An active Risso’s dolphin gets a little fresh air as it swims into the prevailing current, winds and swells. You are looking directly down the blowhole (black spot on head)
Blue skies and blue water with Soooo Many Cetacans
Not far to the east of Santa Barbara Harbor and out past the “rig line” we encountered a few small but playful pods of long beaked common dolphins. While #dolphin watching, the keen eyes of deckhand Augie spotted a spout a mile or two south of our position. Upon arriving on the scene there were, in fact, three humpback whales each taking a turn at being watched by the fans on board the Condor Express. First up we watched a whale with a circumferential, abdominal entanglement scar similar to both our friends “Rope,” and “Lucky,” yet it was neither. Looks like we have a new scared whale that is smaller than Rope but larger than Lucky. We did not get great tail flukes, but will keep an eye on doing so the next couple of days and sending them up to Cascadia. For now, Dave has proposed a whimsical, temporary name “Not Rope.” Think of the logical naming possibilities this scheme unlocks ! Dave has proven once again that he is The Man. We may not have seen great fluking, but Not Rope did stop to do a little kelping right off the bow of the Condor so we all got great looks at this mix of one of the largest animals on earth playing with one of the largest “plants.” Within a few hundred yards of Not Rope, the next whale to pop up was Top Notch. And Topper was giving us short down times of 7 min or so, but was pretty much following a course to the west. A third humpback that proved very elusive was observed shortly around mid-Channel on our way over to beautiful Santa Cruz Island. Several Minke whales, perhaps 3 or 4, were in the mix of birds, dolphins and sea lion hot spots that we found all over the Santa Barbara Channel today.
Some of the more unusual sightings today included a male California sea lion tearing apart a fish on the surface with the help of several western gulls. A jaeger chased an elegant tern and was tailed by a Heermann’s gull, and their aerial dog fighting flight pattern took them near the boat several times. This kind of event is very challenging to photograph, but I am remaining hopeful. Numerous moderately sized mobs of sea lions were found around drifting giant kelp paddies all the way to Santa Cruz Island, and the waters around the western end of the Island were teaming with Risso’s dolphins…a very conservative number might be in the 75 – 100 range. Although most of the day had been very calm with light winds, by the time we approached the Island the wind and seas had kicked up to a moderate level making a full entry into the wonderful Painted Cave a bit too dangerous. The seas also made Risso watching a challenge as most of the pods we watched were coming down swell at us and the dolphins took a short ride on the wave faces before diving under us. There was one nice large pod of Risso’s dolphins that were traveling alongside the Condor Express for a while and gave us plenty of good looks and nice photo ops.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry
See my photographic prints from the Santa Barbara Channel at the “A Crimson Holiday” gallery in La Cumbre Plaza starting November 7 at 4pm through January 31.