Blue Whale Trip Log

Blue Whale Trip Log March 2
Sea of Cortez, Loreto,
Baja California Sur, Mexico

This trip log was tallied and written by Keith Jones.

8:30 a.m.: We departed from the Loreto harbor dock after waiting 30 minutes for the Marine Park Ranger to arrive at his office to sell us the park admission bracelets. There was no wind and the ocean was dead calm. The air temperature was about 70 degrees F.
Counting myself our group size was 13. The group consisted of two English citizens from Wales, 6 Americans from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine, and couple from Argentina and a couple from France. I’m from Southern California.
We used three boats today. The boats can hold 5 or six passengers comfortably, with three sitting in formed in place seats and three seated on the raised rear deck which serves as a bench seat. Fernando, my Loreto Blue Whale expert who has studied Blue Whales off of Loreto for 20 years, took the lead with Luis and Tito captaining the other two boats.
8:40 a.m.: Spotted a mother and baby finback whale. We watched this pair for 30 minutes. During this time they dived 5 times. On two occasions, between dives they approached close to our boat and once the baby swam directly beneath our boat.
9:00 a.m.: Spotted 2 more individual finback whales, but we chose to continue to follow the mother and baby.
9:15 a.m.: Spotted multiple blows and decided it was time to leave the mother/baby pair. We next stayed 20 minutes with a trio of adult finback whales who were swimming and hunting together.
9:35 a.m.: We saw dolphins  in the distance and chose to leave the 3 finback whales to go play with dolphins. This was a pod of 50 to 100 common dolphins. There were several pods of dolphins about this same size in this area and we moved amongst them for one hour, enjoying their bow riding antics.
10:30 a.m.: Our boat captain suggested we go further south, to the end of Isla Carmen in hopes we might find a blue whale. Our group had been so engrossed in the activities so far that nobody had asked me where the blue whales are hiding.
11:00 a.m.: We arrived at the south end of Isla Carmen and sighted a blue whale. We were able to stay with this blue whale for an hour. It was feeding and pretty much ignored us. But each time it dived our group played the guessing game of deciding where it would surface. The captain of the boat I was in, Tito, would motor to where we guessed and then we would float for 5 to 15 minutes. This blue whale stayed on the surface 3 to 5 minutes between dives and would then dive and stay down 5 to 15 minutes.
12:10 p.m.: The other boats called to us that they were hungry. They directed us to their location, since we had become separated when my boat went to play with the dolphins.
12:20 p.m.: As we motored to our lunch break island location, we spotted 2 more finback whales. Tito stopped and we watched them for five minutes. When they dived, we continued to the lunch rendezvous.
1:15 p.m.: Lunch ended and we started back toward the dock. From this southerly end of Isla Carmen it is ALWAYS a long and bumpy ride north to Loreto. Today was a great weather day and the swells were small, so the ride was relatively smooth.
1:35 p.m.: We stopped to observe a humpback whale that sadly had a blue fish net snarled around its tail. This whale was shy and after 5 minutes we parted ways.
1:50 p.m.: Spotted two adult finback whales traveling and hunting together. We watched them for a couple dives, about 20 minutes total before continuing north to Loreto.
3:30 p.m.: Arrived back at the harbor in Loreto.

Tally of cetacean sightings:
Blue whales– 1 adult
Finback whales -11 finback whales (one baby)
Humpback whales– 1 adult
Common dolphins– multiple pods, perhaps 500 for the day.

In addition to the whales, we saw many birds that included Blue boobies, Frigates, both brown and white Pelicans and at least 20 other species. Also seen today were several seals and sea lions.
Guide comment: During the day we were almost always following and watching whales with virtually no search time. We had a total of 30 minutes boat time after the dolphins before we came across the Blue whale. It would be almost impossible to have a more whale packed day out here on the Sea of Cortez.
The population of Blue Whales staying near Loreto is estimated to be 12 to 15 this year, a good number. Fernando has managed to identify half of these from past photos. The Finback whale population is estimated around 50. No estimate for Humpback whales. Two Bryde’s whales have been identified, but no estimate of how many are around this area.
After a day like this, all I have to say is I LOVE MY JOB!

Blue whale sightings – guide reports below---
Location: Loreto Marine Park These day trip logs were done by tow of my guides leading whale watching on the Sea of Cortez side for our blue whale trips and our combination blue whale and gray whale trips. These logs are typical and representative of what we expect on any day when we go out on the Sea of Cortez at Loreto.  The first row of guide logs were compiled by Amy Mackay who was the boat guide for these trips. I have transcribed her field notes from her notebook. All dive times were rounded to the nearest minute, although Amy kept track of seconds. We believe that this log gives you a good representation of the type of whale watching activity you can expect when coming along on one of our Blue whale to Loreto trips. Amy’s log book was much more detailed and included daily maps showing where the various sightings took place. Send us an email and we can provide additional guide logs for the Blue Whale trips. The second row of trip logs was compiled by Amanda Goins during her first season on the Sea of Cortez with Baja Jones. Both of these guides have more than 5 years experience on whale watching boats in the northern Pacific. Amanda is very knowledgeable about Humpback whales in Alaskan waters and Amy with Orcas near British Columbia.

