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Gray Whales in the Santa Cruz Channel

2015 12-31 SB Channel

A gorgeous New Year’s Eve in the “gap” (aka, Santa Cruz Channel…between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Island). Captain Dave steered the Condor Express directly towards the Santa Cruz Channel, although our direct path was thwarted on three occasions. The first thwart was a dozen or so Pacific white-sided dolphins just outside the Santa Barbara Harbor entrance buoy. The second and third delays were caused by our interest in two separate open ocean hot spots with long-beaked common dolphins, California sea lions, brown pelicans and other seabirds all working a large northern anchovy bait ball at each location. By the end of the sightings here we estimated approximately 150 long-beaked commons were observed.

Pressing onward on our 35+ mile course into the Santa Cruz Channel, we found very calm seas with almost no wind at all. It was sunny and you could see from Conception to Bony Ridge and all 4 Santa Barbara Channel Islands. Wow. And the gap itself did not disappoint. We closely watched 4 gray whales and saw another 3 in the area using binoculars. We also crossed paths with 2 more just off the Mesa in coastal waters, but we were running late and could not stop. The southbound parade is definitely under way. One pair of the 4 grays we watched in the gap was a large (female?) whale with a small (yearling?) whale.

The gorgeous island backdrops in the Santa Cruz Channel make this a magical place to watch the abundant gray whales that use this corridor to head south.

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

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