Birds and Whales in San Ignacio

John Symons

Photo: John Symons

Neotropical birds and gray whales have more in common than the fact that they can both be found in the San Ignacio lagoon each winter/spring. They both migrate south in winter and north in summer. They both depend upon the smallest invertebrates to fuel their journey. El Nino Southern Occilations (ENSO) create La Nina and El Nino weather patterns and they each have a dramatic effect on many species, including birds, whales, and humans. Effects can be felt around the word in very diverse ways: changing water temperatures, varying precipitation distribution, and fluctuating air temperatures. The species that depend upon the smallest invertebrates are affected the most – birds and whales. Also, when the arctic ice sheets recede the whales must swim farther for food, and therefore can arrive at the breeding lagoons as ‘skinny whales’. For the birds, when the salinity changes due to increased ice melt (typically during El Nino years), the conditions become favorable for small inverts rather than their preferred krill. But the birds can afford to be more flexible, their wings allow them to search out many different ecosystems.

There have been over 225 bird species identified in the San Ignacio Lagoon alone, some of our favorites are: Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe,  American Coot,  Cape-Pygmy Owl, the Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned and Mangrove Warblers; Verdins, Green herons, Phainopeplas, Vermillion Fly-catchers; Ashy, Black, Least, and Leach’s Storm-Petrels; Caspian, Royal, Elegant, and Forster’s Terns; Peregrine Falcons, and Gila Woodpeckers! Cross through the Vizcaíno Desert where Crested Caracaras, Red-tailed and Harris’s Hawks fill the skies from the palm-lined oasis town of San Ignacio. Visit the coastal and riparian environments of Loreto, home to the Blue-footed Boobies, Cactus Wrens, and the endemic Xantus Hummingbird and Grey Trasher.

Come check them out on an incredible trans-peninsular bird watching trip that begins in San Diego. We escort you across the border in a luxury bus and meet our private plane, a Cessna Caravan twin engine beauty that will whisk us to the San Ignacio Lagoon. There we whale watch for a few days and then we cross over to the Sea of Cortez, checking out all kinds of habitats that house a very diverse array of bird species. Trip ends in Loreto, a charming town on the Sea of Cortez. March 22 – 30th – $2295 per person – min 10 max 12. Click to see a detailed trip itinerary.

Click here for more information on migratory birds.

Video from Laguna San Ignacio: Gray Calf and Mother

Gray Whale Calf and Mother on YouTube

When we watched this clip on the screen in the palapa at Laguna San Ignacio the night of Feb 13, after José’s excellent multimedia cetacean (whale and dolphin) biology presentation, the response from the guests and the staff was overwhelming. It made us feel unbelievably lucky to have been there at the right time with the right equipment the day before to capture the moment. We knew we should release it as soon as we could, so we are posting this clip of a very friendly Gray whale calf who first surprised us and then slowly approached our panga and teased us for a bit before checking us all out at close range. The mother even drew close and wowed us with her size and grace. The young calf had a great sense of both humor and timing, soaking us all a little while playfully swimming around the boat, rising up out of the water with ease.

We shot this footage as part of our exciting new project to put together video of the whale watching camp at San Ignacio Lagoon, whale shark day trips, and sailing the Sea of Cortez aboard El Mechudo, you can subscribe to be notified when new videos are posted. A heartfelt thanks to our fantastic guests and all the staff at the Lagoon, especially to our captains Antonio, Daniel, and Martin and our naturalists José and Beto. Antonio and Beto are featured in this clip. You can find out more about our crew here. We had an equally great outing the next morning and can’t wait to share the rest of the footage, to show off our camp at San Ignacio Lagoon and how easy we have made travelling to such a remote, unspoiled paradise.

The visionary policies of the conservation community that oversee the Biosphere Reserve surrounding the Lagoon to restrict the number of visitors keep the whales breeding grounds pristine. That makes moving experiences like these possible. The lagoon is teeming with gray whales right now and we still have spots open for individuals, families and groups left on this season’s Chartered Trips, but they are filling up fast and soon this record breaking migration season will be over. Overnight Trips are also available. To plan your own adventure you can call 1(800) 843-6967 or (858) 581-3311 from the states, or 612-123-4900 from Mexico. Full contact info is here. Or just email to get the ball rolling.