Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Humpbacks continue to frequent my area in good numbers. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t at least see one or two from shore and when I go out with Vicente we are able to make 4-6 encounters each time. At this point in the season I now have 35 IDs and as I have mentioned before, that’s a good season already and we are only half way through. No returnees from last year as far as I can tell (I now have personally collected IDs on over 100 individual Humpbacks and I can’t truthfully say I know absolutely all of them by sight) but we did see one whale (HB# 22 10) again a week after it’s first “capture” (on film). Fewer mother calf pairs this season but lots of dueling males and some dynamite breaches near our boat. All of this of course translates into my area indeed being a major breeding/calving ground and worth including in its hopeful new designation as a “protected area” here in The Sea of Cortez. This is a dream come true if comes to fruition.

There are three experiences I would like to relate because each was special in its own way. They all occurred within a period of one week so one can imagine the emotional and physical drain….though all good!

A few days back Vicente and I had no plans to go out so I did another sojourn out to the Whale Zone. No encounters but I got into a nice little show of Mobula (a benign ray related to The Giant Manta) acrobatics and then I just hung out in an almost glass Sea, no sounds, no wind, only me, The Sun and The Sea. I started getting a bit warm and I hadn’t done laps in a while so I thought I might do some out there. There was a moment of hesitation but then I thought of a story my mother had told me about swimming around her father’s ship in the China Sea and I slipped in (the tales we tell our children sometimes take decades to become part of their growth). As I began to stroke into my first lap (I know exactly how many strokes makes up a standard lap) I felt a great surrender to life at that exact moment and I suddenly felt that I could swim all the way to the mainland and maybe beyond. I did my 20 laps and when I rolled back on to my kayak I felt wonderful. I thanked The Great Mystery for it’s benevolence and kayaked back in to shore chanting my heart out.

While following the whale I mentioned earlier (HB# 22 10), Vicente brought my attention to the fact that we had a “singer”. How he first caught the sound is in itself pretty extraordinary. You see they don’t sing on the surface. They are under water where of course the sound carries better. Only males sing as far as we know (see the work of Louis Herman, U of Hawaii) and they do not do it to attract females but other males. Sometimes it results in combat and sometimes in one whale teaching some new verses to another, after which they part. To actually be able to hear the song from the deck of a panga is an enormous treat. Vicente has become quite the whale enthusiast in every way. We stopped the motor and just listened. Then we realized he was right underneath us! Well, the smile on both our faces showed our mutual wonder and appreciation of that moment. It was very, very cool. We saw him again a couple of days later as HB# 30 10 (he will of course be recorded as HB# 22 10 in The Catalogue).

This is a better picture of the singer (HB# 22/30)

This is him giving me a high five real close to the boat.

Getting older is all I had hoped it would be but of course a bit of what I certainly hadn’t hoped it would be. I have always had bad eyes, I got my first pair of glasses in the 8th grade and they became a burden athletically from then on (try being a free safety in a night football game). Searching for whales requires a keen eye if you really want to have a productive day. Fortunately I have Vicente with me and he has the eyes of a Seahawk. It is nice however to at times be the one who spots whales at a great distance and against the odds (sun, waves etc). The other day we were searching the area around Las Tinas and I saw a blow way out on the horizon, directly in the sun AND with small waves between. I yelled to Vicente and pointed just as I saw it again. Vicente asked me if I was sure and how far (he hadn’t seen it), I said way out there, at the horizon, maybe 3 miles! He gave me that look but I insisted we proceed at top speed. Then I saw it again, two blows this time. Still Vicente couldn’t see them. I urged him on and we stopped after about 2 miles. We waited and then I saw them again yet another mile or so away. Vicente still didn’t see them. Well, we got to them, got our IDs and then Vicente gave me a look of genuine respect and admiration that was inspiring. When we got back in he told all his fisherman amigos about the incredible whale spotting capabilities of his friend, “El Ballenero”. So I may be getting older but it’s not the eyesight that’s a concern.

I will end by telling you that “The Bird People” are back. I noticed it for the first time yesterday. I was sitting in my favorite spot and a classically raucous Scrub Jay flew under the palapa and to a NEST. I’ve never had a Scrub Jay build a nest near me. Then I noticed that there was lots of bird activity in the desert around me ( though I am only 150 yds from the beach I am far enough back to be in a classic Sonoran Desert ecosystem). Later in the afternoon I saw another bird, not sure of species also busy building. Spring is already coming! I realized that indeed The Bird People were back. They are such a delight to watch.

This is my daughter Kersti and her husband Bill. Just thought I'd throw that in because I love them and I think they are beautiful!

Hope you are all well.

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