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Killer whales! (and so much more)

2022 10-06 SB Channel

Captain Devin and his crew navigated a marvelous wildlife trip today with hardly a breeze in the Channel. Sightings included: 5 killer whales (Orcinus orca), 11 humpback whales, 3000 long-beaked common dolphins, 500 short-beaked common dolphins and 300+ California sea lions.

Our first wildlife encounter was a phenomenal marine circus act put on by the ever-animated short-beaked common dolphins. We were 7 miles south of Santa Barbara Harbor and saw every conceivable behavior for which this species is famous: tail-walking, leaping, jumping, high-flying and quite a lot of noisy chin-slapping. There were lots of calves in this pod.

Moving west and south of The Lanes, a single sub-adult humpback was quickly watched as it was in travel mode. Using binoculars, Captain Devin spotted some black and white beasts in the distance, and soon we were in safe viewing distance of 5 killer whales (Orcinus orca). The group was moving non-stop to the west and we kept pace. Devin describes a tight group of 3 females in between two possible sub-adult males that were flanking them about 200 yards out on each side. There were several inquisitive close-passes and approaches to the Condor Express. This includes fast passes alongside, a few dives under our hulls, and a couple of broadside approaches leading to a last-minute dive. The fast westerly travel continued to take us farther from home, so we eventually parted ways.

Still west of the NOAA East Channel Buoy a hot spot area with at least 8 humpbacks was located. Thousands of long-beaked common dolphins and several hundred California sea lions were in the milieu. During the sighting, the dolphins, whales and sea lions all took off on a high speed “stampede” run. After a few minutes they resumed their regular sub-surface feeding and no obvious cause for the stampede could be determined as the killer whales were no where around at this point. The feeding here included one dramatic surface side-lunge by a humpback whale.

On the way home we had quick looks as we passed 3 more humpback whales and we were already running late.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.

Bob Perry

Condor Express, and

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