Friday, February 21, 2020

YouTube Videos

We have uploaded several videos to our YouTube channel:

Our Volunteers (First half of the 2020 season), runtime = 3.2 min

Halo Returns (Female #3546, Halo, returned to Flagler Beach on 27 January 2020.  A second sighting that day was of mother #3560 and calf off Daytona Beach, runtime = 2.8 min)

Frisky Calf (a view of Halo’s playful calf off Daytona Beach Shores on 4 February 2020, runtime = 1.2 min)

News4Jax Interviews Volunteers (On 10 February 2020, a TV news crew came to Marineland to interview volunteers from Monday’s Team 2, runtime = 1.9 min)

Click here to access our YouTube channel.

Alternatively, you can go to YouTube, search on Marineland Right Whale Project, and click on the logo.  The list of new (and old) videos will come up.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Calf Count and Halo Travels

Good News for Calving Season
On Monday, 3 February, the SE US aerial survey teams sighted three new right whale calves, bringing the total for the season to nine!  Catalog #2642, Echo, and #3290, Arrow, were sighted off Florida (to the north of us), and #2223, Calvin, was sighted off Georgia.  We now have surpassed the calf production for any of the three previous years. Great news indeed!

Halo is on the Move
On Monday, 27 January, we had #3546, Halo, in Flagler Beach.  On Friday, 31 January, Halo and her calf were south of Cape Canaveral and off Cocoa Beach.  Next, the pair appeared off South Daytona Beach on Tuesday, 4 February. Early on 5 February, the phone rang at 7:02.  “Whales in North Flagler, moving north.”  We deployed a response team.  The first drone launch for the day was at 07:57 from Flagler-by-the-Sea Campground.  It was Halo.  Does her vigorous northward travel mean she has begun her migration to Cape Cod, Maine, and Canada?  We don’t know.  More to come. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Halo Returns

There are many good stories.  One is about right whale catalog #3546.  We saw her as a calf in February 2005.  We saw her as a juvenile in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Then, she was absent for three years.  She next appeared as a first-time mother in 2014.  We saw her on seven occasions in that year.  On one occasion, volunteer Becki Smith was struck by the post-blowhole semi-circle of callosities, which looked to her like a halo.  We subsequently submitted that name in nomination for the annual whale-naming event in the fall of 2014.  The name got the winning votes, and became the official name for female #3546.  Then, all was quiet for several years.
At 07:32 on Monday, 27 January 2020, the phone rang.  Julie of the Marine Resources Council relayed a call.  Whales at south 15th Street in Flagler Beach!  We went down, made a one-call-now, and Sara flew the drone.  The video capture revealed Halo with a calf!  The sky was gray overcast, the winds were light, and the seas calm.  We got good video and photos (image below).  Halo is back!
But wait, there’s more.  We had a second sighting yesterday.  Mother #3560 and calf were sighted at Sunsplash Park in Daytona.  The second team of Terry Clark and Ralph Bundy got photos and video.  And for the rest of the story, the two sightings, #3546 and #3560 are cohorts, both born in the same year (2005).  Now they are back with their calves.

Halo and calf photographed by Sara Ellis
from a drone at S 25th St. in Flagler Beach
on 27 January 2020. Taken under NOAA Research Permit #20626

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Right Whale #3560 Makes Another Appearance

Yesterday, Monday the 13th, we had another sighting of female #3560 and her calf.  She was down in Ormond and heading south slowly.  The calf is now nearly a month old, and both mother and calf appeared healthy.  This is the fifth time we have seen this pair, all in the Ormond area.
Female #3560 with calf on 13 January 2020, off Ormond Beach.  Photo: Ralph Bundy.  Permit # 20626

Raise a glass to #3560 and her calf !

