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Baja California and a visit to Davenport

I’m writing this from an economy class seat on a British Airways 747 travelling from San Francisco to London, Heathrow. I just had the worst aeroplane meal I’ve had for some time, served by a grumpy cabin crew member. As I usually commend BA, this was definitely the down-side to an otherwise great trip.

My wife and I have been to Baja, California and Mexico to see whales and some of the extraordinary wildlife of that area. We were not disappointed. Saying close-up hellos to 30 ton grey whales and their calves as they approached our small skiffs for some human contact, following a dozen humpbacks as they criss-crossed the boat so closely that we were soaked by their blows, spending an hour or two with a 90 foot blue whale and her calf, watching mesmerised as the sea boiled with a thousand common dolphins and laughing at the antics of spiny tailed mobulas as they somersault through the air and slap down onto the water in unexplainable acrobatics.

These experiences cannot be adequately explained. Neither do photographs do them justice. You have to be there to feel the raw nature, the power of the biggest animals on earth, the fun of the dolphins as they hurl themselves through and out if the water in the wake of the boat. And to see the magic of a 35 ton Humpback as it jumps completely clear of the water and splashes into the surface of the sea in an exhibition that can be seen for miles, was the icing on the cake.

When we could, we made land and checked out the birds of the peninsula with our birder expert, Peter Dunn, a Yorkshireman from Scarborough, whose knowledge of North American birds was second to none and so useful in helping us identify new species. Peter also proved pretty good at finding the rattle-less rattle snake, endemic to Baja, curled up apparently asleep in the shade of a giant cactus.

We ended our trip with a visit to Paul and Barbara, friends who live in an amazing place on Swanton road, a stones throw from the Californian Ocean near Santa Cruz, and Barbara’s brother, Jim. Their garden is teaming with almost tame Anna’s and Alan’s humming birds, scrub jays, bluebirds, house finches, pine siskins, Californian quail, violet green swallows and other birds.  Their surrounding property hosts a herd of black tailed deer including Dodo, who answers to her name and has a taste for rhubarb, and captured on their ‘critter-cam’ are mountain lion, foxes, coyotes and skunks. Nearby, northern (hen) harriers patrol the fields above the beach in search of tasty small mammals and red-tailed Hawks watch from lofty telegraph poles.

In nearby Monterey, Californian sea-lions laze on rocks and piers and sea otters search for food in the bay and at Moss Landing. One of the few animals that use tools, the otters bring shellfish to the surface, together with a stone. They lie on their backs with the stone on their bellies and smash the shell open to get access to the food inside.

Most of the pics are now on the site.  Apologies to anyone from the Baja trip who had to wait to see them.

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