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Young humpback and gray whale behavior steals the show!

2017 04-10 SB Coast

Captain Eric and his team ran two wonderful excursions out of SEA Landing in Santa Barbara today.  The total number of observed cetaceans for the whole day included:  2 humpback whales, 5 gray whales, 350 long-beaked common dolphins.  It was a clear, sunny day with good sea conditions.

9am After leaving the outer harbor entrance buoy and its resident California sea lions, a group of 100 or more dolphins were seen just ½-mile further offshore.  These animals were actively feeding on northern anchovies, and were soon joined at their dinner table by one small humpback whale.  The whale was extremely friendly towards the Condor Express, and made about a dozen trips over to the bow, and trips under the boat during which time it rolled around and showed its long pectoral fins.  This went on for about an hour as the dolphins joined and watched.

The juvenile humpback also did something very unusual.  The Santa Barbara coastal zone is rich in petroleum and has numerous active oil and gas seeps which are concentrated just west of UCSB.  Some of this oil and petrochemical soup floats on the surface where sun causes the volatile fraction to evaporate and the resulting material on the ocean is affectionately called mousse.  Our little humpback lunged at the floating mousse and appeared to consume it.  It repeated this behavior about 4 times in front of everyone. The whale did not appear to be injured or harmed by this, and my biological opinion is that the whole event might just be youthful exuberance.

Even more dolphins were found on our way back to the harbor.

12 noon A single, small, shy gray whale was located off the outer buoy as we left the harbor on our second trip.  The whale was hard to follow as its course zigged and zagged around the boat traffic at the harbor entrance.  Nearby, two larger and more “showy” gray whales were located just off the Yacht Club.  We followed behind the pair all the way to the old lighthouse where they went into very shallow water kelp beds.  Soon the original small whale joined the pair in the kelp, and finally another pair, a mother and her calf, made the kelp party a 5-some.

The little calf spent some time swimming back and forth to visit the Condor and then back to its mother in the kelp forest.  It also did a lot of spy-hopping which calves are known to do.  The final sighting consisted of a large humpback whale about 3 miles south of the kelp party.  This animal was playing in a detached, drifting and floating kelp paddy.  At one point the humpback spy-hopped very high with kelp draped all over its rostrum.  Captain Eric said the whale looked like a palm tree.  Numerous California sea lions were all around and interacting with this whale.

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

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