2016 06-04 SB Channel
Mill pond flat glass conditions today and the stratus lifted just enough to give us a few miles lateral visibility which was acceptable for spotting wildlife. Captain Dave took the Condor Express south to The Flats where yesterday’s whale congregation had moved a few miles east. They were off Santa Cruz Island today instead of Santa Rosa. The Channel was absolutely teaming with wildlife as you will read below:
As we attempted our southbound heading, it was not long before we encountered our first large, wide-spread region of feeding long-beaked common dolphins. We estimated the whole area must have had at least 1,000 animals but they fed in small groups on isolated little patches of northern anchovy. The mill pond flat glass conditions were perfect for seeing these animated cetaceans as the fed upside-down and also rode the bow and stern of the Condor. Back under way, about 45 minutes later we were approached by a dozen Dall’s porpoise and they spent a long time riding the bow. Later in the trip, when we were watching the larger whales, there were a few more Dall’s, so our total for the excursion was probably around 20.
Although we were on a track for Santa Rosa Island, our sharp-eyed deck hand (and second captain) Eric located a lot of spouts closer to the west end of Santa Cruz. At first we saw two humpback whales, but we were quickly diverted by the presence of three blue whales closer to the boat. Several blue whale tail flukes were seen…always a special treat. I should also mention that we found very small, young purple sailors (Velella velella) all over the mill pond flat glass surface today. Why no feeding sunfish (Mola mola) ? Probably just a matter of chance. While we waited for one of the diving blue whales to surface, we spotted a large female elephant seal nearby in a vertical position with her large head out of the water and pointed up to the heavens. We had some great looks before it finally fell into the depths and “sank to the deep ocean like a falling leaf.”
Later we were watching surface lunge-feeding humpback whales as they attacked krill on the surface when a very large fin whale joined the surface banquet. It was a friendly fin whale and we had great looks. On our way back across The Lanes as we headed for the harbor, we saw two more blue whales and two more humpback whales. One of the humpbacks was very small, perhaps 20 feet long, and had tiny wounds all over its skin…like the pox or something odd. Not long after leaving this little, yet very friendly, humpback whale we had our last encounter of the trip, another 1,000 or more common dolphins. This group was tightly packed and stayed in a high speed “stampede” mode from the time we first saw them in the distance. Wow!
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express
PS I encourage you to take advantage of these mill pond flat glass conditions and come out to see all the wildlife asap!