2016 02-22 SB Channel
It’s February, our coldest month of the year and Captain Dave presided over a single adventure today that took us around the northern midriff of the Santa Barbara Channel in search of wildlife. Air temperatures were in the high 70’s. On binoculars he had the distinguished spotter, Auggie, assisted by the one and only Tasha. Condor Express alumna Amanda also helped out. Here is a synopsis of what transpired:
12noon Where have all the “Lags” been lately? We’ve been wondering out loud to each other, and so it was fun to see our first marine mammal species of the trip turn out to be at least 25 of these Pacific white-sided dolphins (aka, Lags, after Lagenorhynchus, their genus). These were fairly friendly dolphins that broke off from their feeding activities to ride our wake and come alongside to look at their fans. There were even a couple of calves in this pod, and the whole bunch of them were mixed in with a gang of California sea lions on the bait patches.
Twenty minutes later and south of the Lag/sea lion patches, we encountered our first small group of long-beaked common dolphins with about 20 animals. They stayed with us for a few minutes but as we pushed off to the southwest, we left them in our wake. Almost an hour past without any significant marine mammal sightings, but our ever vigilant crew spotted a cluster of nice spouts a few miles ahead. This turned out to be a trio of northbound gray whales mixed in with a spread out group of about 100 additional dolphins. The gray whales were all business and kept a steady pace westbound in the Channel (which is how you get to Alaska if you are a gray whale). It was so sunny and bright that seeing them spout on the backdrop of deep blue water was fantastic. A lone Minke whale also passed in front of the Condor Express.