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Risso’s Dolphin Nursery Pod and More !

Part of a Risso’s dolphin nursery pod with 2 mothers, each with a young calf. Bob Perry

Risso’s Dolphin Nursery Pod and More !

Captain Dave headed south towards the last known location of our humpbacks yesterday.  Not far outside Santa Barbara Harbor I spotted a Minke whale and we got 2 or 3 decent looks at it before our attention was diverted towards the first of many many large herds of long beaked common dolphins.  In all we guessed 4,000 or more of these little cetaceans were seen closely by the Condor Express. Amidst one of the mega-pods I was tracking a common dolphin through my 300mm lens that I thought was upside down and, perhaps, was going to initiate some mating.  When it got to the surface it turned out to be a very very light, perhaps albino, common dolphin.  Wow.  The pods were like stepping stones leading us to the south and, sure enough, our first of 2 humpback whales.  This first whale had a habit of fluking up every time it dove down…shallow or deep.  It was a show-off that obviously responded to the clicking camera shutters or similar sounds made by digital cameras.  It was like waves of machine gun fire by photographers every time the whale descended…if you’ll pardon the reference to weapons.    This first whale did a bit of rolling around once or twice too.

Next we struck out on a southwesterly course for a visit to the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island.  Although there were a few rolling swells in the open Channel, the cave was remarkably calm and Dave put the Condor Express inside the mouth of it  From the Cave our “plan” was to head west along the subsurface ledge that is formed by the island shelf break, but almost immediately our deckhand Tasha spotted a very nice herd of Risso’s dolphins. Once the boat was situated alongside the Risso’s at a respectful distance, we immediately noticed that practically every adult dolphin was riding along with a super tiny brown calf.  There were at least 25 dolphins total in this pod, and about half were about 24 inches long.  What a thrill !

We continued westbound for quite a ways until we just ran out of time and had to bend the course back to the north and head home.  As fate would have it, a friend of Captain Dave hailed us 20 minutes later and wanted to know if we had seen all the blue whales.   If only we had more time, we were probably only a mile or so from an encounter with these giant beasts.  If weather and sea conditions continue as great as they were today (and that is the NOAA forecast) Dave may head over to Santa Rosa and try to locate the big blue whales.  Don’t quote me on that.  There was a very long tidal front extending out of Santa Cruz Passage (between Sta Cruz and Sta Rosa), and there were numerous detached giant kelp paddies all along the slick line.  Any paddy bigger than about 6 feet in diameter was swarming with California sea lion pups, all with their pectoral fins up in the air, rafting.

Not too far off the mainland coast (Hope Ranch), and even though we were already running late due to all of the above mentioned wildlife, we stopped on our last mega-pod of common dolphins and, you guessed it, the second humpback whale of the day in the middle of all the action.  More great looks, great tail flukes and a wonderful way to close out the day with Mother Nature.

By the way, you never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

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