Baja California, Mexico – The Kiss of The Devilfish
Bevy of birds
Our second morning was overcast, the light muted. The water was calm and we sat quietly, listening to the occasional whoosh of a whale spouting nearby. In every direction whales were breaching, spyhopping and fluking, but none of them close. Then the peace was shattered ¬a flurry of splashes and sprays just 50m away drew our attention. What looked like a large pink sea serpent rose out of the waves. Was that what I thought it was…? It was a reminder that the whales are here to breed as well as give birth.
There was also plenty of wildlife back on shore. I once drove 130km out of my way on Vancouver Island to see an osprey nesting up a very tall tree. Here I only had to walk a few hundred metres to pass an osprey nesting on a 2m-high toilet building.
Peregrine falcons would also flash by overhead, while coyotes regularly patrolled the tidal flats, foraging for clams. The bay next to the camp was home to large numbers of waders, the scene changing throughout the day with the tides. Turkey vultures would circle high in the sky, and squadrons of brown pelicans followed the coastline. Now and then a whale would breach in the distance, very often several times in a row.
In the evenings Mark would give talks. He is one of the world’s great whale experts and has witnessed years of behaviour in the lagoon. “The mothers blow bubbles for the babies to play in,” he told us. “Sometimes they blow a bubble ring under the boat, as if they want the boat to play too! But some games have a purpose. The mothers sometimes take the calves to the strongest part of the current, where the calves have to work really hard to swim. We thinks it’s to strengthen them, ready for the migration.”
Only two-thirds of calves will survive the migration up the coast; many are lost to orcas, which lurk on the migration route as it crosses California’s Monterey Bay. Mark revealed that smart mothers take the longer route, sticking close to the shore.