Sixteen long, empty, lonely days ... and then ... YAHOO! The phone rang at 08:00 on Wednesday morning, 23 January. Julie Albert from Marine Resources Council relayed a hotline call from Ken and Lonnie Merrifield, Canadians from Port Elgin on Lake Huron who are vacationing here for several months, and who attended Jim's right whale talk at Gamble Rogers State Park on 12 January. They picked up the phone card, and knew what to do! Their initial sighting was from the Ocean Beach Club II in South Flagler Beach at 07:50, and we tracked the pair south until 14:30 when they were off Capistrano Drive in Ormond Beach. The sea state was at least 4 and probably 5, but volunteers kept them in sight for 6 1/2 hrs. We thought we were looking at a mother-calf pair, but, because the "younger" animal had fully developed callosities, we wondered whether it was a mother and a yearling.
Conferring with Katie Jackson, our colleague on the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission team, we were told, in fact, they were likely both juveniles. The whale with the "broken" callosity pattern is tentatively identified as Whale #3860, while the whale with the "continuous" pattern is not identified at present. If confirmed, Whale #3860 is a female born in 2008. We saw her in the '09 and '10 seasons, and Julie at MRC saw her in the '11 season off of Indian Harbor Beach in the Melbourne area. We are told that both of these individuals are new reports for this season. Compliments to all for a job well done!
For more information on callosity patterns and how to identify right whales, visit the Associated Scientists website, www.aswh.org, and download the “Volunteer Handbook” toward the bottom of the Home page.