Saturday, May 26, 2007

Spring fin whales in Baja

April, 2007

It has been almost a year since I have been in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), and for me that is a long time away from an area I consider home. This body of water between the Baja peninsula and mainland Mexico is home to over thirty species of cetaceans, making it one of the richest places on the planet to come and see whales and dolphins. This trip did not disappoint as I encountered six different types of cetaceans in a single week! This pair of fin whales off Isla San Esteban in the midriff region were sub-surface feeding time and again. I estimated the bigger animal to be over 60 feet long...Caramba!

So how do you know when the whale you are watching is a fin whale? Given that there are several species of large baleen whales in the area you hope for a look at the whale just like this; where you can see the right side of the head. Only fin whales have an asymmetrical coloration pattern where the lower right side of the head is white, the left side is black. A perfect look at the defining field characteristic for this beautiful whale.

There are over four hundred resident fin whales living in the Gulf of California today. They have taken up residency because the waters in this sea are so rich that they do not need to migrate great distances in order to feed, everything they need is right here in these waters. Researchers can tell individuals by their dorsal fins, each fin has a distinct size, shape, ans color pattern. Amazing!

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