Sunday, January 19, 2014

Survey Team 5 Gets First Whale Sighting

Robert Unger is the first Project surveyor to make an initial right whale sighting this season. Hooray for Robert! He spotted the single whale around 9:30 this morning at Riverview Street in Daytona Beach. Kudos to him and wife, Doris, who hung on to the rapid southerly moving whale until the response team could arrive. We had to leapfrog through several stops to get ahead of the whale for identification photos and it did not cooperate, making brief appearances low in the water. By 12:25 PM, we were waving good-bye from Sunglow Pier.

Although the whale kept a low profile, all of us could see the large patch of white on its right fluke. Closer examination of the photos revealed a recent injury, still healing. This and the partial head shot enabled our Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission colleagues to provisionally identify the whale as the yearling calf of Whale #3294, first seen off Georgia on 15 January. We did not see this calf and its mother last season in our area.

This yearling’s swim speed was fast enough to initially suppose it might have been a humpback, bolstered by recent humpback sightings in this area. Last Thursday, Bob Jackman on Team 4 sighted a humpback from the Gamble Rogers State Park in South Flagler Beach. Nice work, Bob! Yesterday, the Sunglow Pier bait shop personnel alerted us to 3 to 4 humpback whales traveling south. In both cases, the sightings lasted a short time and were far from shore.