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Whales, Dolphins and Abundant Purple Sailors

2015 04-21 SB Coast

Mirror glass conditions persisted for most of the day in the northern Santa Barbara Channel today with only a very slight breeze starting up around 2 pm. There were overcast skies most of the day, with little “sucker holes” through which the sunshine peaked through to tease us all. Dave took the captain’s chair and, with Augie on the binoculars, we covered the entire coast from Rincon up past the Elwood oil pier.   It was another fabulous day for wildlife.

Right off the bat Augie spotted a small pod of 4 coastal bottlenose dolphins which were made up of 3 adults and a large calf/ juvenile. The coastal water was a bit green, but we still were able to see these large #dolphins ride the bow. Next we encountered about 500 long-beaked common dolphins chasing little “pinhead” anchovies all around out front of Santa Barbara Harbor and East Beach. There were numerous little calves leaping here and there across the mirror surface and a bunch of California sea lions were in there too.  Three Minke whales (2 large, 1 small) patrolled the zone as well.

We continued west up the coast until we located a quad pod that was, you guessed it, made up of 2 mother gray whales and their calves all traveling together near the kelp in front of the Bacara. The overcast marine layer conditions caused the spouts from these #whales to show up nicely and hang in the air forever.

Although we had been seeing scattered By-The-Wind Sailor jellies (aka, Purple Sailors, Velella velella) all day, Captain Dave eventually put the Condor Express on a vast field of these cnidarians north of Platform Hillhouse. There were acres of these little living disks and in some places where the wind did its magic, the animals were packed tightly together to form what looked like a raft of living bubbles. Dave was on the PA and mentioned that ocean sunfish (Mola mola) eat these jellies and a second later a large fish appeared within the raft and was selecting the prime cutlets from the stock. Wow!

I’ll post up the photos sometime tomorrow I hope. Bob Perry Condor Express

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