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Massive clear water feeding frenzy and cetaceans galore!

2020 07-03 SB Channel

The beginning of July has shaped up to be a very rich and productive time for wildlife in the Channel. Today we watched 3000 long- beaked common dolphins, 75 California sea lions, 3humpback whales, 1 giant blue whale, and 25 Risso’s dolphins. Skies were sunny and seas were calm. Today’s adventure moved completely across the Santa Barbara Channel towards Fry’s Harbor in the middle of beautiful Santa Cruz Island.

The “big event“ for today was a massive, movable, bait ball full of northern anchovies which was located just south of the Summerland oil rig line. There was so much bait concentrated here that we watched for over two hours as the little fish came kept coming to us and often tried to seek shelter using the boat as a shield against attacks. The predators in this event included at least 500 common dolphins, two humpback whales (one large and one small), 75 California sea lions and thousands of actively hunting marine birds. The calm ocean surface and clear water led to fantastic underwater views in what might be called a “NatGeo“ event. The action was continuous and spine-tingling!

In this massive feeding hotspot, the two humpbacks were joined by a third large animal and the two bigger ones took up actively surface lunge feeding. This feeding occurred both separately and as a team for the duration of our observations. Meanwhile the smaller whale that wasn’t lunge-feeding did a lot of lobtailing and breaching. After a long time on the action, we continue to move south towards the island.

Shortly thereafter a nice group of 25 Risso’s dolphins located the boat and may have been the same pod we saw yesterday out here. Also present and closely watch was one giant blue whale. The big blue was not shy around the boat and spent quite a bit of time on the surface between dives.

Moving up close to the island and touring along the majestic seacliffs we ended up inside the beautiful Fry’s Harbor, the source of much of the boulders and rocks that make up the Santa Barbara Harbor breakwater. While enjoying the view, we observed two bald eagles perched in the trees along the edge of the cliffs.

On the way home there were practically nonstop common dolphins everywhere.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.

Bob Perry

Condor Express, and

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