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Four different cetacean species and great sightings at Santa Cruz Island

(Above: the entrance to Pelican Bay, Santa Cruz Island)

2022 12-28 SB Channel

Although it was sunny, there was a residual bump on the water from overnight winds to the west. Sightings were great and included 4 different species of cetaceans: 3 gray whales, 40 offshore bottlenose dolphins, 20 Dall’s porpoise and 50 long-beaked common dolphins.

After a nice travers of the Channel but without mammal sightings, we were thrilled to find our first…a single gray whale near The Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. It was an adult and kept to a rigorous migratory schedule moving east without much fanfare. Nearby we were visited by some uncharacteristically subdued offshore bottlenose dolphins. Rather than running amok with leaps, and tail walks and such, these calmy visited the Condor Express, then dove out of sight, only to repeat this behavioral sequence a few times. The encounter provided great looks, though.

A bit east we found and watched a second, highly migration-focused gray. Then, northeast a bit further, we found an easier to watch gray whale. This individual swam close to the surface when submerged. The clear water allowed for good tracking and wonderful views.

Captain Dave and the crew took us into beautiful Pelican Harbor (or Bay), further down to the east. Here the surrounding island views were very green from the abundant rainfall a few weeks ago. Great to see! Near the mouth of Pelican, we encountered a large, 20-member pod of Dall’s porpoise. They were very boat friendly today and rode our bow quite a bit.

On the way home and about 5 miles offshore there was a small pod of long-beaked common dolphins that was great to see. It was our 4th and last cetacean species of this epic day.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.

Bob Perry

Condor Express, and

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