Thursday, February 3, 2011

Whale Blitz a Success

Our concerted effort by land and air over the weekend and into the beginning of this week to find whales paid off, resulting in several sightings of mothers and calves in our area, including one pair that we had not seen before. It began on Saturday, 29 Jan, with calls from the MRC Whale Hotline of whales near Sunglow Pier in Daytona Beach and Cinnamon Beach in Palm Coast and from Team 2 with a sighting off Washington Oaks. Joy and Sheila in the AirCam responded to all three, but did not see any right whales. Toward the end of the AirCam survey, northbound near Anastasia State Park, Sheila spotted a mother and calf who proved to be #3270, Pico.

The next day, Sunday, 30 Jan, Julie from MRC called early with reports of whales in Crescent Beach. Fog rolled in and obliterated the view before the response team could arrive. As the fog lifted, Team 1’s Leader acquired them at the walkover just south of Spyglass Condo. It’s Pico and calf again! As the AirCam photographed this pair, Jim and Sheila responded to a Surf Club team report and confirmed another mother/calf pair, #3430. After photographing this pair, the AirCam with Joy and Becki continued south to Cape Canaveral, sighting a humpback whale near the beach along Canaveral Seashore.

After this flurry of activity, Monday, 31 January was strangely quiet, despite near perfect sighting conditions. The phone didn’t ring once and the AirCam surveyed along a 3 mile offshore track from Matanzas Inlet to south of New Smyrna Beach with no whales to be seen.

Events picked up again on Tuesday, 1 Feb as Team 3 spotted whales at Beverly Beach, a near miracle at 1.5 miles offshore in hazy conditions. The AirCam confirmed these as Pico and calf, making this pair and #3430 the most frequently sighted whales for us this season.

Julie from MRC called again just after 1:00 pm with a sighting at St. Aug. Beach Pier. At this point, the AirCam was well to the south so Jim contacted the Florida State aerial team who conveniently were just taking off from St. Augustine. They confirmed a mother/calf pair, #2746, a 14-year-old female with her second calf.

After completing the coastal survey line south of New Smyrna Beach, the AirCam again flew out to a 3 mile track line and followed it north. This time, east of New Smyrna Beach, Sheila’s eagle eyes spotted a mother and calf new to us this season, #3240, Orion, age 9 with her first calf. With Orion, we have now seen seven of the fifteen mother and calf pairs reported in the SE US.