The Whale Record (2008-2009)
Sightings and Notes
2008 Whale Season
Arrived in El Cardonal on the 5th of January.
Had productive meetings with:
Wendy Rains (Eco Café) in Todos Santos,
Ginny Michaux (One of Al Gore’s staff) in La Playita,
Cactus and Betsy (Talofa),
and my angel Sabrina Lear.
All of these discussions were about presentations to be made in March and April. Looks like a major benefit in the making.
Weather pretty much as usual for this time of year, perhaps a bit colder. North wind blows regularly with 1-2 days of calm in between. Didn’t get my kayak into the water until the 15th. Did a traditional 2 mile trip to the “whale zone” but no friends yet.
[This season's IDs]
Vicente and I began our season yesterday:
- Jan. 17th, came across at least 4 separate herds of pilot whales about 6 miles east of Punta Pescadero. Altogether, Vicente and I estimated their total numbers as at least 150 perhaps twice that. This was a first for me and one came to the bow, turned on his side and gave me that old whale look….very cool! A few hours later I asked Vicente to take a quick look around Boca Del Alamo before we went in. We both were watching a sailboat in the distance and then saw a large whale dive near it. We rushed out, waited and found him again….a quite large Blue Whale. Stayed with him long enough to get a pretty good ID but on his best dive my camera chip ran out, wouldn’t you know. Delighted to have run across any whale this early in the season. The Blue was moving South but I doubt that has any significance at this time….but who knows?
- Jan. 21st, went out with Vicente and right away picked up a HB coming north right off Las Algodones. Followed him/her for about 1 ½ hrs and got a fluke shot but not good (lighting very difficult and he would not dive deep so fluked quick). Side shots taken and good. This whale stayed in the area until at least April 8th and was sighted and ID’d 5 more times during that period. No other action. According to the guys at John’s they saw numerous spouts yesterday straight out from El Cardonal and a little north.
- Jan. 28th, Ran a usual pattern from Cardonal, 2 miles out, then south to about the beginning of Barriles, out about 10 miles then North to San Isidro/Boca del Alamo. No action till end of run, 10 miles out about at La Linia, one Blue Whale, young, feeding, some very recent scars near dorsal fin.
- Feb. 3rd, One HB
- Feb. 12th, 7 HB’s, mom and calf off Algodones, 5 off Barriles (competitive group?). This was a very young calf (youngest so far I believe, 10 days or less)
- Feb. 13th, 1 HB and 1 Blue. Picked up HB first thing in morning perhaps 1 mile out. Saw a good sized blow further out at same time, pretty sure it was a Blue (high spout). After getting ID on HB we were able to find the Blue about 8 miles out. Alan and I prepared to dive with it but impossible to get in right position. Made three efforts but it was feeding so irregular pattern.
- Feb. 18th, all whales this day from shore. 1 moving north, a mile out, Blue, 7:30, 1 maybe same further out going east by south or HB, 8:30, 2 way out in front of Algodones, HB’s, around 9-9:30.
- Feb. 19th, 2 Blue Whales, around 10:15 on our northern tack Vicente spots a boil, we wait and within 10 min. a Blue surfaces. On way in at 11:15 Lisa spots another behind us and a little north. Good shots all around. Mari, Lisa, Zeypher and Alex along. The two little ones pretty tired and somewhat bored after 3 hrs.
- Feb. 20th, 1 Humpback at PP and then 2 blues off La Linea. First Blue a really big one. Flukes up on all three whales. Nice to be just Vicente and me.
- Feb. 23rd, 2 apparent (far out and seen from shore) Blue Whales, 8:00, heading NE, 2-3 mi out.
- Feb. 27th, 1 maybe 2 whales in very close to reef(seen from shore) going south. Saw little bit of blow but not enough to identify.
- Feb. 28th, started out as usual and Vicente spots a whale a bit south and east of Los Barriles, a Blue, and as we track I see another closer to La Ribera. We get good ID’s on both and head for Boca del Alamo where some HB’s were spotted yesterday. Around Punta Pescadero I spot flukes, Vicente questions but I am sure. 2 Greys, a mother and calf, both really torn up, dorsal gone on both, lot’s of scarring. Get an ID on mother but both seem in bad shape
- Feb. 29th, 6 whales reported by Vicente, 4 Blues, 2 HB’s, Punta Pescadero and further out for Blues.
