Image: a close approach by an often-elusive Minke Whale.
2023 09-08 SB Channel
What a day. Wonderful weather and sea conditions set a backdrop for a very abundant and diverse marine mammal sighting day. Skies were sunny except for some very brief fog near Santa Cruz Island. Seas were calm and so were the winds. We closely watched: 6000+ long-beaked common dolphins, 2 Minke whales, 200 offshore bottlenose dolphins, 9 humpback whales and 200 California sea lions.
The sightings began, as the frequently have during the past few weeks, with a tiny group of common dolphins fairly close to shore. The crew had a hunch we’d see larger pods offshore, so our initial stop was brief. By the time we reached the whale hot spot, east and west of The Buoy, there were many super mega pods of common dolphins all around the area. Sea birds and sea lions were also with these massive groups.
Our first genuine whale, not a dolphin, was a small Minke whale that patrolled the periphery of the dolphin herds. We had good looks. Also, in this area we encountered a very large pod of offshore bottlenose dolphins that was twice the size of the pods we’ve been seeing during the summer. As with earlier sightings, this group had lots of caves, was very actively surfing our bow, side and stern waves, and many individuals took to the air with frequent high-flying mileage being abundantly earned.
Not long after the bottlenose encounter, a second, larger Minke whale was watched. This was definitely an adult and had extremely short, 1 minute, dive times. It also made several close approaches to the Condor Express (see today’s photo for an example).
We moved northwest of our spot near The Buoy and found additional large numbers of common dolphins. Sure enough, here there were at least 7 humpback whales found within the dolphin pods. Both species were no doubt feeding sub-surface. We watched a few solo whales, one pair, and one trio…there were undoubtedly more in the area.
On the way home we slowed to watch another 2 humpbacks.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
Condor Express, and