Image: Two killer whales spy hop together after a kill. [Stock photo ©Robert Perry]
2023 09-23 SB Channel
It was a calm morning nearshore but seas developed a light chop and moderate breeze came up later in the trip offshore. Skies were blue with hazy sunshine. Sightings for the day were very special: 8 Biggs killer whales, 2 humpback whales and 2500 (correction: 2499) long-beaked common dolphins.
Our wildlife sightings began in The Lanes adjacent to the middle of Santa Cruz Island where we watched a pair of humpback whales with groups of dolphins. Earlier in the day, one our Captain friends working in the Channel told us to stay alert for killer whales and gave an approximate location…A BIG THANKS!
All eyes were on the lookout as we saw a tremendous dolphin stampede in the near distance. Soon thereafter we located the killer whales and spent the rest of the trip on this fantastic sighting. The crew reports a total of 8 KW’s, of which there were 5 females, 1 juvenile and 2 very large adult males.
During this sighting a long-beaked common dolphin was taken by the KW’s. As they so often do, prior to actually consuming their prey, there was a lot of play-like behavior including throwing the dolphin high into the air, swimming around with it in their mouth (including coming to the Condor Express to “show us”), and swimming under the boat with it a few times. Also, several spy hops with and without the dolphin were witnessed. (An example of spy hop behavior from an earlier trip is shown in today’s photo).
While it is always a little disturbing to witness, it is also magnificent to see this link in the marine food chain…NatGeo stuff, some might say. The Condor Express sees KW’s about 6 times a year, on average, and about half of them involve actual feeding.
Our friend, Alisa, co-author of the California Killer Whale handbook, identified this group as a mixture of two lineages. All were from the CA27 family line except 2 that were CA140. (I hope my notes were accurate on this).
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
Condor Express, and