Gray Whale Calves Have a Party in Santa Barbara
2015 05-05 SB Coast
Captain Dave turned west along the shoreline kelp beds after our brief visit with 8 Pacific harbor seals on the harbor bait barge and the usual California sea lions on the two entrance buoys. With our pinniped checklist completed, all eyes were scanning the coast for cetaceans. Very quickly, near the old Santa Barbara Light tower, we found 4 gray whales together inside the kelp and close to the surf zone. It was, naturally, 2 mothers with their calves. Our best guess using only topside visuals and imagination, was that this was a nursing station. Moms were fairly stationary at times and the calves were definitely sideways with tail flukes showing. Lots of rolling around, chin lifts, and a few nice spyhops made this station wonderful for all to see.
Soon one pair of #whales broke off and got back on the northbound migratory beat, leaving the second pair still frolicing. But quickly a third pair of whales moved in from the east, formed another quad pod, and the rolling, playing, nursing (?) and spying resumed. After an hour and a half of this cetacean entertainment Captain Dave moved the Condor Express out to deep water where we located about 100 long-beaked common dolphins. The #dolphins were widely distributed and there were numerous instanced of upside down surface feeding on northern anchovies.
Dave then took an easterly course about 5 or 6 miles off the beach to see what we might find. This leg of the excursion ended with a nice loop in between offshore oil platform C and B. Here Dave stopped the boat for a wonderful look at a big ocean sunfish (Mola mola) on the surface. As we watched this beast it consumed 3 or 4 individual By-The-Wind-Sailor jellies (Velella velella) right in front of us. Wow! There were not that many Velella where we went today, but the Mola seemed to find them nonetheless.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express, and CondorExpressPhotos.com