Sunday, March 27, 2016

Guide Report: San Ignacio lagoon, March 27, 2016


By Lorna Hill
27th March 2016                  

Things are starting to feel different here now. Spring has well and truly sprung; the days are warmer and longer, the Osprey chicks have hatched, the baby whales are very big and strong now, almost ready for their journey North.
We are still experiencing great interaction from the mothers and babies that remain but there is even a different feeling with them now. Like a feeling of movement, fluidity, a change …..

We have with us this week another form of parent and child union and that is Rodrigo with his son, Andres, who has come to visit us for the week. It is Easter Sunday and they have spent the morning together doing Father and Son things… what exactly might those activities be? Like the whales, we never really know what they get up to when we are not there; we only experience the time when we are there, and the rest is up to them. Sometimes though, we might come across a mother showing her calf how to feed from the mud below. We know this because as they come to the surface, there are long trails of mud flowing from their baleen, a giveaway that they were rooting around in the mud below looking for food.

 Another sight we might behold is a baby learning to spyhop or breach. As they are not as strong as their Mother just yet and their flukes can’t quite propel them out of the water at the right speed, it becomes more like a spyhop mixed with a breach, or a “baby breach” as we like to call it, which actually looks more like a belly-flop! Either way, it is a beautiful sight to see as you know that the babies are learning every day how to do these important things, ready for when they have to tackle the world on their own. 

I did catch manage to catch Rodrigo and Andres hanging out together after the morning walk, Rodrigo showing Andres how to find clams in the sand and then how to open and eat them…. Like all parent and child relationships, it is a time for learning, bonding and caring… something that is really nice to be able to experience and capture.

Happy Easter!

Guide Rodrigo receives a visit from his son

Monday, March 21, 2016

Census Data Graph: 2016 Season

Census Data Graph of 2016 Season (up till FIRST of March)

(So not really the entire season since the season runs up till mid April)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Guide Report: San Ignacio Lagoon: March 20, 2016

Eye of the Whale                                                             

March 20th 2016

by Lorna Hill

There is something really special about making eye contact with a whale. Well, any creature really, even a human! But when you’re in a boat, floating along the water and suddenly a whale pops their head out of the water to do what we call a “Spyhop” or when they come to the surface, near the boat, and turn on their side so the eye is out of the water, you know that they are making a conscious effort to look at you. Of course, it’s difficult to tell whether they are looking directly at you and also, when they are rolling around in the water and enjoying being rubbed and petted, the eye can sometimes be closed; either because the sun is forcing the eye closed or, I like to think, the whale closes their eye in pure bliss.

There is a book on the shelf in the camp that has been staring at me throughout my time here and that is Dick Russell’s “Eye of the Whale”. I have been wanting to read it for quite some time now but haven’t managed to get a moment to sit down and start it. Now that I’ve had my eye “experience”, I can’t help but take it off the shelf, find a quiet spot and give myself some time to read it.

This is the book, in case anyone out there has read it.

Let us know what you think!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Guide Report - San Ignacio Lagoon: Mar. 18, 2016

“El Panguero” –forecasting these conditions

by: Maria-Teresa Solomons

A less traditional method for weather forecasting might warrant extending a wet index finger out to the elements to determine wind speed, direction and temperature including wind chill factor. However here, so you people in cyberspace have an idea about what´s happening weather wise so you chose your travel clothes wisely, this reality show demands we actually formally monitor all those effects the correct way with instrumentation, every day, three times a day. Nevertheless, even that isn’t precise. The whale watching environment determines everything and being much the wiser for seasonal exposure, this is what actually happens….

When the sound of the ´palapa´ dining room door bangs open and closed thumping at the ineffective stone doorstop at regular intervals, or the wind whistles tryingly through that same tightly woven palm-leafed palapa roof late at night almost portending a blustery morning, the wind gauge at that point might measure at least 12 knots.

In the early morning warming their hands around their coffee mugs a small crowd musters for outside yoga just before sunrise. I´m there of course, to teach the class, unashamedly warming my fingers around my coffee mug thermos, wearing a black woolen balaclava and windbreaker, and about to jumpstart the day. Someone aptly labeled it “7-Layer Yoga”, as if it were a new trend. Bikram would shudder. I describe it simply as waking up to the wind and the breath. Despite lacking an external heat source we still heat up!

