2022 10-15 SB Channel The sky started out with high, thin stratus clouds and quite a bit of drizzle. Fortunately, the drizzle subsided within a half hour. It wasn’t too long after that the stratus opened up and we had sun for the rest of the day. The sea surface was absolutely mirror glass. When we got to the largest hotspot, 6 miles south of Platform Holly, the water was very clear. A best estimate of our wildlife sightings is: 20+ humpback whales, 2 Minke whales, 8000 long-beaked common dolphins, 600 California sea lions and 50 offshore bottlenose dolphins.
To be honest, today was “one of those special days” where we found a huge patch of open ocean up past Goleta that supported dozens of “hot spots.” These rich patches depended upon masses of northern anchovies that get tightly balled-up by sub-surface predators below and hungry sea birds from above. All the commotion may draw-in humpback whales that engulf huge swaths of the hot spot in one big lunge. Today was a spectacular day with lots of surface lunge-feeding as well as lots of other fun humpback behaviors. Things got started pretty quickly. Right outside of the harbor we found two individual Minke whales and got some decent looks before moving on. About a half an hour later, we encountered the leading edge what would be an “endless” supply of long-beaked common dolphins. In this first area, we estimated at least 5000. This hotspot, and all of the future ones, had large mobs of sea lions that mixed in with the dolphins, sea birds and, in many cases, whales. Around high noon we entered one the hottest activity spots of the day where we found four individual humpback whales. Many of them were surface lunge-feeding, alongside masses of dolphins and sea lions. Brown pelicans, black-vented shearwaters, sooty shearwaters, western gulls and a few elegant terns were on the scene. There were five more humpback whales in the next hot spot. More lunge-feeding was observed. As we moved northwest, we watched 5 more lunge-feeding whales. Some of these lunges were sideways, some were straight forward, and the most dramatic were straight up-and-down vertical lunges. Later we were attracted to our final huge concentration of wildlife for this trip by multiple breaches in the distance. Moving in, we found a tight knit trio, with a mother and her calf along with a separate adult. Soon they were joined by two more whales. Although no lunge-feeding behavior was observed with this group, everything else was. We watched lots and lots of breaching, rolling, pectoral slapping, windmill pec slaps, and full rotation breaching. Melodious trumpet blues were common. The initial trio surfaced right next to the boat several times. Then, as if to cap off and already amazing sighting, a group of 20 very active offshore bottlenose dolphins joined in the fray. They moved from whale to whale until they had visited them all.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express, and CondorExpressPhotos.com