2015 10-16 SB Channel
Our first of 8 humpback whales was found only 7 miles south of Santa Barbara Harbor and it was our old pal “Top Notch.” Topper was heading east alongside the first 150 of the 1,250+ long-beaked common dolphins we watched today. There were a few long-beaked calves along the way. From our vantage point out on the 50-fathom curve we could see additional humpback whale spouts in the near distance. This led us to the first of 2 nice oceanic hot spots of the day.
The first hot spot had all the usual suspects. Loads of black-vented shearwaters, a fulmar or two, a few gulls, and a couple of brown pelicans marked the spot where the bait ball was lurking just beneath the crystal cobalt blue water. Here we saw 4 more humpback whales that apparently were feeding beneath the surface and their by-catch was getting the rest of the predators excited. In addition to the seabirds already mentioned, there were more long-beaked common dolphins feeding, some California sea lions of course, and at least 3 Minke whales (4 total were seen today) worked the region. Soon enough the anchovy ball dissipated and the animals dispersed accordingly.
Just a few minutes southeast Captain Eric steered the Condor Express into the second hot spot of the day. This one featured 3 more humpback whales (until Top Notch swam over and joined them). One more Minke whale was on patrol, as were several hundred long-beaked common dolphins.
Around noon Eric left these north-Channel feeding spots and started moving towards Santa Cruz Island. About 15 minutes later however, we encountered a megapod of at least 1,000 short-beaked common dolphins. These smaller-beaked cousins of the other dolphins were, per usual, very highly animated and individuals exhibited all sorts of aerial activity including loads of high flying. One of the most remarkable sights to be seen with these short-beaked dolphins was at least a half-dozen different individuals did some prolonged tail walking. Wow ! This was magical and spectacular.
The last major accomplishment of the excursion was a narrated tour of the western end of Santa Cruz Island and a trip inside the mouth of the world-famous Painted Cave.
We had calm seas and partly cloudy skies all day. Auggie measured the surface temperature and it was 73°F.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express