Saturday, February 26, 2011

Whales, by Alex Hogan age 10

February 24, 2011
By guest Alex Hogan, age 10

I always hoped to touch a whale and my hopes skyrocketed when we went to Campo Cortez to whale watch. I thought I would be petting whales like dogs on the first day, but each day I would lose more confidence because I never got my chance until today when I got to pet a mother whale and her calf. They are unbelievably soft. 

You’d usually think that they would have pretty hard skin. The baby was in a good mood because it was rolling over her mom and blasting us in the face with water. When you rub the barnacles on the mother she looks up at you with those bead-like eyes and you could tell that she felt grateful for it because  she has been so busy with her calf. That was today, and tomorrow I have to fly back to San Diego. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Feb. 17-21 Guide Report by Tom O'Brien

February 17 – 21, 2012
Exploring the Tide Flats
Of course the gray whales are the main attraction for most visitors to Campo Cortez, but guests quickly discover that the entire lagoon ecosystem is fascinating, and it is this and the local people that make the San Ignacio Lagoon experience something so special. We had extreme tides during this group’s February full moon visit, which meant that the rich intertidal world was very exposed at low tides.

One of our boat drivers or “lancheros” is Paco, who is one of Maldo’s two sons here at Campo Cortez. Most of the year they are a fishing family, which makes their knowledge of the ecosystem so interesting. Paco often takes us out for low tide walks through the tidal flats, where we can identify all the strange invertebrate creatures with their fascinating life cycles. On this outing, Paco found a two-spot octopus living in an abandoned pen shell. The octopus had a brood of eggs, and we could even see the tiny octopus embryos in each of the eggs!

We found numerous bivalves and gastropods, sponges and tube anemones, bryozoans and algaes, and finally a gooey and strange creature called a California sea hare. It is a member of the sea slug class Opistobranchia, which includes the small but colorful nudibranchs. The sea hare is not as cute, and looks like a big, gooey, formless blob except that it has antenna-like rhinophores that look like rabbit ears, which gives it the name sea hare. We got to hold, touch and photograph it before returning it to the water, and it was a long walk back before we could wash off all the gooey slime!

Text by Tom O’Brien
Photos by Karen Capp

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb. 17-21 Guide Report by Patrycja Kaczynska

February 17-21, 2011

Last year we once had a group of about 25 guests, and among them was a very nice young woman whose trip to the lagoon was her birthday gift. After few days of whale-watching everyone had touched a whale at least once except her. Though it’s certainly not something we can guarantee, we were all feeling so sorry for her. So on the last outing we tried everything to find a friendly whale for her. And nothing. Slowly our time expired and we had to leave the whale-watching area. And then on the way back something incredible happened. Suddenly a whale appeared from nowhere, came straight to that woman, let her pet for a few seconds and disappeared again. It was just amazing. Somehow I always believed that whale and dolphins can read our mind and feel our energy so, that experience made my faith in telepathy with whales even stronger :-)

The group this week also had very nice and close encounters with whales, but just as the previous story only one woman hadn’t touched a whale. That was our last trip on the boat. I told her and the rest of the group the story to keep the positive attitude and hope. And you might not believeit, but it happened again! A whale came up to our boat and put its head out of the water exactly in the place where Karen was sitting. Unfortunately she was looking the other direction… When she saw the whale it was too late. It was gone. But fortunately not for long. The whale came back again, looked up to the boat like checking where Karen was and gave her its head to pet. Our second boat was watching this all and everyone started applauding and cheering as the whale disappeared and was not to be seen again. We were so happy for Karen. And now I am not the only one to believe in the amazing telepathy with these wonderful animals :-) 

