Nearby we watched a tiny 12+ ocean sunfish (Mola mola) feeding on purple sailor jellies (Velella velella). A small group of common dolphins left the feeding pod and poked the sunfish a bit and chased it around, similar to playing with a beach ball. A second sunfish was much larger, perhaps 6 feet in diameter, and also seen feeding on Velella.
A final dolphin pod of approximately 1000 was watched as we moved back to the harbor.
You never know what mother nature has in store.
Condor Express, and