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Humpback Whale, Gray Whale and Dolphin Bonanza

The big bird, aka “Condor,” ran two trips today.  The first trip left the dock at 9am and the second left at noon. Both trips had just about as much excitement as you could possibly pack into 2½ hours. Based on our observations today, I believe it is safe to say “Spring is here” in the Santa Barbara Channel. Here’s the full story:

The 9am trip found the ocean surface to be a glassy mirror, the sky clear and sunny, and stupendous visibilities from Boney Ridge to Santa Rosa Island. There was not even the slightest swell. Given the sea conditions, Captain Mike made the “call” to head south of the oil platforms and look for humpback whales.   The idea was to return to a coastal trip home and search for gray whales if we struck out on the humpbacks. Once again the sharp eyes of deckhand Augie spotted very tall spouts in the distance, perhaps 5 miles or so ahead of the boat. Bear in mind he was standing on top of the wheelhouse and using very sophisticated image-stabilized Fujinons…but even so!

We deviated from our course heading because 2 northbound gray whales intersected our path. We had great looks and then got back on track.   Soon we found ourselves surrounded by sea life of all kinds and we were in an oceanic hot spot. Common dolphins (at least 500), California sea lions, common murres, black-vented shearwaters, Brandt’s cormorants, brown pelicans, and a variety of gulls had all joined up with two magnificent humpback whales in a massive feeding frenzy. Sure enough, one of the two humpback #whales was our old pal “Top Notch,” who did not migrate this season and has been around all winter. About this time a yellow helicopter landed on Platform Hillhouse, and after a short time took off and landed on Platform B. The humpbacks were magnificent and kicked up their flukes a lot like they are prone to do.

Soon we had to head back to the dock because we had passengers waiting for the noon departure. But wait, about half-way home we found another pair of northbound gray whales and had a short but sweet time with the two.

By the time the noon trip ventured into the Channel a light breeze had picked up from the west and the sea surface had a very light chop…no whitecaps. Let’s call it Beaufort 2½ except we’re supposed to stick to whole numbers…a two. Back we went to the morning hot spot.

Before long Augie was at it again and had us located on 3 adult northbound gray whales. After a while there was a lot of rolling around, tail flukes, pectorals and so forth on the surface. Let’s call it “socializing” because this is a family-oriented blog. Pretty soon we found 2 more northbound gray whales. This migration thing is really picking up steam.

Ahead we could see lots of common dolphins and birds and when we arrived there was a wide swath of at least 1,000 dolphins.   First one humpback whale popped up and spouted, then two more.   It was a trio of humpbacks. One of the trio was a huge animal, probably a female, and her tail fluke obscured the horizon…no lie. Soon we had yet another 3 humpback whales around the Condor, and we were absolutely surrounded by these knobby headed beasts. We ran over time and had to streak back to the dock late, but nobody complained.

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

I’ll finish editing and post the photos sometime tomorrow afternoon. If you are not busy, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum in Oxnard is holding an opening event from 5pm to 7pm tomorrow (Thursday) night as my photographic exhibit is unveiled to the public.   You are all invited of course !

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