Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tenth Mother and Calf Identified

Last week, the Traveling Trevallies, a group of Georgia Aquarium volunteers who seek out volunteer opportunities with other organizations to broaden their experience, augmented our mobile surveys. On Thursday, 4 February, they were on an afternoon survey in Sector 4 with Mobile team leader, Becki Smith. The group spotted a mother and calf in Ormond Beach. After Jim Hain and Sheila McKenney arrived with the land camera, the two whales moved close enough to shore for photos and were subsequently identified as #3123, a nine-year-old with her first calf.

This is the third time this season that Marineland Project responders have photographed a new female right whale with a calf. It is uncommon for this event to occur once in a season. To have three such occurrences suggests that right whale movement patterns may be different this year. This new mother brought the season’s total in the Southeast to ten.

So far, we have seen four different mother and calf pairs. Three of these we have not documented in our area since the Project began in 2001. Could the extreme cold weather last month have influenced some pregnant females to travel farther south? The next few weeks, when sightings here tend to peak, may provide clues to answer that question.