Bah¡a Magdalena

Today was a full day of whale watching in Bah¡a Magdalena. We boarded Zodiacs and zoomed across the bay to the shallows near San Carlos. At least six gray whales were in the vicinity, but what was even more exciting is the behavior we observed. Generally, gray whales are believed not to engage in feeding behavior during their sojourn south from the Bering and Chukchi seas near Alaska. "Generally," because they have been observed feeding opportunistically along their migration route. However, none of us had observed prolonged feeding behavior in Bah¡a Magdalena before today.

The whales were placid and allowed us to be near them without changing their activity (main photo). We observed whales on their sides, usually with the right side down (photo, top right), sucking in mouthfuls of sand from the shallow bottom and then expelling the sand and water out through their baleen plates. We observed both adults and juveniles doing this throughout the morning and the afternoon. They frequently ended one bout of feeding by raising their head above the surface (top left).

Our whale man, Scott Landry, even stuck his head underwater with mask and snorkel to confirm our suspicions. The next step was to figure out what they were eating. We retrieved a bottom sample and viewed it through our microscope. The images, projected onto the screens in the lounge, showed the sands were full of various invertebrates in high concentrations: opossum shrimp, copepods, amphipods and skeleton shrimp (photo, bottom right). It was an exciting day full of surprises and close looks at the California gray whales snacking before beginning their northward journey.