Saturday, February 1, 2014

Right Whales Fill the Void

Our long dry spell of no whale sightings broke this morning with a call from Julie Albert of the Marine Resources Council’s Right Whale Hotline around 8:15 AM with a report of whales in Ormond Beach. It was quite a catch, considering the fog blanketing the coast! Team 4 deployed in several locations. It was an exercise in patience and persistence…the visibility was often less than ¼ mile, but it paid off. First, Elaine and John Kelley spotted what proved to be mother and calf right whales at SR 44, Grenada Blvd., Ormond Beach, and then Larry Bell spotted them from Amsden Road, where the response team of Jim and Joy joined them to take photos.

The pair is provisionally identified as Whale #2503, Boomerang, with her 3rd calf.On 4 December 2005, we photographed Boomerang with her first calf as they swam past Marineland and into history; this is the whale that took her calf all the way to Corpus Christi, Texas in January. Boomerang returned to the SE US in 2009 with calf #2, but we did not see her south of St. Augustine Inlet.
The two swam north a short way, then turned south, changing directions several times, before swimming slowly south past Grenada Blvd, close in, for good photos in the best visibility of the day. We left them shortly after 3 PM, about 2 miles south of Grenada Blvd.

But wait, the day got better! Julie from MRC called again, at 1:15 PM, with another reported sighting, this time from Ocean Trace in St. Augustine. We were too far away to respond, so she notified our colleagues with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and they responded by land and sea. This, too, was a mother and calf pair, Whale #2040, Naevus, whom we had not seen south of the St. Augustine Inlet prior to this sighting. Now, this is the way to end a dry spell!