Bahia Almejas and Isla Magdalena, 1/21/2023, National Geographic Sea Bird
National Geographic Sea Bird
This morning, we sailed into Bahia Almejas on calm seas and with high hopes of spotting gray whales. On the way, we took a good look at the frigatebirds, cormorants, pelicans, and sandpipers that rested on the sandbank. After nearly three hours of fabulous whale encounters that included many, many spyhops, we returned to the ship for lunch and a whale presentation.
The afternoon was spent hiking on Isla Magdalena. We looked for plants and wildlife and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the ocean.
Today our guests ventured to the northern end of Magdalena Bay known as Boca De Soledad, where we were treated to multiple mother and calf pairs. One particular calf kept lifting its head out of the water with every exhale, giving us great looks at the whale's eye and cute little face. These babies were practicing swimming in the bay’s opening with its challenging, swift moving water. They need to build the vital muscle mass required for the long migration against the California current back to their feeding grounds for the summer. At this point in the season, these calves have grown quite a bit, drinking the rich milk (over 50% fat) that mom produces and gaining close to 100 pounds a day. After an eventful morning, we transited the Hull Canal, where we observed pelicans, herons, and a coyote! We even spotted bow-riding bottlenose dolphins with a little calf. We ended our afternoon at Sand Dollar Beach. Some guests hiked to the Pacific, some lounged on the beach, and some searched for unique shells and animals. As we end our trip tonight, we will watch our collaborative guest slideshow and reflect on the incredible weather, the friendly whales, and the new friends made during this amazing trip.
As pangas left the fantail of National Geographic Sea Bird , a silence fell over those aboard. Words and even thoughts were drowned out by the hum of the engine and the whistle of the wind. We were left with no choice but to observe. Magnificent frigatebirds hovered overhead. A miracle of evolution, the birds rest on the breeze just as we do on sand. One must watch for what seems like an eternity to witness those massive wings beat. Pelicans danced their violent dance in pursuit of their daily catch. How they emerge unharmed from their dive-bombing into the sea is a mystery; that they emerge with anything at all seems impossible. As blows appeared on the horizon and we peered over the sides of the vessel into the verdant depths, a whole world of planktonic critters came into view. It is this menagerie that forms the foundation of a system that gives rise to the leviathans we pursue, and who in turn pursue us. The Boca is a place where curious whale calves begin to meet the challenges life will present to them. Reaching adequate size and developing the muscular and respiratory fitness required for migration are likely the whales’ top goals, and we stop to gain a deeper understanding of those sharing the bay with us. Words do not do justice to the sensation felt the first time we lock eyes with a gray whale. In that moment, the kinship of all living things is felt potently. During the evening, we made our way to the beach for a barbecue. As we dined, we basked in the glow of yet another successful whale watch. By the glow of the fire, we listened to the tunes of El Coyotes, a Mexican guitar duo. Naturalist and photo instructor Jim Pfitzer regaled us with tales of whales and forests as we sat with eyes closed, bellies full, and spirits aflame.
Although it was a bit windy this morning, our intrepid kayakers and standup paddleboarders set out to explore the mangroves of El Barril (The Barrel). Some guests spotted a yellow-crowned night heron and an eared grebe along the way! Three species of mangroves line the shores of the El Barril estuary. Red mangroves are the most dominant; they are found in and along the waterway. Black mangroves are found farther back from the water, and white ones are usually on higher ground with just a bit of moisture in the substrate. Seedpods from devil’s claw (Proboscidea althaeifolia) litter the upland of the beach at El Barril. This prostrate plant with fragrant, snapdragon-like flowers has mature fruit capsules with two apical hooks. These hooks are very sharp and can easily catch your shoes or the nostrils of browsing cattle! Our day ended with an outing on Magdalena Island. Here our Global Explorers took full advantage of the huge barchan dunes by jumping and cartwheeling on them and then using boogie boards for a sand surfing contest down the side of the dunes!