Whale Watching on the Condor Express
By Robert Bernstein
This past Tuesday we went whale watching on the Condor Express.
Here are all my photos.
I chose this time because this is the peak for gray whale mothers migrating north with calves.
Here you can follow the Gray Whale Count which is done by volunteers at Coal Oil Point near UCSB. Click on the link marked "2018 Record of THE COUNT.pdf" for the day by day count details.
We chose the Condor Express because of their decades of experience in whale watching. The boat is engineered to protect the whales from injury as there is no exposed propeller; a water jet propels the boat. And there are always volunteers aboard to offer additional information.
This volunteer Marty Garey is showing us a model of the gray whale.
And here he is showing the baleen which the whale uses to filter its food.
The gray whale is a bottom feeder. But on this long migration from Mexico to Alaska, the whales rarely feed.
We left the Sea Landing harbor at noon
We soon saw pelicans
And sea lions that almost always are hanging out on the green buoy near the harbor entrance
Just seven minutes later we saw our first whale!
Not just one whale. It was a mother and her calf!
We stayed with them for about 20 minutes. Over and over the mother and calf would dive, leaving a smooth "footprint" on the surface
Only to re-surface a few minutes later with a blast from their blow holes
As we waited and watched, we were greeted by a number of pelicans gracefully soaring past, just barely skimming the surface of the water
Sometimes a bit higher
Sometimes in pairs
About ten minutes after we left the mother and calf we saw a second pair of whales close to shore!
The crew members were not sure if this was a mother and calf or if it was just two females swimming together. In any case, we were treated to another long period of staying with the whales and watching them swim, dive, surface and blow!
You may recognize this Mesa area
As we watched from the boat, others watched from the shore
Both pairs stayed inside where the kelp floated off shore as you can see
The water is too shallow for a full dive with a fluke display, but we did get this fin display
At around 1:15PM, the captain decided to take a break from searching for whales along the shore. She headed away from shore in search of pods of dolphins.
It was a chance for some of us to head inside to sit for a bit and warm up and have some food from the galley.
We saw this flock of birds skimming the water
And we got some nice views of the Montecito coast and the construction of the new Miramar
But we did not see any dolphins, despite the fact previous recent trips had seen them
As we came along East Beach we did see more sea lions.
Some of these were "thermoregulating" by lying in the water with their fins outstretched.
We then made our way back by Stearn's Wharf and into the harbor
The gulls were swarming this fishing boat as the fisherman shooed them away
Since it was a weekday, almost everyone on the boat were tourists. Some from faraway parts of the US. But most were from Europe. These women were from the island of Fyn in Denmark on a big tour around the US
Soon we were back ashore after our 2 1/2 hour tour
Each season has something new to see on these whale watching trips. I chose this to see at least one mother-calf pair and I was rewarded with that! Other seasons offer whales further from shore. That gives a chance to see the flash of the fluke which is another treat. Mid summer offers the chance to see blue whales.
As the water warms in the coming weeks it is time to watch for fin whales, humpback whales and orcas.
Here https://condorexpress.com/ is more information about the Condor Express trips.