Gray Whale Spyhop during Mating

2016 03-05 SB Channel

Light rain and heavy mist fell on and off all day as two storm systems approach Santa Barbara from the west.   Luckily there were lots of “off” periods so everyone could get outside and enjoy the cetacean show. Captain Dave was at the helm and his talented whale-spotting deckhand Auggie was on his A-game again today. We watched a total of 8 gray whales, 3 humpback whales and about 25 long-beaked commons today. Here are the details:

9 am We had our one and only small pod of long-beaked common dolphins just outside the Santa Barbara Harbor entrance. This was a widely dispersed pod that showed only moderate interest in the Condor Express. Perhaps the multiple northern anchovy hot spots we spotted were more interesting to the hungry dolphins. The high point of the day came about a half-hour later when a very active trio of gray whales was observed, through the binoculars, just south of offshore oil Platform Henry. As has been the case so often this past week or so, the trio was engaged in courtship and mating.   Among the most popular activities we witnessed was, of course, the spyhop, also seen were lots of head-lifts including head resting on another whale, petting with pectoral fin, dorsal fins in the air, rolling around, and other wild and crazy antics. We kept our distance, of course, but certainly wondered among the crew what it would be like to see a video of what was actually taking place under the water. Oh, and I almost forgot, Floyd was seen a couple of times. The spyhop was my personal favorite.

One small humpback whale completed the species list for the morning excursion.

12 noon Just outside the harbor we followed a very shy, small gray whale for a while until another trio of gray’s were spotted not too far away. This small triad was heading west and not “messing around” at all. The good news was that they spent the majority of their time on the surface and did not dive deep or long.

On the way back to the harbor Auggie spotted several breaches a few miles ahead of the Condor. This would turn out to be a pair of humpback whales migrating west. Always nice to see.

Towards the end of the noon trip the wind was picking up a little bit and it began to drizzle again. But the afternoon sightings were good and made up for the damp weather.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

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