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Humpback gluttons feast all day

2016 03-24 SB Channel

Oh, My Gosh!  What an epic day we had.  Glassy seas, not much bump, very warm sunny skies and the cetal fauna exceeded all expectations. Here are the glorious details:

9 am Our first cetacean was a juvenile gray whale found just off the Yacht Club.  We followed it west and it had long down times.  It did do a few 180° turnaround which brought it close to the Condor Express and its whale fans.  Later on this morning trip we found and watched two more pairs of small gray whales about 20 minutes apart coming up the coast.  Again, these mostly had long down times and a couple of them were snorkelers.  About this time, the extremely sharp visual powers of our deckhand, Tasha, located some hot spots a few miles offshore and their associated humpback whales.

Once on the scene we did see several medium sized northern anchovy bait ball hot spots replete with about 200 long-beaked common dolphins, 50 or so California sea lions and 4, large, very hungry humpback whales.  The rest of the morning excursion went by very quickly as we watched these knobby-headed beasts vertically lunge feed at the surface time after time.  What a show!  The dolphins would coral the anchovies and move them into a tight ball in one spot, the humpback would move in and lunge in the middle of the fish.  The humpbacks would then move to the next spot where other dolphins had the fish all balled-up.  After that, they would return to the first spot after the dolphins regrouped the bait ball.  The hungry sea lions went about their feeding everywhere anchovies were still wiggling.

12 noon No crew member was surprised when Captain Dave left Santa Barbara Harbor and set a course directly back to the spot where we had left the feeding humpback whales on the morning adventure.  Sure enough, there were still a few living anchovy balls and the humpback whale were still there.  We spent the whole trip watching the action-packed show.  There were, again, 4 humpback whales, and in the mix we watched at least 300 long-beaked common dolphins, 50 Pacific white-sided dolphins (aka, Lags), and a minimum of 50 California sea lions.  There were periods when the whales were down underwater and all we did was stare at the bait ball…soon enough the waters would erupt and the humpback whales would emerge from the depths with their mouths open, baleen exposed, and millions of tiny silvery-green fish leaping for their lives.

3pm The show continued during the late afternoon trip.  The Lags were back, about 25 of them, along with at least 200 common dolphins, several dozen sea lions, and the same 4 humpback feeding machines.  At one point a ballooned humpback rose to the surface from the depths belly-first.  The gular pouch was fully distended and full of water laden with anchovies.  It was a mysterious, even surreal sight until the humpback rolled back and righted itself.  At first we all said “Whaaaaa?”  These fascinating and highly active whales never cease to amaze.

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

PS   It will take all weekend to process these photographs and put them online…but I assure you, it will be worth the wait.

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