- Mar. 1st, went out with Vicente and Alan, no luck, saw one Bryde’s whale and saw a HB going north from bodega top around 6:00 pm.
- Mar. 2nd, 2 Blue whales within 2 miles of each other, directly in front of El Cardonal at 10 and then 12 miles out. Feeding with a number of flukes up. Took Cindy out, she adopted both for her kids Paul and Elise.
- Mar. 5th, 1 HB about 3 miles out, 11:15, told by fisherman that 5 others near the beach at about the same time.
- Mar. 6th, 2 HBs seen from shore moving south close to beach, 7:30am
- Mar. 7th, 1 HB (?) seen from shore going north at about 9:00am and one mile or two out.
- Mar. 10th, 3 HB’s (?) seen from shore, 7:00am, big blows but difficult to say what kind, could have been Greys (no flukes and not dark). Problem all week has been wind. Today we could have gone out but Vicente reluctant because of beach surf.
- Mar. 11th, 3 Blues (?) from Bodega, 4:30-5:00 pm,hard to identify (wind chop, little surface action), very close in on reef, ¼-1/2 mile, moving north, one straight out going east. No flukes, looked like Blues (95% sure not Humpbacks), I suppose could have been Greys but I got one pretty good look at it’s flank and 85% sure it was a Blue. Blows also Blue like….but so close in?? Hope to go out tomorrow, wind continues to be an issue!
- Mar. 12th, went out this morning and immediately saw 4 Bryde’s whales, 2-1-1 between Cardonal and Punta Pescadero. About a mile out and doing typical Bryde’s stuff. No other whales. Plan to go out this afternoon again because there was a lot of whale action around the reef yesterday in the late afternoon. Found large numbers of a shrimp I’m unfamiliar with on the beach, very small, will try to identify later (if I remember). That’s probably why the Mobulas were in the other day and maybe all the whale action too. Afternoon run totally a waste!
- Mar. 14th-16th, TALOFA a longer record due to the advantage of being on board Talofa for two sails and staying at Ginny Michaux’s in Palmilla (many whales seen there by everyone, Mexicans too claiming large numbers, especially Greys but Humpbacks too). A word on the Greys. HB first identified as #’s 10, 12 & 13 I now see were actually Grey whales. This has been remedied in the photos and data sheets. The reason for the mistaken identity was the fluke pattern and the dark color. A large scar across the mother’s back could have taken the dorsal fin out because it was, as one would expect, not there. A foolish mistake but my first. Greys were reported by Dawn 2 weeks ago around Vinorama, then I did the mistaken ID up here (never seen Greys this far up before), They are coming in very close, they are ragged and lean. Something is going on. Beau told me that he has seen “30 times” the number of Greys this year.
We saw 2 from Talofa while cruising for HBs yesterday. On Friday the 14th I saw from Ginny’s pool deck about 6 HBs at different times cruising between 1 and 4 miles out. One pair, mother/calf, remained in front of her house and cavorted for at least 2 hrs if not more. At one point 4 tourist boats had them surrounded as well as about 4 jet skiers all within 100 ft of them and sometimes less. Still the mother continued her lessons for the baby (no question she was teaching…breaching, tail lobs, rolling, fin slapping etc). I can only assume that it was indeed a female, yet her behavior was more like a male.
The question of “training” in HBs is still being debated. Is it the mom or a young adult play group watching males later that impart the skills? Both most likely, I would think. The next morning I was up early and saw another 8-10 HBs passing by in both directions. Upon going out on Talofa we came across another mom/calf and a Grey whale pair also. Other blows could be seen further out. Everyone agrees that there are more whales than have been for some time, yet in the Cardonal area it is a bit down from last year, more Blues however. Interesting year so far.
Another possibly important note: we have yet to see any display by any whale in our area (no breaching, no fin slaps, no tail lobs, no spy hops and only one group of more than 2.
- Mar. 19th, All these from Bodega, none showing Blue or HB characteristics, 1 (?) in the morning, 2 (?) off Algodones for some time starting at around 4-4:30, 1 Bryde’s off Ralph’s in close, 1 Bryde’s off Cardonal, also in close.
