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Humpback Whales Feeding

2016 02-16 SB Channel

12noon We ran one trip today and left Santa Barbara Harbor to find mirror glass conditions, warm air, no wind and good underwater visibility.   Topside it was a little bit hazy to the east from the mild Santa Ana winds down there, but you could see Santa Rosa Island and Bony Mountain pretty well. These mid-winter hot days are better than summer. Deckhand Tasha put her keen eyes to work and quickly located our first 2 (of 9 total) humpback whales just south of Platform Henry. These two humpback whales were moving south and had long down times, although they did show their flukes regularly which made their fans on the Condor Express happy.

After some great looks at these first 2 humpback whales, we continued southeast to the Flats where Tasha had already identified a large feeding hot spot. Upon arriving on the scene there was a huge ball of northern anchovies being held together by common murres, brown pelicans, California sea lions and at least 100 long-beaked common dolphins. The bait ball tried to hide next to the port side of the Condor Express, but the sea lions and dolphins continued their assault.

Before long all this feeding activity drew the attention of 5 gregarious humpback whales including our old pal Rope. One of the most odd moments came when we were watching the humpback whales dive under the bait and come up with trumpet blows.   A single northbound gray whale approached from the east and was heading right for the bait ball and all its mammals and birds. When it was just 20 or so yards away it made an abrupt right flipper turn and changed its course to the north (towards the beach).

Rope and her four pals soon headed off and were almost immediately replaced by two more humpback whales. These two started working the bait ball and on two very dramatic occasions vertically lunged out of the water with mouths open and engulfed hundreds of thousands of anchovies.   Wow!

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

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