Pattison on Wheels

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2-24-08: Wow!

Wow! Quite a day. I’ve been trying to capture photos of nature and wildlife for several years now and I always feel the tension of the animal’s aversion to my presence. I feel as if I mean well. So I experience an old feeling of being misunderstood when they won’t let me capture their full beauty. I take it personally. Today I got the fulfillment of the opposite experience.

After a nice breakfast served in the communal tent we set off for a bird-watching boat trip around a couple islands in the lagoon. They have a population of somewhere around a couple hundred nesting osprey on the two small islands. There is very little vegetation so the nests are on the ground or on the low cholla cacti. This works out because normally there are no predators. But Jesus, our guide, said that a couple years ago there was a particularly low tide and a couple coyotes made their way to the island. There was much discussion about what to do but they ended up by trapping the coyotes and taking them off the island. Think about it. If they left the coyotes there they would have decimated the osprey, heron, and other accessible nests and the coyotes would have increased their own population until there were no nests and a lot of starving coyotes. Eventually there would be none of either. So nobody wins in that scenario. Perhaps some of the coyotes would swim to the shore when they got desperate but that wouldn’t make the osprey et al situation any better. It seemed a good example to think about stewardship in general. The coyotes can’t think ahead to consider their actions. People can.

We had a lot of interesting bird watching including a good look at a peregrine falcon. I got some decent photos of fun birds and we went back to the camp. Fairly quickly we were off on another boat to visit the whales. I had heard about people getting quite close or even petting the whales here but I always thought of it as somewhat rude. I learned that the whales are almost completely in charge of the situation here. It goes like this: the boat full of whale-watchers cruises around until it sees a whale fairly close. Then the boat slows way down and just kind of waits around to see if the whale wants to engage. Some do and most don’t. There are whales all around. As many as 200 in the lagoon at the peak of the season. You see them spouting and spy hopping and rolling and feeding at almost any time in any direction. There is only one section of the Lagoon that is not off limits to boats, so if the whales want privacy they have plenty.

It was nearly an hour boat trip from the Pachico camp to the area. We saw other camps along the way. Some looked quite high rent with rows of large tents. The ecotour companies on this lagoon have taxed themselves to set up an oversight chief who sees to it that there are no more than sixteen boats in the whale watching area at any one time. So they have developed a kind of shift system and we checked in by radio as we came into the area.

I was thrilled to be in the presence of the whales and a bit puzzled by the way the guide and the driver were so uninterested in all the sightings I was reporting. I was soon to find out. Then we saw a mother and her baby come very close to one of the boats. We started moving in that direction but another boat went in close and Jesus said he wouldn't go if there were already two boats there. He said he thought it was disrespectful to the animals. So we puttered around for a while and we found a single boat that was getting some whale attention. Oh . . . my . . . god! They come right up to the boat. They have perfect control of their position and will gently nudge the boat or not but their interest is in the people. It seems to be the babies who like to investigate the humans and momma mostly just stays very close. Forty feet long and very close. They are all somewhat different in the interactions. Jesus felt that one encounter was with a fairly young baby who hadn’t yet had much experience with boats because it was rolling a lot. One mother had a little too much tail action for his taste so we left that pair and found others. They call them “friendlies.” And that they are. It is clearly their choice. They have perfect control of their position relative to the boat. They come within inches of the outboard motor prop and know exactly what they are doing. They can choose to leave any time and do. They seem to respond to people signaling invitation to them by splashing water toward their first approaches. Then they come up for petting and poke their heads out of the water next to the boat. Jesus gave one baby a big kiss on the mouth.

I broke my previous days record for number of photos with 650.


Post a Comment

<< Home