2016 05-18 SB Channel
It was a silver day in the Santa Barbara Channel due to the May/June coastal stratus layer. But there was hardly any swell at all and most of the day was spent traversing a mirror glass surface. It was a day with a wide-variety of marine life, not all of which consisted of cetaceans. Here is the story:
We entered the long-beaked common dolphin wonderland at 1020 am and found at least 500, probably more, individuals scattered over a wide area. All seemed focused on feeding on little, spread-out patches of northern anchovies. There were no bait balls or hot spots, just little aggregations of little fishes. We pressed on to the south, aiming at the western end of Santa Cruz Island.
At 1100 am two adult humpback whales were located. The pair stayed pretty close together and had short, 4 or 5 minute down times. Their dark silhouettes looked great against the silvery mirror ocean surface. We had a nice visit and continued moving towards the Island. Around 1150 am, Captain Dave slowed the Condor Express and pointed out two fish on the surface that were separated by 50 yards or so. The first fish showed a nice dorsal fin and long tail fin; it was a thresher shark. The second also showed a dorsal fin, and it turned out to be a monster ocean sunfish or Mola mola. The shark dove almost immediately, and the sunfish swam up against the boat so tight it could not be seen except by hanging over the side…not the safest thing to do.
We arrived at the western end sea cliffs of Santa Cruz Island around 1235 and Dave gave one of his special tours which included a nice penetration of the outer reaches of the world-famous Painted Cave. Several dozen pigeon guillemots flew out of the Cave, one by one. After the Cave we continued along the Island running to the east for a while and located a beach with a dozen Pacific harbor seals. Also, a nice bald eagle was sighted as it soared above the cliff tops near the Condor. On the way home, we found one more humpback whale which was smokin’ quickly to the west.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express
PS In case you missed my update to yesterday’s piece about a “newborn California sea lion pup,” this report has been demonstrated to be false. The photograph shows a sea lion with brown fur (newborn’s are black) and a body that is probably too large to be “newborn.” We now think this is a 10 – 11 month old juvenile who survived last year’s season when so many others died, but has a reduced body size to show for it. It is otherwise doing well. There MAY be another animal that is around the Harbor area that MAY actually be a black newly born sea lion that is being nursed and cared for by its mother. We’ve had conflicting reports and have not seen or photographed this other alleged pup.