- Mar. 21, met up with 1 Humpback within 5 min of going out. About 1 ½ miles out in front of La Linea. Got a good ID and then decided to enter water for intercept. Tried twice, it veered off about 50-60 feet from me. One of only 2 whales we have seen twice in one season. This one was here on the 5th of Mar. also better ID this time.
- Mar. 25th, Spotted a Grey whale moving south real close to shore around 7:00. Vicente and I try to find him/her (got out by 7:45). We go all the way to Barriles and then swing back around as far as Las Tinas but no luck. I would have been real disappointed if it had been a HB or Blue. The sea today was very calm again, green in color and not clear at all. No dolphins, Mobulas, bait fish or anything, reminded me of a desert (hope that’s not a premonition).
Word from some neighbors who just came in from Cabo Pulmo is that there are lots of whales there. Pacific side also continues to report lots of whale action. Dove over reef yesterday and saw a lot more bleaching than last year.
- Mar. 26th, 2 whales identified by Shawn and Poppy as Humpbacks from the beach, going south. Sounded like they were about a mile out or so.
- April 1st, 2-3 whales seen breaching in front of Cardonal but far out by Shawn, Poppy, Jason etc.
- April 2nd, 1 HB seen by me while kayaking on reef. First seen by Shawn and then I pursued. Got within about 45-50 feet but I was very tired (off of Las Tinas by this time) and fell behind. No flukes, quite young I would think. Water very clear today. Two more seen by me from shore around 4:00.
- April 4th, two HBs breaching in front of Ralphs about a mile out, 4-5:00.
- April 5th, one HB breached (first one of the year from the boat!) fairly near the boat about 1- 1 1/2 miles out from Las Tinas. After 3 attempts got a fluke ID and waited it’s next appearance to get some flank shots. When it came up it was further away then expected but we got the shots as well as one more fluke shot. Turned out to be a different whale! (the flukes were both black with little marking so not evident until on the computer screen) So really 2 HBs, #’s 14 and 15. As it turns out #15 is also # 11 and #13. Therefore this whale has been in the area for a full month. This is a first time event.
Also came across one Bryde’s whale near San Isidro. After coming in I spot 3 Greys going south right at the edge of the reef. Then later Lynn & family come by and announce yet another whale or two going south and they are sure it is a Blue. Description fits except for the spout. Could have been the Grey’s I saw.
- April 6th, saw a HB breach in front of Cardonal at about 12:30. No more than ½ mile out. Is it old number 11? ** interesting points: I have seen more whales in the last 3-4 days then almost any time so far this season. Along with that, the first breaching I’ve seen. Not to mention the number of Grey’s moving through from someplace even farther north? Tie in to article about the polluted sediments off the CA coast. I had intended to go out this afternoon but the wind came up so no go. Going tomorrow with a boatload of volunteers (Susan, Shawna, Shawn and maybe Poppy)!
- April 7th, big day! Went out with Shawna and Shawn and found 2 HBs within a ½ hr. Followed till two fluke shots then dove in with Alan and Shawn. No close encounter. Encountered one Bryde’s whale near Las Tinas. Continued towards Punta Pescadero and spotted two Blue Whales. Got ID’s # 12 & 13. Dove with them too. The two are pictured together in my whale pics. Got within 50-60 ft, very cool! My first dive with a Blue Whale.
- April 8th, just Vicente and me today. Came across good old HB # 11 and got an ID. Then went out to Blue W hale zone. Vicente spots two. We get one good flank ID and then they disappear. We wait 50 min and no whales? I suggest we go in closer and towards PP. Damned if we don’t find them again. This time both Blue Whales #’s 14 & 15 fully ID’d….very cool!
- April 20th, heard about a whale near PP. Found it around Barriles. It (HB) dove and we did our usual waiting routine but after 45 min it still had not come up? So we lost it! Only second time that’s happened.
- April 21st, saw 2 HBs cavorting in front of Ralph’s around 7:30 pm, from Bodega roof. Tail lobs, fin slaps and a breach, about ½ mile out.
