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Sea lion mega-pods stole the show.

Sea lion mega-mobs stole the show.  It was another heat wave-buster chock full o’ life including at least 2,000 California sea lions, 1,000 long-beaked common dolphins, 500 short-beaked common dolphins, and one very nice humpback whale.  The air temperature was in the high 90’s, water temp near 68, and it was mill pond flat glass except for a few areas where the warm Santa Ana winds were blowing.  The breeze on board the Condor Express as it moved through the cobalt waters provided a nice change from conditions on land.

After departing Santa Barbara at 1015, the first group of dolphins to approach us was long-beaked common dolphins. There were only about 20 in this frisky little pod, and as far as I can tell it was a mating pod, without my getting too graphic.  The next generation of dolphins is apparently safe from extinction, unless so other factor comes into play.

About 15 minutes later Dave and Auggie found a much larger herd with around 1,000 little beasts.  This was an exceptionally friendly group that swam all around the boat, rode the wake and spent some quality time looking at their fans on board.  Parts of the pod were practically all cow-calf pairs as you will see in the photographs when I post them next week.

After playtime with the little cetaceans it was Island and Cave time.  Santa Cruz Island looked wonderful against the azure seas and glassy conditions.  It was so calm that Captain Dave took the Condor back into the mouth of the Cave a bit further than usual.  Various mosses as well as the endemic Santa Cruz Island Dudleya were seen growing on the rock walls of the Cave.  Per usual, Dave disseminated his truths about the history, geography, paleontology, and conservation of this largest isle of the eight in southern California waters.

After the Cave, two large mega mobs of California sea lions appeared.  At first the water was calm and only a few brown furry animals were seen.  But things quickly alternated into a roiling, foamy mass as the herd came to the surface .  I’d love to rent an ROV and see what the heck this many pinnipeds are doing down there.  These two groups consisted of at least 2,000 sea lions by my estimation.  You can sort of judge for yourself by looking at my photograph above that shows only a small section of one of the two mobs.  It was totally NatGeo.

The next segment of the excursion featured a single very cooperative humpback whale with only 5-minutes down every time.  It fluked up on each dive, and Dave recognized this giant as being the same animal that has been on patrol in this area (near the entrance to Santa Cruz Channel) for the past several days.  A little further to the east Dave and Auggie located a 500-strong pod of short-beaked common dolphins.  What a day and the sea lion mega-mobs stole the show !

You never know, and neither do I, what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express


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