Patrycja O’Brien – whalewatching guide

Photo A by Sue Keydel: Karen cheering

Photo B by Rob Cormack: Ann Petting

Feb. 13-17, 2011 Guide Report by Patrycja Kaczynska

February 13-17, 2011

It’s amazing how nature works… We’ve seen a lot of different whale behavior and we already knew
how the skin of a whale feels, but it was nothing in comparison to our experience on the very last
whale-watching trip on the last day. When we found out that the plane would arrive a little late,
Maldo, the owner of the camp, decided to offer one more whale-watching outing in the morning.
The wind was quite strong but anyway everyone wanted to see the whales one more time. So
Paco, our boat driver, took us into the area and we were cruising and waiting for something to
happen. And finally there it was. A young whale, maybe 1 or 2 years old came to our boat definitely
interested in us. And then something unexpected happened: the whale breached just in front of our
boat. It was not more than 10 meters away. That was amazing! Everyone was soooo excited. And
then the whale breached again! And again, and again, and again… 9 times in a row!!! We got crazy
from joy. The show was only for us and it seemed like the whale had a lot of fun doing it. After the
show it came to our boat to play for awhile going under, looking at us, blowing into our faces. That
was great but then the whale decided to breach again two times and disappeared in the depths of
the sea. We were” blown away” with the show. Our time was over so we started the engine and
headed towards the camp, but we thought that it would have been nice to say “bye” to our friend.
At that moment our whale breached again close to the boat, as if saying “good bye” to everyone.
It was just incredible! We didn’t know if it was a female or male, but we thought that it must have
been a boy because he was so funny, joyful and playful. Maybe we should call him “Funny Boy”?

Patrycja O’Brien – whalewatching guide

Foto: Reid Walker, Guest

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Spectacular Whale Watching Trip by Addie Band: age 9

February 17, 2012
My Spectacular Whale Watching Trip!
Bh:  Addie Band, age 9

My whale watching trip was the best vacation ever! I got to touch both a baby whale and its mother! Their skin felt soft and thick, sort of like a hard-boiled egg but sturdier. I felt awed by their big size and yet they were so friendly and gentle. 

Each whale watching expedition was special in its own way. No two trips were exactly alike. I was surprised at the large number of whales in the lagoon, and I got to see spy hopping, breaching, “footprints”, mating and mothers with babies. The entire staff was very friendly and knowledgeable about the whales, camp and lagoon. Pati and Tom did a great job teaching all about whales. 

I really like how this camp is environmentally friendly and treats the environment with respect. I enjoyed the wonderful food, the comfortable cabins and also the sweet camp dog named Mika. I would definitely recommend this thrilling and awesome trip! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guide Report: Week of Feb. 3-10

Thursday, February 10, 2011
Buenos dias from Laguna San Ignacio J. There are a lot of whales here! After last year’s sparse “El Nino” year we were a little bit worried how this year will look. But all whales seem to be healthy and in a good condition. And there are a lot of baby whales who want to play with us! It’s only the beginning of February but some of them are already curious and brave enough to take a close look at the visitors watching them from the boats. Every day we’ve had interesting encounters with some of them, and they are coming close enough that we can identify characteristic features like barnacle and whale lice patterns to keep track of individuals.

One of the mothers we called Joker because she is making fun of the people in the boat. She comes close and makes bubbles using her blowholes, intentionally spraying straight into our faces! Or she plays with the boat, pushing it or gently bumping and it seems like she has a lot of fun with that, even teaching this mischief to the baby. We saw her bump our other boat a few times, then watch her baby  doing exactly the same. That was fun for everyone!
We spent a lot of time with another mom and her little baby who was still too shy to come closer. Mom was holding her baby on her back almost completely out of the water, so the baby could have a very close look at us without swimming in the current or even moving. We didn’t see the sex of the baby but we thought it must be a girl – so shy and still a little bit scared of all these funny creatures in the boat looking and reaching out their hands to touch the little whale.
There has not been an updated census since January 26, but it looks to be a banner year with many cow/calf pairs and a lot of interesting “adult activity” towards the mouth of the lagoon. More to come!
Patrycja O’Brien – Whale-watching guide

Photos by Campo Cortez guest Jim Taylor

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gray Whale Census February 10, 2011

This is the latest census as of Feb. 10 of 2011. Keep in mind that these census take place in the lagoon and ONLY in the designated whale watching area. The census's do not include whales just out of the area near the mouth of the lagoon. If i were to estimate, I'd say we have another 20-30 whales inside the lagoon near the mouth and another 40-50 on the outside of the mouth.