- April 28th, ID’d one young HB about 2 miles out from Cardonal. Vicente told me he heard of 3 whale deaths during the time I was gone (one Blue around los Frailes, one Blue and one HB around Cerralvo). Sean (kite surfer guy) told me he saw some Orcas around the Island about that time. Vicente had also seen 3 Sperm whales near the mouth of the channel and 2 Blues out about 8 miles from Cardonal.
- May 6th, Mary Bowman sees two Humpbacks breaching in front of Las Tinas, wind up haven’t been able to go out for a week.
- May 8th, went out today with V, did our regular grid and then as we turned to return to El Cardonal a HB surfaces just 50 ft to our left! Small (young) but plenty of fluke action. Interesting note: there has only been one single WHITE FLUKED whale this year.
- May 12th, went out with V’s friend Isidro in Adeline I. Normal grid….nothing. 3-4 HB’s were sighted however by some of the fisherman on the 11th.
- May 20th, went out with V but saw nothing. People in Las Tinas saw 3-4 breaching a mile out the day before. This is the end of the season for me.
After the season was over I met Carlos Narro the Director of CONAP (Consejo National de Areas Protegidas). We had a meeting regarding mutual dreams and came to the conclusion that we should work together for our common goals….a sanctuary and a marine lab. When I return in 2009 the action really begins. I have also decided to remain in Mexico from here on in. A palapa over the trailer, and I am as comfortable as can be.
2009 Whale Season Record
- Jan. 4th, arrived today to hear from Tristan and John that they have seen whales spouting, breaching, spy hopping in the area for the last few days. Couldn’t identify from shore but suspected HBs.
- Jan. 5th, talked to Jeff Teasdale today, he said he saw some Orcas around the reef at the end of the year.
- Jan. 6th, talked to Cara (Italian) and Zsusa (Hungarian) who have been here for a week or two and they say they have seen whales breaching nearby. They saw 2 maybe 4 but they are definitely here. No positive ID on them being Humpbacks.
- Jan. 7th, spotted my first whale from shore. 9:00 am, ½ mile out, going south. Too windy to tell much from the blow and no side view due to swell. Feeling it was a Bryde’s. Talked to Vicente this morning and he has seen around 15 whales already. This is somewhat unique because my records show that they generally haven’t shown up in these numbers till around the 20th +. Some were Sperms and a small group of Orcas. V says the water is very cold (“green”), interesting to contemplate the significance of that both immediately and in regard to climate change.
- Jan. 9th, HB spotted by Vicente, girls saw one yesterday doing many tail lobs.
- Jan. 21st, first time out. Winds down and weather good but saw no whales. Antonio said one of his friends from San Isidro saw one yesterday breaching only a short ways out. No ID of type. Suspect it was a HB due to descrip-tion of activity.
- Jan. 27th, second time out. Weather very spotty but saw 3 HBs from bodega. Vicente and I scramble for it and see them at around San Pedro. One partial fluke ID, lots of good flank shots. Mother with Calf there, probably with an escort.
- Saw more action south of us and picked up at least 5 maybe 8 more HBs in front of San Isidro. One other mother/calf pair I believe. Only got 3 fluke IDs though lots of action (breaching, tail lobs, trumpeting). No really good sized whales mostly young ones, could have been part of a competitive group. All within about 1 sq mile of each other in groups of 2, 3 and 4. One HB# 6(8) did most of the fluking up because he shows up almost everywhere (have at least 8 shots of him fluking….synchronicity or very busy??). Wind drove us in, hard to get good shots in roll and bad lighting. A little disappointed by the lack of fluke shots but a good day nonetheless.
- Feb. 1st, 3rd time out. Beautiful conditions but no sightings until the very end while coming in. One HB only a mile out at most from San Pedro. Good ID but had to follow for 5 blow sequences before a flukes up.
- Feb. 4th, nice day but didn’t go out. Saw one HB moving south in front of Alan’s, ½ mile out, 9:15-9:30 am
- Feb. 5th, nice day but didn’t go out. Vicente saw two HBs and Antonio saw a Blue (?) further out.
- Feb. 7th, It has been almost a week since my last time out. Weather has been good but I’m trying to conserve research funds for the peak of the season. Hard to do when Vicente and his friends are spotting whales every day.
