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Humpbacks, Gray Whales and Dolphins (and sun!)

2016 02-04 SB Channel

Total sightings for the day included 4 humpback whales (1 of which we saw 3 times, but I didn’t “pad” the count), 5 gray whales and about 500 long-beaked common dolphins. It was another stunning day with bright skies and calm seas all day. Again, we had that “Conception to Mugu” visibility and there were no excuses for not seeing spouts at a considerable distance. These sunny winter days are among the best of the year in my opinion.

Things really got a hot start when we were about 3 miles south of Santa Barbara and heading in the general direction of mid-Santa Cruz Island. Here we were able to follow a trio of gray whales as they slowly meandered east, and were fairly preoccupied with what looked to us like courtship behavior.   There was a lot of tight formation, some rolling around, one whale atop another and other fun activities. No floyds were seen.

After a long session with this amorous triad, we continued southbound and soon found ourselves in an area with two hot spot bait balls. The usual assemblage of long-beaked common dolphins, California sea lions and sea birds was found on these spots. The dark mass of northern anchovies could be seen in the greenish-blue water.

Around noon we located our first humpback whale of the trip along with about 50 or so dolphins in one area. This was one of the humpback whales we saw in this mid-Channel zone yesterday. It was easy to identify since it has a big cluster of stalked barnacles attached to the tip of its hooked dorsal fin. The humpback whale did a couple of head lifts and ejected mouth water simultaneously.

At 1250p we found a larger bait ball hot spot and at least 150 dolphins and a few dozen California sea lions working for their lunch. The bait ball tried to hide under the Condor Express on one occasion, so everyone had wonderful looks at the mass of silvery fish with sea lions and dolphins on the attack…up close and personal. We did see an unusual cooperative behavior from a group of dolphins that had been working the bait. We looked over the side and into the bait ball and there were 5 or so dolphins down under the bait emitting a bubble stream as they swam in a circle.   This may be a bubble net kind of feeding method as has been documented with humpback whales in the north Pacific.   ….just a speculation by us…no proof.

Later we found the same barnacle-fin humpback whale out near Platform Habitat, and while we watched it joined with two others to make a trio of humpback whales. What fun !   On our way home from here we intersected the path of two more gray whales swimming with a small cadre of dolphins. It was certainly quite a day.

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

PS   The 25% off coupon deal has been extended through February 13. Print and show the coupon, available free on our FaceBook page, to be eligible for this special deal while it lasts.

PSS On February 15 we change over our schedule to coastal northbound gray whales (with other species frequently encountered) and offer three 2.5-hour trips per day. For more information go to our website

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