Census: Feb. 15, 2011
Adult Gray Whales:  122
Gray Whale Calves:   55
Total Gray Whales:   177

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Feb.3: Gray Whales of Bahia Almejas with Capt. Mike

A day at my secret whale watching spot. We were the only boat in the bay!  Too many whales around! Three hours out on the bay was not enough but we had to get back to shore for our fish tacos!
 Our whale watching group.

 Frigit birds at the sand point in the bay. This is the largest nesting colony in north america.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Guide Report - 6 day bus trip: Jan 28-Feb 2nd

If someone said to me that I would have to pick my favorite experiences at CAMPO CORTEZ, it would be "muy difficil", to be sure. The Laguna San Ignacio Wetlands is situated along our beautiful Pacific Coast. Placed perfectly in the middle of the Baja Peninsula (California). The Vizcanio Biosphere Reserve is part of this whole area: "Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcanio". Of course we know of the lagoons for the meeting place of many of our Pacific Gray Whale, with many nick names one being "The Friendlies." They definitely did not disappoint. Friendly they were. And this is early in the season. Each day was better than the last if that is possible. The meals were outstanding,(Muchos Gracias to the lovely Katy 1, Maldo and the kindness and assistance of all the incredible staff at camp.

Let us not forget Francisco & Roberto as out perfect Ponga Drivers and Spotters) the weather couldn't have been better. Evenings had a slight chill at times followed by nice breezes mid day. The Wind came up a few mornings and was a distant memory by noon. Let's get to the WHALES. The latest count had been done that week (Jan 25 with 76 Adults, 35 Calves bringing it to +111) and it was true to form. Although the tides were pretty low most of the days, you were able to see the open end of the lagoon with a pretty consistent rate of blows to count. Quite a few Cow/Calf pairs and many pods of three's and a few mom's with another Adult in tow. Could have been a Male lingering or another Female moving right along with her and a calf.

We witnessed the typical behaviors of the Pacific Gray Whale, although there wasn't anything typical about them. Spy Hopping, incredible Breaches, logging and even semi-head stands (tail-lobbing). Some Fluking and a considerable amount of rolling right off the side of the boat. Some days the Great Gray would follow right along with the Ponga only to meet up with us and allow us to rub and scratch her and put our hands in her mouth to touch her Baleen. Sharing her calf, pushing her up for us to see. One day, a calf decided to stay with us while mom was moving out. The calf circled the Ponga,(our small boats- the Katy 2), attempted a spy hop and off it went. On another day we had a whale at every point of the clock. On each side of us, behind, in front, where to look? We were showered more than a few times by the blows followed by significant bubble blasts. At one particular point a mom had come over to the Ponga rolled over and went directly under us, just lying there. We all looked at each other waiting to see if she was going to continue on. When she finally did, her calf had moved in front as if to lead the way.

She gave a short spy hop with her calf on her back, amazing sight to take in. On another day, we also experienced a very close breach right off our bow as well as a very, very close spy hop. Although we were there to share with the Gray's let us not forget the Biosphere and all the other incredible animals that call it home. Not only did we have wonderful "Close Encounters of the Whale kind", we had ones of the "Dolphin kind", the Tursiops, Bottlenose Dolphin was in it's usual curious and playful mode. Many fish, rays, shell fish as well. Back at camp, the protected Osprey did not disappoint,any where from 2-4 osprey would be flying over, foraging for lunch. Baja California Sur is home to something like 17 different coastal bird species, gulls, terns, pelicans, phalaropes, so many... a birders paradise.

The colorful herons and singing oyster catchers were all so enjoyable. The coyotes were out in the distance indulging in the very low tide delicacies and with strong discussion I might add. As we walked within the allowed areas of the Biosphere, we witnessed galloping Hares, many tracks and the early blooms of the Cactus flowers. When you settle in and get yourself on lagoon time, all the rest is just where it should be, at the mainland, no phone, no loud traffic jams or even the buzzing of the typical traffic and noise we endure on a daily basis. I so hope you will come out and be with the Whales for a while. As early as it was, the Gray Whales were incredibly active and very interested in us. See you soon.

Norma Lira, Guide/Naturalist