Marine Life- four sailing days along the coast of Baja, Mexico - January 27, 28, 29, 30
Like humans, marine organisms [any living thing found in, on or around the seas and oceans of the world] have preferences as to where they live, feed and reproduce! Thus it is not surprising to note that certain "sea" birds we've encountered have become adapted to the shore existence with only feeding forages away from the land and then for relatively brief periods of time. This holds true for the Southern California and Northern Baja coastlines where we've encountered birds that feed by diving. The largest observed has been the California Brown Pelican, a species known for its extended gular pouch [a sac-like structure appearing to be suspended from its beak, but actually part of its lower bill] well adapted to diving and coming to the surface with a pouch full of sea water and small fish. We have not encountered it at sea. Also common were the smaller cormorants and even smaller ducks and grebes that comprise mixed inshore feeding flocks.
The California Gull is almost ubiquitous. A highly adaptable bird from the family of gulls and terns [we do not have gulls in Fiji only terns. The nearest gull to Fiji was reported from New Caledonia] Gulls are fast learners and many have abandoned their piscivorous [fish eating] ways to pursue a life of scavenging including invading rubbish dumps in massive flocks! Gulls have been regular visitors around the Uto ni Yalo in small numbers with many being the dark phase juveniles as opposed to their white with black upper wings parents. They can land on the water to investigate possible edibles.
We have been fortunate in being "blessed" by the regular visits of the gliding wonder of the oceans, the albatross. This wanderer is found in all oceans north and south of the equator and there are many species recorded. They have been known to spend long periods of time at sea simply gliding close to the water surface in search of the small fish and squid they feed upon. While ungainly on land, mistakenly called the "gooney" bird for its terrestrial antics, it far surpasses most sea birds for effortless and almost beautiful flight. It seldom even needs to flap its wings. Recall in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner Coleridge tells the tale of the sailor who killed the albatross and his ship had very bad luck. To this day it is considered a good omen and a symbol of safe sailing and harming it means you're in for a bad time at sea!
Most avid fishermen are aware of following feeding flocks of terns leads to bait fish which in turn leads to many edible fish species following the bait! In Fiji we can observe several species of terns, among them are the Crested, Brown Noddy, Black Noddy, and Sooty with more species either migrating through or inhabiting islands away from Suva. Their call at sea is distinctive and can be identified even during the darkest night. We have observed a small light coloured tern following gulls to the fish.
What greater thrill for a sailor than to have a marine mammal choose to befriend a boat for extended periods of time. That happened to us today as over 50 Pacific white-sided dolphins swan around the Uto ni Yalo for many minutes before heading off. There were mature adults and juveniles present and their conspicuous curved dorsal fin with its pale posterior part, small beak and multi shaded body stripes made it easy for us to identify it. Lee-Anne took a video while numerous photos were shot. Just as quickly as they surfaced they swam away leaving us with a good feeling for having shared minutes with such a remarkable creature.
If that wasn't excitement enough for one day, two humpbacked whales were observed on the horizon breaching the surface with a fluke slap. The fluke is actually their horizontally oriented tail. Different species and even different individuals within one species can be identified by the shape, size and colour patterns on their tails. As the larger one disappeared it produced a plume of water, a spray from its dorsal spout where it gets its air from. Clearing [exhaling] also gives it an opportunity to clear seawater from its respiratory system. The relic term "Thar she blows" refers to whaling days when lookouts would see the Sperm whale breach and clear its blowhole. We agreed it was a special time when we could see a Humpback whale in its natural environment.
Seals are common along the Baja coast. What interested us was to observe a solo swimmer almost accompanying the dolphins. It had little difficulty in maintaining pace with the boat and cetaceans all being "warm" blooded, air breathing mammals. Where dolphins and whales use their powerful tails to propel them through the water, the seal uses its rear flippers and undulating body motion to generate the power it requires to move through the water. Highly agile, it can capture swimming fish with little difficulty!
These observations were made in just four days, can you imagine what we'll see as we progress on our journey!!!!!
Tabu Soro.......our journey has just begun!