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Humpbacks galore

2016 05-23 SB Channel

It was a wonderful sunny day in the Santa Barbara Channel and the wind never got going.  Captain Eric, along with Ojos de águila Auggie, spotted lots of wildlife and we had a great excursion.  The trip took us south about 6 miles, then across to Santa Cruz Island, and back home.  Here are the details:

Within the first half-hour away from the dock we encountered a vast area of at least 1,500 feeding long-beaked common dolphins between 2 miles and 6 miles offshore.  Upside-down dolphins were everywhere as were leaping little silvery bait fish.  Towards the end of this sighting Auggie had already put his binoculars on a series of tall spouts not too far south of us.

Thus we entered a second vastly productive zone which contained approximately 20 humpback whales spread out, and we closely observed 9 of them.  About 1,000 additional dolphins roamed through the region with only occasional dolphin surface feeding and minimal bird activity.  One particular humpback “adopted” the Condor Express and moved at a brisk 8 knot pace to the east with the boat alongside for at least 20 minutes.  No deep dives, no tail flukes, this was a traveling animal.  It did let out a good number of trumpet blows.  At one point we were surrounded by dolphins including a dozen of them fighting for position on the bow wave, when Eric spotted a large ocean sunfish or Mola mola in the mix.  He backed down which confused the dolphins but gave us excellent views of the  Mola mola in undisturbed water.

Just after noon we ran over to the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island and Eric gave his island tour and talk which included a nice visit to beautiful Potato Harbor.  Oh, I almost forgot two things.  Just outside Potato we watched as two very high speed military boats came west from Anacapa and swerved around us only to be out of sight within very few minutes.  Glad they are on our side.  The second thing was that today was the first day with LARGE flocks of sooty shearwaters resting on the surface and taking flight as we passed them  We’ve had small bunched for about 2 weeks, but now the main migration to the Channel is under way.

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

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