2017 05-02 SB Coast
Today we ran two trips and saw 8 gray whales, 1,300 long-beaked common dolphins and 6 coastal bottlenose dolphins. Sea lions were also abundant and there were 10 Pacific harbor seals on the bait barge. The sea surface was mirror glass all day, and the sun was bright and warm. It has been a wonderful stretch of early summerlike weather. Dolphins and gray whale mothers with calves were the highlights.
9am By the time we left the inner harbor entrance buoy and its sea lions a shy gray whale mother and her calf were already leading us to the west. Perhaps the boat traffic around Santa Barbara Harbor alters their behavior, but this pair had long down times and even did a bit of snorkeling. Some bird action 2 miles south of the harbor led us to our first batch of common dolphins, perhaps 30 or so. There were abundant anchovies all over the coastal zone today, and each of our common dolphin groups were actively feeding.
Off Leadbetter Beach, another gray whale pair was encountered along with three bottlenose dolphins. The phytoplankton-rich waters drastically reduced visibility, so tracking the dolphins and whales was a challenge. In deeper waters out off the Boathouse a larger group of 300 or so common dolphins came near the Condor Express as they actively fed. Their upside-down bodies were breaking the surface everywhere as the little fish became lunch. A third gray whale cow-calf pair was found and we had good looks.
12 noon As we departed the harbor there was a massive bird feeding hot spot about 2 miles south. This hot spot was dominated by a super-pod of at least 1,000 common dolphins that were lined-up in a front line that was on the “march” to the west. Some leaping dolphins added to the show. Anchovies were flying around everywhere trying to escape. More upside-down dolphins than were countable helped the anchovy overpopulation “problem”. After 45 minutes with this wonderful huge pod, we moved inside to look for gray whales.
Near Hendry’s, 3 bottlenose dolphins swam over and greeted the boat. (Was this the same 3 we saw this morning? Perhaps). We searched the kelp as far west as UCSB until we located another mother gray whale and her calf. The pair slowly swam up the coast and we stayed with them as far as west Isla Vista. The calf did some rolling around and caused mom to stop a few times. Nursing? Perhaps.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express
Coming Attractions: On May 15 we start our 10 am – 230 pm Island Whale Watch schedule featuring possible blue whales, humpback whales, Minke whales, fin whales, and several species of dolphins. Sign up now!