Thursday, January 28, 2010

Whale “Show” at Marineland

Right whale female #2430, also known as Minus One, and her calf appeared in the nearshore waters of Marineland yesterday and provided a great opportunity for observation. Several calls reporting her presence came into our office nearly simultaneously, from Marine Resources Council relaying a call from the hotline and from Mobile team 2. The timing was near perfect. The AirCam was just beginning its survey from Matanzas Inlet and received the information via radio. In less than 15 min. we were circling over the pair for identification photos.

Minus One and calf drifted south over the course of the day, remaining relatively close to shore. Our last call came around 6:15 pm. They were directly off Moody Blvd. in the Hammock.

We last saw these two exactly one week before, on 20 January. At that time, they were in the New Smyrna Beach area.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Familiar “Face” Reappears

Early this morning, the Marine Resource Council’s hotline rang with a whale sighting from Ormond Beach. Responding, we found a mother and calf just south of Grenada Blvd. The pair was about three-quarters of a mile offshore and rather quiet, barely showing themselves and moving very little. We were fortunate to have access to an 11th floor condo for photos since they were very difficult to see from lower elevations. We stayed for over an hour, but the whales showed no inclination to move any closer for better pictures. This is the best of the morning and it was good enough to tell us that she was female #3157 and her calf, who we sighted previously on 13 and 14 January.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Whales Galore--Offshore!

For the sixth day in a row, a group of adult/juvenile right whales was sighted east of Ormond Beach. Mobile Survey team 4 has found them on most days and today was no exception. The group of whales was originally photographed by the AirCam last Wednesday, well offshore. They remain barely visible, particularly in the windy conditions we’ve had the last several days, and we have not been able to obtain good photographs of them from shore.

This was just one of four sightings on this gray, windy day. Mobile team 2 had distant whales off Malacompra, in the Hammock, and a member of Mobile team 1, not on survey, was riding her bike and spotted a distant group off Ocean Trace just south of St. Augustine. Lastly, Mobile team 4 also spotted a single adult off Flagler Pier and moving rapidly south. Of the four sightings, this was the only one that was close enough to photograph.

We expect another windy day tomorrow (Monday) but then improving conditions. So keep your eyes peeled. The whales are here!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Right Whale Mother and Calf Sighted

The Marineland Project’s AirCam took advantage of the spectacular weather on Tuesday and Wednesday and made several flights with great results. Interestingly, all but one of the sightings was of single, pairs or SAG’s (Surface Active Group) of adult/juvenile whales located two to five miles east of Ormond and Daytona. The exception to this was a mother and calf seen on Wednesday just east of New Smyrna Beach. The sighting, reporting, response, and photography that resulted in the addition of these two as a new mother-calf pair for the season provides an example of how the sighting network operates as well as the awareness level that is being achieved.

An unknown aviator in the New Smyrna Beach area contacted a Hubbs-Sea World dolphin survey plane to report that they had a whale sighting. Hubbs-Sea World then contacted the Marine Resources Council, who in turn relayed the information to the Marineland Project. The AirCam had just begun its flight for the day, and the information was passed to the crew by radio. After locating and photographing two adult/juvenile right whale sightings off Ormond, the AirCam continued south to New Smyrna Beach, and sighted the mother-calf pair just south of the inlet.

The mother has been tentatively identified as #2430 ... "Minus One" ... and is the eighth mother-calf pair for this season. The calf looks small in comparison to its mother, indicating that it may have been born recently. If so, it would be very interesting to know where.

This is a female with a southerly and coastal habitat preference that we saw in 2005: Feb 16 & 19; and in the 2006-07 season: Dec 27, 29, and 30; and Jan 3, 4, and 5.

Our sightings and photos are also on the NEAQ catalog page for this individual (, so have a look.

Right Whale Info on the Web

Looking for more information about right whales? Here are some excellent web resources:
Website for the Marineland Right Whale Project. Buttons located toward the bottom of the home page will take you to the Project’s page, information on the AirCam, and downloads for the Volunteer Handbook and the 2009-10 Season Report.
Website for the Marine Resources Council. Downloads for newsletters are here along with right whale information.
Website for the North Atlantic Right Whale catalog. Allows you to search for individual whales and see photos and sighting histories.
Website for North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. Extensive information on right whales as well as the source for current and back issuesof Right Whale News, a quarterly newsletter covering right whale topics published by Associated Scientists at Woods Hole.

Friday, January 15, 2010

First Right Whale SAG of the 2010 Season

For the third day in a row, right whales appeared in the Project’s area. At 08:20 the Marine Resources Council relayed a sighting report from the vicinity of Frank Butler Park, south of St. Augustine Beach. Survey Team 1 arrived shortly thereafter to find a Surface Active Group (SAG) of right whales putting on quite a show. There was lots of white water, flippering, head-lifting and blowing. The team monitored the whales, drifting south, throughout the morning. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission aerial team reported the count at 10 whales. By the afternoon, the group had moved further offshore, where the AirCam crew took these photos. Note the white belly on one of the individuals, in the image to the left. Please be on the lookout, as we can't predict when or where a group such as this may reappear.

Right Whale Mother #3157 and Calf A Second Day

Sector 3’s Thursday survey team takes the honors for the first Project sighting of the 2010 season. They spotted mother #3157 and calf from Beverly Beach at 9:45 am. The two whales stayed close to shore, ambling steadily south and providing good viewing to all who were able to come out for a look. The AirCam flew down for aerial photos as the whales swam through north Flagler Beach.

Mother and calf drifted past Flagler Pier just after 2:30 pm, creating an excellent opportunity for this photo. We left them just after 3:00 pm, still swimming south at a leisurely pace.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mother & Calf Right Whale Sighting

The AirCam made its first flight of the season yesterday, 13 January, departing Hastings at 12:30 pm. No sooner had the plane crossed Matanzas Inlet and begun its north track line than the crew spotted a mother and calf right whale. They were about 2 miles north of the Matanzas Inlet and about a mile offshore. What a great way to start the aerial season!

The mother has tentatively been identified as #3157. She is nine years old and this is her first calf. A photo of the two is attached. This sighting is the first of her as a new mother.

Also yesterday, Julie Albert of Marine Resources Council photographed two whales off Melbourne Beach. It’s shaping up to be an active season!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The southern-swooping jet stream that has provided the frigid temperatures to start our season may have nudged the whales our way as well. Last week, a single right whale was confirmed off the coast of Indiatlantic, south of Cape Canaveral. In the last two days, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aerial survey team reported right whales between 4.8 and 13 nm east of the St. Augustine Inlet. The sightings included one mother/calf pair and two groups of five whales headed in various directions. Today, they had three sightings between 8 and 13 miles north of Ponce Inlet, including another group of five whales. While the whales in the last two days traveled too far east for us to see and photograph from shore, it appears that they are moving into our stretch of coastline. Keep those eyes on the ocean!