Two hours and eleven minutes into our first day of dedicated surveys, Joy Hampp (Project Coordinator) happened to be at a public walkover about a mile north of Matanzas Inlet waiting for Mobile Team 1 to arrive when her eyes spotted a disturbance in the water just to the north. Yes, it was a right whale mother and calf! Even better, it turned out to be right whale #2413, who lost her third calf in 2011, but is now happily back after a short interval with her fourth. We saw #2413 in 2011 with her calf, and then also in 2003 and 2005, so she is a regular to our study area between St. Augustine Inlet and Ponce Inlet. Now in our thirteenth season, the opportunity to observe these returning right whales is affording us insights into their biology.
Mother and calf moved slowly north along Crescent Beach, where no public access exists for miles. Thankfully, they remained within a half mile of the shoreline, so we employed a combination of inviting ourselves onto some private property and walking along the beach to take photos and collect data with the help of Team 1. In the photo, the mother’s head is pointing to the left. The calf, on the right, is on its right side, with its head on mom’s. The calf’s eye is visible and indicated with an arrow.
We followed the pair until 14:00. They hadn’t moved much in the last half hour and we had the photos and data we needed. What a promising way to start the season!