Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gray Whale Migration Update

San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California Sur
Everyday we watch gray whales swim south in the Pacific Ocean. They swim in groups, or pods--sometimes just two whales, sometimes five or more whales--all heading south for Mexico's warm water lagoons.  And lookouts in Mexico report that some whales have already arrived at San Ignacio Lagoon--or Laguna San Ignacio, as said in Spanish.

What a special place! San Ignacio Lagoon is so special that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the last undeveloped gray whale birthing lagoon on the planet.

We hope to share with you the first gray whale birth of the season.  But that's not always easy.  Many of the pregnant whales swim to the very inner tip of this lagoon to give birth to their calves.  That means that there are not that many people to witness the first birth.

But what a birth it will be.  The newborn calf will measure almost 15 feet long--about the size of a pickup truck.  It is a curious and playful rascal.  

Here's a photo of a curious young calf that came up to our boat in San Ignacio Lagoon when we visited a few years ago.

Curious Gray Whale Calf. C. Coimbra Photo

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It Lives to Eat Other Starfish

If you were a five legged (or ray) starfish just hanging around the undersea rocks and you saw this 13-legged starfish coming your way, you better move fast.  Why? Because it's probably coming to get you.

With nicknames like the 13-Arm Hammerlock, or Cannibal Sun Star, this rare but aggressive  Dawson's Sun Star  (solaster dawsoni) even looks menacing, or maybe more like a creepy character from Pirates of the CaribbeanAnd it also dines on other starfishes.

The above photo was recently taken off the shores of Big Sur, along the central coast of California, during a Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary field project.

The Dawson's Sun Star has no natural enemies--except itself--henceforth, that cannibal nickname.

A Dawson's Sun Star devouring another starfish.

All photos from NOAA/Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary