Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Offshore Sightings

As the sightings from shore became scarce, the AirCam altered its survey track to fly a coastal, 1 nm line south, then shift east and fly a 3 nm line north. The result is a couple of sightings we would otherwise have missed. On 9 February, Jim and Joy flew this pattern and discovered right whale mother #2413 (provisional ID) and calf 3 nm east of New Smyrna Beach. About 15 minutes later, they spotted a single right whale, provisionally identified as #3560, 3 nm east of Daytona Beach.

We last saw #2413 and calf on 17, 18 and 19 December. In those three days, the pair traveled from St. Augustine Pier to Ormond Beach. They were subsequently spotted several times to the north of our study area, apparently making the rounds this season. The sighting of #3560, a six-year-old of undetermined gender, was our first this season.

On Sunday, 13 February, Jim ventured out of St. Augustine Inlet in a 24-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat to collect sound recordings of right whales. The FWC aerial survey team relayed two of their sightings some 9 nm east of Vilano Beach, one a mother and calf. The AirCam flew out to photograph the boat and the whales, recognizing mother #1604 and calf, a pair that we’ve seen several times this season.

 In a pattern reminiscent of last season, when temperatures were on the colder side, the whales are around, but currently further offshore. With a warming trend between now and the end of the week, the whales could move in and be visible from shore. Plus, we are still looking for some females, #1622 and #2753, to appear with calves. The season is far from over!