The Feeding Frenzy Day in Baja

11-09-2018

Jeremy S., Expedition Leader, Safari Endeavour

The months of February and March in the Sea of Cortez provide an opportunity to view the largest animal to ever have existed on our planet— the blue whale.

We always set aside at least half a day to look for this beautiful and very large creature. One would think that the largest animal on the planet would be easy to find, but the Sea of Cortez is a big place and these magnificent critters spend most of their time beneath the water.

This week we found our blue whale by accident.

Birds in Baja

We spotted a large flock of birds in the distance. We could not tell what kind they were or what the commotion was about, but any time a large group of birds is spotted down here, the Safari Endeavour makes it a point to check it out as this usually means there is food in the area. Sure enough, as we got closer, it was apparent that these birds were not alone.

The water was churning with about 100 common dolphins that were unusually active for this time of day. Dolphins are mostly nocturnal feeders but will take advantage of a large school of fish when the opportunity presents itself.

Dolphins in Baja

We all got excited and called everyone out on deck as we approached this mass of birds and dolphins. The large group of birds turned out to be made up of at least five species, including Brown Pelicans, Royal Terns, Caspian Terns and Heermann’s Gulls.

As the terns and gulls caught fish, Magnificent Frigate birds would try and coax them out of their catch by relentlessly harassing them. The Brown Pelicans would all fly to an area and then dive in succession into the school of fish.

It was a sight to behold!

Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, we heard a loud blow. A humpback whale had joined the action. Then a second blow was heard as our one humpback whale turned into two.

A humpback whale in Baja

We watched in amazement as the feeding frenzy culminated in diving birds, the leaping of common dolphins, and the sound of whales breathing.

Then, the birds calmed down and the waters flattened as the humpback whales took a sounding dive with a rise of their tails.  We waited and watched the birds as they rested and looked for the fish to surface again, as they were driven to the surface by the dolphins and the whales.

All at once, the birds began to fly in a direction and dive into the water just as the humpback whales resurfaced. The dolphins began moving rapidly and erratically as they chased the fish around the whale, while the Brown Pelicans dove amongst them both.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, the bridge spotted a very tall blow about a quarter mile away.

We didn’t want to leave but the height of the blow told us that this was a very large whale. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to go far as the new whale came to us just as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Blue whale in Baja

It was a blue whale and it must have come to join the feeding frenzy.

For the better part of our afternoon, we followed this feeding frenzy as it moved in haphazard fashion. Humpback whales dove and resurfaced with loud exhalations. The chorus of bird sounds quieted and then returned in a crescendo of cries as the common dolphins drove the fish to the surface time and time again.

All the while, just outside of the frenzy, the world’s largest animal, the blue whale, dove and resurfaced in the golden light of the sunset.

Sunset in the Sea of Cortes

For the rest of the trip, this day was referred to as, “The Feeding Frenzy Day.”

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