- Started the morning on top of my bodega as usual and within a few minutes I spotted two HB’s out about 2 miles east and a mile and a half south of El Cardonal. Even though I wasn’t to meet Vicente at the beach until 8:00 (it was 7:20) I went over to his house and once again he could tell I was on the scent. With no time wasted we were launched and on the track. I am not sure but I think I have two good ID’s, maybe one is just a good “comparison” (that’s when the pic is not of the quality to justify putting it in the global catalogue as an ID but it goes into the catalogue for possible comparison later). I won’t know for sure until I have them downloaded from my camera into iPhoto and can play with them.
- Good start…no? Just gets better! We decide to go further out and see if there might be some Blues going by on their way to Loreto. We get out about 12 miles and then one of Vicente’s friends radios us and says he has two Humpbacks where he is fishing. We turn around and head back to La Linea where they are supposed to be; very close to the beach. We find them and then the fun starts. Not two but four…. and are they doing a number (I don’t report this way in my scientific submissions). Breaching, tail lobs…. and way close to the boat. It is the first time I see Vicente a bit concerned because they all come in real close (6’ maybe) and very active. I keep saying to him…”it’s OK, it’s OK” because as far as I am concerned this is a very special greeting from the whale people. I struggled mightily with the alternative of getting ID’s or going in with them. Science and my sanctuary goal dominated so I didn’t go in. I was just talking about such a situation with my friends next door last night.
- I took over 150 shots altogether and I am just downloading them now. A cruiser came by right at the wrong time with about 10 gringos on board and they messed up my work for about ½ hour, even after I explained that I was from the Univ. of La Paz Mammal Research Center (I’m not but I am a Colaborador) and if they might not back off. I told them I was attempting to get IDs. Might as well talk to rocks!! I won’t repeat what I was saying under my breath but in order not to alienate anyone from remembering a “whale Experience” with total joy (however mindless) I only gave off extremely negative body language.
- Feb. 10th, sighted two Blue Whales (first Blues for me this season) about ½ mile out from Alan’s. 10:30-11:00 am. Thought they were going north so launched kayak for intercept. Lots of wind chop but fun…no intercept or further sighting.
- Feb. 11th, sighted one whale moving north again in front of Alan’s but further out. Maybe a mile. Big wind so difficult to determine species. My guess is another Blue Whale. About 7:30 am.
- Feb. 14th, sighted two whales moving north around 7:15 am. 1-1 ½ miles out, HBs. In front of Los Algodonas.
- Sighted 4-5 more moving south around 10:30, doubt if the same but impossible to say. Again about a mile out and in front of the point by Alan’s. Appeared pretty active, not just cruising.
- Feb. 16th, sighted two Humpbacks slowly going south, 1 mile out from Cardonal, kayaked out but missed them. That’s 11 whales going by without me being able to get out to them….gotta get a zodiac to keep at Alan’s.
- Feb. 20th, sighted two whales around 7:00 am. One going south about 1 mile out, one going north about ½ mile out. Species on south unable to tell, one going north probably Bryde’s whale.
- Feb. 22nd, sighted 1 HB at 8:20 am in front of Punta Pescadero but could not get ID (lost him/her?). Picked up another at 11:46, 2 miles out from Las Tinas, cruising, HB# 14.
- Feb. 23rd, encountered 1 Blue whale in front of El Cardonal, 7:30 am, 2 miles out, encountered 1 Humpback in front of Los Algodones, 7:53 am, 2 miles out, encountered 2 Blue whales in front of Punta Pescadero, 9:32 am, 6 miles out.
- Feb. 25th, encountered HB #16 at 7:30 am, 3 miles out, Boca del Alamo; encountered Blue #4 at 8:45 am, 4 miles out, Boca del Alamo; encountered HB # 17, 1 mile out, El Cardonal
- Feb. 26th, went out but no whales
- Mar. 3rd, encountered one HB (HB# 18 09) off Boca del Alamo, 1 mile out, 8:21 am. Also a Brydes Whale.
- Mar. 4th, encountered 2 HBs at 8:00 am off Punta Pescadero, 2 miles out. Joined by a 3rd HB at 8:47 am in closer.