After we finish and a little after breakfast if it were finger to the air, it would probably read about 64 degrees Fahrenheit (or 8 degrees Celsius) on the precision instrumentation. An east wind is blowing about 6 mph and there´s not a single cloud as far as the horizon. Refugio, ´Cuco´, one of our ´pangueros´, is moving around the panga boats wearing a heavy waterproof jacket thick enough to survive the north Atlantic, his sunglasses reflecting water. Hmmm?!  As a ´Lagoon-ian, let’s say, everything indicates that he might know something we don’t.

I´ve learnt to follow his example by now and don a polar fleece over my orange Staff T-shirt and blur into the guests for a moment until I pull my own equally waterproof yellow storm weather jacket over my head and balaclava. I really stand out now, strikingly yellow on blue. By the time the groups have organized themselves and we are loading the pangas, I´m sweating again, this time in the sun. That fine red line of mercury could easily be reading a mean 78 degrees by now.
I pull my balaclava up tight over my cap to cover my ears and neck. It’s a 10 minute ride over the flattening sea. The wind picks up as we gain speed and pass Punta Piedra to enter the “zone”. The boat spins in half a circle, drops speed and comes almost to a halt as the radio breaks the silence and Roberto, our ´panguero´, responds to a call that directs him to our first friendly whale of the day. The wind drops, it’s hot again and Roberto peels off his jacket and returns to layer one again.

Leaning heavily over the side of the panga I dip my arms down as close to the water as I can reach and clap and, ´woop´ idyllically imagining that through its mystical green depths the resonance of those sounds might perhaps reach all 278 of the Gray whales that inhabit the lagoon at this point. When a huge mama whale approaches pushing her calf towards us she sends a circle of bubbles up as she exhales and the whole boat heaves with her movement. Her calf heaves itself over her back playfully and rolls one of its innocent eyes to scrutinize us and meets our wonder. Mama raises her head and makes a strange guttural hissing sound as she begins her blow.

I´m yellow above the blue now, leaning almost parallel to the water on the opposite side of the panga to where almost every other person is reaching down towards her. Every camera lens points in her direction as the stare from her single left eye penetrates curiously and deeply through us. I wonder what she can possibly feel being met with sunglass darkened smiles. On the downwind side of her whale breath her exhale baptizes us with a heavy rain. At that moment, as the residual droplets that have misted up the glass of all our lenses puts everyone momentarily on pause, the frontline cameras drop their guard.

Absurdly a thought about the right weather gear crosses my mind. A finger to the wind could never have forecast this encounter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Guide Report: San Ignacio Lagoon, March 16, 2016

The Present
By: Lorna Hill

16 March 2016

Every day on this earth is a precious gift however sometimes, when you least expect it, the universe opens up and presents you with a gift that sends your spirits soaring through the clouds.

The last couple of weeks here at the camp have been eventful; not only because the whales have been visiting us during most trips on the boat but because the weather has been proving tricky to work around so we’ve had to be creative and use our heads more in order to get people where they need to be – although it certainly hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm to get out there and enjoy the whales!
We said goodbye to a great group yesterday and with them, we said goodbye to the wind. Today, we woke up to the sound of silence, something we’ve not heard in a couple of weeks!

We still dressed well as we know how easy it is for the wind to just pop up out of nowhere and climbed aboard the boats with much excitement, the first trip for this new and equally great group. The lagoon was like a glass lake, not a wave in sight and you could see the whales coming under the water for what seemed like miles away! We were barely in the whale observation area and we had two whales come to the boat; a mother and her calf. The calves are growing up really fast so sometimes it is easy to mistake them for each other if you see them at a distance.

We quickly put our hands in the water, some staying back to take photos and help balance the boat and pretty soon, everyone was rubbing and stroking and petting and even kissing the whales! They were such fun! The baby was rolling and popping his head up and down, going under the boat and making sure he went to everyone and gave equal amounts of attention to everyone – what a well behaved little whale! He lay on his side by the boat and closed his eyes with happiness as everyone touched and tickled him, what a delight to see. The sun was also probably too much for his eyes, that were used to the darker underwaters but it still made him look even cuter when he closed them.
The mother held back slightly, almost in relief of the break she was getting – he was an active little baby! But sometimes she would come to the boat too, to get a rub and a kiss, which we felt was really special.

When it came to the end of our time at the observation area, we had to pull ourselves away from the whales, promising them that we’d be back and please don’t go too far away – who knows, maybe they’ll be out there again waiting for us! Or maybe that was an extra special gift from the universe that we will savor and remember for time to come.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Census Update - San Ignacio Lagoon: Mar. 12, 2016

Census Data: San Ignacio Lagoon

Date:  March 12, 2016
By:  Universidad De La Paz

Gray Whale Calves:     135
Adult Gray Whales:      142

Total Gray Whales:       277