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Record-breaking day with 29+ humpback whales. Epic numbers of dolphins and sea lions also.

Image: an adult humpback whale came up from behind us and “led our way forward” with a series of charging breaches!

2023 09-29 SB Channel

There wasn’t a breath of wind, and the sea surface was mirror glass, until 1130a. After that, a light and variable breeze caused some surface ripples and also seemed to coincide with more sunny openings in the stratus layer. It was a record-breaking day: 29+ humpback whales, 5000+ long-beaked common dolphins and 500+ California sea lions. (The above + signs indicate that these numbers are as honest as we could be under the circumstances but, in all probability, there were more in the area we watched).

To get the sightings rolling, after a brief ritualistic stop to visit the sea lions on the harbor entrance buoy, we slowed to get a peek at the Santa Barbara kelp farm. We passed it again at a higher speed at the end of the trip.

The hot spot formerly near The Buoy and out into The Lanes moved much closer to shore. We worked a 2-mile zone that was just 7 miles offshore. There were dolphins everywhere, and mostly in dispersed small group…but they were everywhere we went. As a special treat, California sea lions were also very numerous today. Some were porpoising along with the dolphins, others were in small mobs. Although the dolphins passed the boat if we were in their intentioned path, the sea lions seemed to go out of their way to come over, crane their necks, and got great looks at their fans on the boat.

Today’s special dolphin behavior took place when an upside-down, hunting dolphin was closing in on some surface anchovies. A pesky western gull got a bead on the anchovies and began its final descent. The dolphin, still upside down, bit the gull’s legs and sent it flying off, squealing.

There were several times during the trip today when the Condor Express was completely surrounded by whales...port, starboard, bow and stern. Other behaviors we observed included a nearby whale that breached 5 times. The same whale swam ahead of the boat and got into a nice floating kelp paddy. It spy- hopped a few times and did some nice rolling. There were many trumpet vocalizations during the trip. In the distance there were other breaches, some pec slapping and a couple of episodes of tail-throwing that most people did not see.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store,

Bob Perry Condor Express, and

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