Date: February 20

Weather: Sunny, warm, moderate morning wind, slight chop to 2 feet.
Depart dock 9:10 AM
Return to dock 4:30 PM
Whale species observed and first contact time:
9:30 AM 1 blue whale: dive times 8 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 2 minutes & 2 minutes
10:10 AM 1 fin whale: dive times 7 minutes & 7 minutes
10:45 AM 1 humpback: We never saw it resurface
12:10 PM noon 2 blue whales: dive times 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes, several other dives averaging 2 to 3 minutes.
4:15 PM 1 fin whale: dive times 3 minutes & 9 minutes
also at the same time
4:20 PM 1 blue whale: dive time 3 minutes

Date: February 21 
Weather: Sunny, warm, no morning wind, smooth water. Depart from dock at 8:20 AM Return to dock at 3:00 PM Whale species observed and first contact time: 8:45 AM 1 humpback whale: dive times 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 4 minutes, 2 minutes, 2 minutes and 5 at 1 minute each. 9:55 AM 1 blue whale: dive times 6 minutes, 7 minutes & 8 minutes. 10:24 AM unidentified whale : dived and didn’t reappear. 10:35 AM 1 Bryde’s whale: dive times 2 minutes, 8 minutes & 3 minutes 10:56 AM 1 humpback whale: dive time 6 minutes 12:30 PM Several blue whales: These whales were in the same general area and between dives we would spot another blue whale and then follow it. So we were probably observing 3 different blue whales during a period of about 2 1/2 hours. Dive times 9 minutes, 6 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes, 8 minutes.

Date: February 22 
Weather: Sunny, cool in the morning warming at noon, no morning wind, small choppy water. Depart from the dock 8:30 AM Return to dock 6:00 PM Whale species observed and first contact time: 9:00 AM blue whale: dive times 13 minutes, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 11 minutes, 11 minutes & 2 minutes 10:10 AM 1 humpback whale took 8 breaths then dived and stayed down 3:30. 10:12 AM 1 blue whale showed up while the humpback was down, so we followed it. Dive times 1 minute, 4 minutes & 17 minutes. 10:15 AM 1 blue whale: We saw this whale, but stayed with the first blue whale. 11:45 AM 1 humpback whale: This whale breached for us. Dive times 4 minutes, 5 minutes & 7 minutes. We stopped at an offshore island for lunch and did some snorkeling along the sandy/rocky shoreline. 3:00 PM 2 blue whales: We observed surface feeding behavior that included rolling on their backs and their sides. Very exciting to see this. 4:15 PM 1 blue whale arrives as we are leaving the area.

Date: February 27 
Weather: Sunny, a little wind, small choppy water AM more choppy PM. Depart from dock 9:00 AM Return to dock 5:00 PM Whale species observed and first contact time: 9:15 AM Common dolphins: we observed a large group of from 100 to 200 animals. 10:00 AM 2 blue whales: dive times 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 6 minutes 7 minutes & 5 minutes. 10:50 AM 2 blue whale adults plus mother and baby: Mother had white on dorsal fin. Dive times 4 minutes, 8 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes & 9 minutes. 2:00 PM 1 blue whale: Dive times 6 minutes & 9 minutes 3:50 PM 1 blue whale: dive times 8 minutes & 6 minutes. 3:55 PM 1 mother and baby pair appeared: dive times 3 minutes & 2 minutes.
February 8, Tuesday:  10:00 Spot our first blow. 11:00 Recognize it is a fin whale, with an 11 min downtime 11:30 See a second fin whale 12:00 Wind dies down and we spot a blue whale. Has a 16 min downtime 

February 11, Friday 9:00 Spot a blow and get a quick look at a Bryde’s whale. This whale is being shy so we move on. 9:15 See two blows near shoreline of Isla Carmen. It is a fin whale with a newborn! Fernando says it is so small must’ve been born within past two-three weeks. This is good news for their research as they had never seen such a young finback whale in the Sea of Cortez, they weren’t sure if they were born here. 10:15 Another blow spotted proves to be a blue whale. 1:00 We stop for lunch on Isla Carmen and as we are eating a pod of common dolphins swims by.
February 12, Saturday 9:00 Three blows spotted. The one closer up proves to be a blue whale. The blue whale is feeding so continues to circle in one area with 11 min downtimes. Great looks at this animal 9:30 A surprise fin whale pops up while we are waiting for the blue whale to surface. 10:45 See another blow near Isla Carmen which proves to be another blue whale. We stay close to our feeding blue whale that is giving us such great looks. 12:00 Having moved on from our original blue whale, we head north and encounter a fin whale with her calf. This calf is older and bigger than the one from yesterday. Probably a yearling. The finbacks have 7 min down times 12:15 While we are waiting for the finback mother and calf to resurface another blue comes up to breathe in the area. The blue has an interval of 14 min downtime. For the rest of the afternoon we alternate between the breathing cycles of the finbacks and the blue. Hardly a time when one of them isn’t at the surface.

February 15, Tuesday 8:25 We spot a blow off the north side of Isla Carmen. Due to size of blow and location, boat captain Luis, informs us it is a Bryde’s whale that has been hanging out in the area. This particular Bryde’s whale has not been very friendly towards boats, swimming away and having long dive times, so we do not approach and move on 8:55 Two blows spotted prove to be a finback whale and her calf 10:15 Another finback whale spotted 11:15 We see a larger blow that upon approach is a blue whale with a 9 min interval diving cycle

Wed 16, February

8:45 2 adult fin whales spotted traveling together
9:30 While observing the adult fin whales we spot a mother and calf fin whale. We go over to check out mom and baby and the adult fin whales converge onto travel path of cow/calf pair. Mom finback whale is not too happy and gives a little roll of her fluke in the water to chase off two adults away from her calf!
10:30 We investigate a blow further south that proves to be a blue whale
11:30 While observing blue whale we see near Isla Danzante a fluke rising above the ocean. It is a blue whale diving fluke up! Our boat captains inform us that only about 25% of blue whales dive with their fluke up. We approach this fluke up diver and get some great looks at it’s fluke. Our local captains identify it as a whale they know that comes back year after year.

Please note that some of these trip logs show very late return times.  Our normal time back to the dock is around 2:00 to 3:00 PM, but it may be earlier if there is a strong wind blowing.
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