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The Gray Whale Mother-Calf Parade Continues…and More.

2015 04-22 SB Coast

It was a day with a glassy calm ocean surface and partly sunny skies. Captain Dave commanded two excursions out of Santa Barbara Harbor today: a 12 noon cruise ship charter, and a 3 pm trip open to the public. Here’s the breakdown:

12 noon. Near the bell buoy and harbor entrance we immediately got on to a nice, widely spread out pod of long-beaked common dolphins. Soon deckhand Augie had spotted spouts inside the East Beach boat anchorage and it turned out to be two separate pairs of gray whale mothers with calves. The leading pair dodged the pier and ran offshore a bit to avoid harbor traffic. The lagging pair was moving slower and closer to shore, running a course across the mouth of the harbor, near the breakwater, and then near the shore westward to Leadbetter. We watched the latter for a while then caught up with the former. All was pretty much buisness-like until the calf decided to take a 90° course and head for the beach. Mom followed and soon there were numerous bubble blasts, rolling around, possibly nursing underwater (?), and some nice spy hops by the calf.

Another pod of about 100 common #dolphins were encountered as they were marauding tiny anchovies in, and just outside of, the kelp beds. Next we spotted a large single adult gray #whale moving west fast, Dave clocked it at 8 knots…this was about 1/2 mile off Leadbetter Beach.   In this same area we spotted a cluster of at least 7 moderately large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and, although they remained mostly sub-surface, we had good looks at them. There were not so many Purple Sailor jellies (Velella velella) today and the sunfish appeared to be lined up and searching.

Two more gray whales, a mother and calf, were seen nearby but they dove deep and we were running a bit late. However the sight of yet another mother-calf gray whale pair near the harbor entrance and breakwater caused us to pause and enjoy the view.

3 pm. With only a light breeze from the west Dave took the Condor Express up to the west in search of more gray whales for this trip. Near Goleta there was a mother-calf pair and good looks were had.   Further offshore we got into about 500 or so long-beaked common dolphins and enjoyed the usual yet never-tiring bow riding and wake riding by these little cetaceans. We then located a few more ocean sunfish and were enjoying these strange fish when a single, medium- large California sea lions came up and began to mess around with the sunfish. This rapidly spooked the fish and caused them to dive too deep to see what was their fate was going to be.

Another great and productive day on the Santa Barbara Channel !

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

Spots still open:   all-day pelagic trip, Sunday May 17

Today’s photographs will be up this weekend: www.CondorExpressPhotos.com

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