Posted by: onboardtourswhales | March 4, 2010

3-3-10 Report and Photos from Laguna San Ignacio

March 3, 2010

Laguna San Ignacio Hola! We enjoyed our warm respite in weather, now back to a more normal wind pattern and a few fronts moving through. The earthquake in Chile did seem to create higher tides, and combined with the full moon effect, we had water across many roads and behind the camp. I have not ever seen that here this time of year. Magnificent Frigate birds come with the higher winds.

We just finished celebrating the 10th anniversary of the victory of stopping Mitsubishi from building a salt plant here at La Laguna, honored to host a NRDC group, including Dick Russell, Homero Aridjis Fuentesou, and Dr. Steven Swartz. You can bet my first question to Dr. Swartz was ‘where are all the moms and calves- what’s going on?’ As I suspected, Dr. Swartz thinks our numbers are down in the lagoon, because of the high number of single whales, and the researchers have seen the males harassing new moms. The new moms won’t be able to mate again until they have weaned the calf and led it north to feeding grounds. The researchers have also seen many mom-calf pairs outside the mouth of the lagoon in the Pacific Ocean, on the other side of the barrier islands, which are not included in the census. The census only includes whales inside the lagoon; a defined area. That explains why we are seeing so few pairs, and even some of the single females seem to stay under or around the pangas to avoid the males.

I am still noticing a higher number than last year of ‘skinny whales’, even a few showing backbones. Adults are swimming in pairs, and a few adults with what appears to be juveniles. Very unusual, normally the singles are very singular! Is space involved in this (with the high number of single whales)? The lagoon is quite shallow, and narrow in width – about 5 miles across, and we often see the whales using deeper channels.

I managed a few photos. All the birds feasting on a baitfish ball, a mother and calf, the mud circle left at the surface by a feeding-snacking whale. Dr. Swartz has an interesting theory about that; we know there is very little food available in the bottom sediment for the gray whales, yet the water is rich in plankton and algae. There is a type of algae that is like cotton in texture. Dr. Swartz thinks it gets stuck on the whales’ baleen, so maybe they are taking mouthfuls of sand and sediment to clean their baleen!

The circular photo is of a ‘bubble print’, like a fluke print or foot print, sometimes the whales blow bubbles under the surface! And sometimes right in your face, as one guest found out! Both whale and guest had a sense of humor about it! It does show the power of their blows, exhalations, flattening the seas.

The next photo is what I got of a mating group. An unusual pattern and tip missing, probably survived an Orca attack. A photo of the back of a juvenile whale and the Tres Virgines, active volcanoes (there is a geothermal plant up there!), in the background. And the splash down of a breach!

As well as the whales, we’ve enjoyed trips into the mangroves to get a closer look at the variety of birds here. I was thrilled to sight the elusive Clapper Rails that hide in the mangroves. ‘Shell beach’ has many layers of sand after all the storms and hurricane last fall (and I didn’t see any signs of that sea lion, so maybe it got away from the coyote?). Bottlenose dolphins, a few sea lions and turtles, round out our sightings and the variety of wildlife

The latest gray whale census at the lagoon, taken 2-27-10, shows 236 singles!! and 20 pairs of moms with calves, for a total of 276. So highest number of singles for any time of the season.

Join me


  1. Thank you for the great post on San Ignacio Lagoon. We were there with the NRDC group for the celebration and enjoyed whale watching with you. Also our stay at Camp Cortes was very pleasant and comfortable thanks to you and the staff.

    I look forward to your future posts from the San Juan Islands!

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