Thursday, January 6, 2011

AirCam Helps Out

Our surveys began on Monday, 3 January and at 9:10 on Wednesday morning, 5 January, the

Hammock Dunes team became the first of the survey season to call in a whale sighting. Shortly thereafter, Team 3 called from Varn Park. Kudos to both teams, as the sky was heavily overcast, the light very flat, and the whales a bit offshore and low in the water. Jim and Sheila responded and initially agreed with the teams that the two whales were a mother-calf pair. One of the whales had the classic calf-shaped head, resembling a Morgan horse, but sporting a full set of callosities. It was a puzzle. The AirCam arrived and confirmed the pair to be two juvenile right whales instead of the mother-calf pair.

This shows the value of the plane to accurately report sightings, and underlines the importance of careful observation. The photos are of one of the whales, taken from the land and AirCam. Note the dolphin’s dorsal fin in the land photo and the unusual series of small callosities along the whale’s lower jaw in the AirCam photo. ID’s for both of the whales are pending.

On Tuesday, 4 January, a call to the Right Whale Hotline resulted in a sighting in north Vilano Beach being relayed to the AirCam via the FWCC aerial survey aircraft to verify and photograph. Although a little

to the north of the area we usually cover, the AirCam was in the vicinity on survey and gladly detoured to assist in documenting the pair. The female is tentatively identified as #3430, a seven-year-old female with her first calf. They have been sighted several times in this general area in the last week or so. We saw her as a calf in 2004 and again as a yearling in 2005.