- Mar. 5th, encountered 2 HBs (#’s 22/23) off Las Tinas at 10:43 am, 1 mile out
- Mar. 6th, encountered 2 HBs at 8:31 am, Tuna Hole about 1 mile out. HB# 24 was “Odin”, first returnee to my area. Courting behavior but no fluke shot on damsel (HB# 25).
- Mar. 9th, sighted 3 HBs from Bodega roof. Gave chase in Kayaks, no luck.
- Mar. 15th, 3 HBs (HB# 26-28) encountered off Boca del Alamo, 9:21 am, 8 miles out
- Mar. 19th, 1 HB (HB# 29) encountered off Boca del Alamo, 8:27 am, 3 miles out. 2 HBs (HB# 30-31, mother and calf, no flukes) encountered off Las Tinas, 10:18 am, ½ mile out, 1 HB (recapture of HB# 29 so HB# 32) off Punta Pescadero, 11:33, 2 miles out.
- April 1st, 1 Blue Whale sighted off Alan’s point, ¼ mile out, 8:30 am, going south.
- April 3rd, 8 HBs seen by Vicente’s son in close at Punta Pescadero.
- April 5th, sighted 2 maybe 3 HBs off Alan’s point, ¼-1/2 mile out, 1:30 pm, going south, much breaching. At least one was very young doing it’s first breaches. Also 1 large adult breaching.
- April 8th, sighted 4 HBs just off the reef heading north about 7:00 am. Got Vicente going around 8:15 and found 2 of them in the middle of Bahia Los Muertos. Mother and calf, no flukes but flank shots pretty good.
- April 9th, sighted 2 HBs from bodega roof. 11:00 am about 1 ½ or 2 miles out from Los Algodones. Breaching mode.
- April 10th, encountered 2 HBs off San Pedro, 2 miles out, 8:30 am. HB# 35 turned out to be Odin again with girlfriend who would not fluke up like last time. After obtaining good ID on Odin went on to another HB breaching some distance away. This one joined the other 2 and combat occurred between Odin and the newcomer (HB# 37). While this was all going on I got an ID on Odin’s girlfriend (HB# 36).
- Later at 2:25 sighted 4 HBs going south about ½ mile out right in front of Cardonal. Could be some of our morning friends were part of this group. Again lot’s of display!
- 2 more HBs pass by alittle later, going south. Again in real close. Seems as though the migration has really picked up.
- April 14th, encountered 2 HBs (HB# 38-39 09) off Punta Pescadero at 8:30 am, 1 ½ miles out, going south. Mother and calf, no flukes. 2 more HBs (HB# 40-41 09) encountered off La Linea at 10:30 am about ½ mile out also going south. Again a mother and very young calf, no flukes.
- April 16th, encountered 1 HB (# 42 09) in front of Boca del Alamo, 8 miles out. Instant fluke shot then encountered a Blue Whale (B # 6 09) near Punta Perico. Great dive with the Blue Whale!
- April 23rd, encountered 1 HB off Punta Pescadero, about ¾ miles out at 8:33 am. No fluke shots but both flanks. This is HB # 43 09 (Kersti’s whale). Now known as KK.
- April 24th, sighted two HBs in Bahia Los Muertos around 8:30. Close to Boca del Alamo. No attempt at ID, on our way to dive Isla Cerralvo.
- April 26th, 1 HB sighted around 3:00 pm going south in front of Cardonal. About 1 mile out, one breach.
- April 28th, last time out, no whales.
- May 2nd, Shawn went out to fish yesterday and saw 2 HBs “way out”.
- May 3rd, sighted 1 HB from kayak around 9:00 going south in front of Cardonal. Intercepted at 100 ft (?) in front of Algodones but not close enough for a dive. Fluked up.
- May 6th, mother/calf sighted by George & Rick off Algodones, about ½ mile out going south.
- June 4th, one HB moving south, ½ mile out, “late”
- July 10th, Vicente spots a HB just out from Las Tinas…going NORTH. Could this be the one I saw the same day without getting a species ID. Vicente is certain it was a HB. The girl at Jose’s said she saw 3 whales a few days before but did not know their species.
*Sightings and/or spottings refer to whales seen but not photographed, encounters refer to whales photographed.
This 2009 season was the best ever. A total of 43 encounters and about 25 good solid IDs. I was very happy as was Jorge and his team in La Paz.