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Blue whale etc etc

2016 07-15 SB Channel

Seas were calm and the cetaceans were abundant on this wonderful day in the Santa Barbara Channel.  Skies had a thin stratus layer with sunny “sucker holes” until mid-afternoon when the clouds were vanquished once and for all.  Animal totals for the trip included 7 humpback whales (many more in the distance), 1 giant blue whale (several other tall spouts in the area), 1,200 or more long-beaked common dolphins, and lots of California sea lions.  The sea bird of the day was a nice, light-colored northern fulmar that let the Condor Express pass by without flushing.  Here’s how things happened today:

Around 1045 am a group of around 100 or so dolphins found us and we had great sightings for a few minutes, with the promise of more dolphins in the distance.  Fifteen minutes later, attracted by a much large assemblage of active dolphins, we found a hot spot zone rich with feeding animals including many humpback whales.  As we came slowly and carefully into the zone, I saw tail flukes in all directions and my immediate rough tally was 12 humpback whales, but Captain Dave really took his time to watch 5 of them.  This strategy paid off with excellent looks and so many tail flukes that we lost count for a while.

Noon found us in the southbound Lanes where the Condor Express blogger spotted a giant blue whale and several other tall spouts in the distance, both east and west of our location.  The giant appeared to be traveling west and alternated between 11 minute and 4 minute dives.  It never arched or fluked-up which led the crew to hypothesize it was not diving deep.  After the nice blue whale, Dave took us on nice tour of the western end of beautiful Santa Cruz Island, including a visit to the antechambers of the world-famous Painted Cave.  The Cave was full of pigeon guillemots flying in and out from hunting expeditions.  West of The Cave, there are many dozens of smaller caves, one of which contained the carcass of a dead humpback whale.  This may be the carcass that Captain Eric reported seeing last week.  We did not stop or dwell on this particular small cave.

On the way home another hot spot had developed about 8 miles out from Santa Barbara Harbor.  Here we found several hundred very active dolphins which were making high speed runs to the east, then to the west, in small groups that almost collided when east met west.  Two large humpback whales were also feeding here.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

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