Five different species of marine mammals were seen during an epic Fall excursion on the Condor Express in the Santa Barbara Channel today. Captain Dave and his crew report seeing 8 inshore bottlenose dolphins, 2,000 long-beaked common dolphins, at least 2,000 California sea lions, 1 humpback whale and 1 Minke whales. It was a gorgeous, glassy, flat and sunny day.
While doing our customary species introduction for the California sea lions on the harbor entrance buoy, deckhand and 3rd Captain Tasha spotted a nice group of coastal bottlenose dolphins. Captain Dave kept a safe but viewable distance and followed them into the East Beach anchorage before heading south towards Santa Cruz Island.
A few miles offshore the first of many large pods of long-beaked common dolphins came to the boat during a surface feeding session. The plentiful food also attracted numerous sea birds. Great looks!
South of The Lanes and just north of Santa Cruz Island Dave turned and ran a westerly course and soon we were surrounded by many more mega pods of common dolphins. While it is great to see mega pods, and we don’t see these huge pods every day, it is far more unusual to see giant mega mobs of California sea lions. The brown furry torpedoes were in the same zone with the dolphins, and their behavior today waffled between resting on the surface to migrating west along with the dolphins. Some mobs were tightly packed and others were widely dispersed, but the numbers of sea lions today may have set some kind of a record.
At this point Dave ran through the facts concerning the Island as the boat approached and entered the mouth of the world-famous Painted Cave. The ideal conditions and clear water along the face of the sea cliffs made this part of the adventure very spectacular.
Exiting the Cave, Dave headed towards West Point where smaller mobs of sea lions were hanging out on the surface. A Minke whale was on patrol here and we got several very nice, close looks at this baleen whale. Finally, a large humpback whale popped up in the area. The area was full of floating giant kelp debris caused by strong winds earlier in the week. Before long, you guessed it, the humpback was in veggie heaven rolling, slapping, crushing and draping this algae all over its head and torso. It was a special moment for sure.
What a day we had with five different species of marine mammals and so much more.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express