A 4th Mother/Calf Pair
On Thursday, 9 January, the Georgia team sighted a fourth mother-calf pair for the season.  Good news.  The bad news is that the calf was injured, probably very shortly after birth.  There are scars on the head, possibly from a vessel strike.  The Georgia and Florida teams are searching and will provide an updated status, which we will pass along.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Right Whale Mother-Calf No. 1

Mother-Calf No. 1
On Monday, 16 December, the first mother-calf pair for the 2020 season was sighted. Female #3560 and a recently born calf (just look at that little peanut!)  were sighted off Sapelo Island, Georgia, by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research team flying on the NOAA Twin Otter. 
  (Image: Marcy Lee, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research team, NOAA/NMFS permit #20556)  
Encouraging news is that she is a first-time mother, apparently a late-bloomer at 15 years old. There is further newsthe Marineland Right Whale Project has had experience with this whale. We saw her as a calf in February 2005, as a juvenile in December 2007, and as a sub-adult in February 2011. Based on these previous sightings, we can cautiously conclude that mother and calf may appear in our area in 2020.
Then too, there are perhaps five other potentially pregnant females sighted so far, all to the north of us. Will they calf? Will they come our way? As Yogi Berra stated, “it’s hard to make predictions, especially when it’s about the future.” OK then, flippers crossed.

The Weather is Frightful
We believe that there are seven right whales in the southeast U.S. so far. But the weather has been unsettled and the survey planes have had minimal flight days.  
NL-weekend wx-21Dec19.jpg
       Bad weather for the weekend.  
Therefore, the whereabouts of these whales is mostly unknown.  Weather and whales―the perfect combination!  Looking ahead, when we have a period of good weather, what will turn up?  When walking on the beach, take your binoculars, and call 1-888-979-4253 if you get lucky!  Anything can happen, anytime, anywhere.
 Mark Your Calendars
Our kick-off event for the 2020 season will be held on Saturday, 4 January, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory in Marineland. We will begin with a “big-picture” update and overview of our program. We will then break out into our individual teams for training details and sign-up for days and areas. And yes, there will be program caps and T-shirts, and … door prizes.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Season #20 is almost here! We are looking for local citizens to help sight the right and humpback whales that may venture into nearshore waters from St. Augustine Inlet to Ponce Inlet. We need many "eyes on the water" to find and report the the small number of these whales that may occur from January through March. Please print out the card below and carry it with you whenever you are on the coast. Join us for one of our informative talks, scheduled below.

If you are new to the Project and want to volunteer for the dedicated surveys, but cannot attend any of these meetings, please reach out to us at to let us know.

Check back frequently (or sign up for email notifications to the right) for updates during the season.


Right Whale Introductory Talks for new volunteers, surveyors and spotters alike, and anyone wanting to know how to spot right whales. If you are a returning volunteer and would like a refresher, by all means join us. (Encourage friends and neighbors to attend!):

Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019
10:00 to 11:30 AM
Flagler County Public Library
2500 Palm Coast Parkway, NW
Palm Coast

Friday, Dec. 6, 2019
10:00 to 11:30 AM
Southeast Branch
St. Johns County Public Library
6670 US 1 South
St. Augustine

Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019
10:00 to 11:00 AM
Ormond Beach Environmental Discovery Center
601 Division Ave.
Ormond Beach

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020
11:00 AM to 12 Noon
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area
3100 S. Ocean Shore Blvd.
Flagler Beach

Kick-off Meeting for ALL SURVEY volunteers, new and returning, who are planning to participate in the dedicated survey effort:

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020
2:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Center for Marine Studies, Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience
9505 Ocean Shore Blvd., Marineland

Surveys Begin:
Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020

Surveys End:
Sunday, March 15, 2020

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

End Of Season Wrap-Up

We held our end-of-season gathering on Saturday, 23 March 2019, at the Whitney Auditorium in Marineland.  About 90 attended.  The food was good, we sold T-shirts and caps (the new nautical red caps were popular), and held a silent auction.  Our partners, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Right Whale Aerial Survey Team had a display and gave an informative presentation on their work that included the aims and results of genetic sampling.  Next, Jim gave a summary of the season, beginning with a report on our first right whale sighting in 2 ½ years.  The new drone program, methods and results, was summarized in a video (more information below).  And finally, after the dedicated lookouts had ended, we received a surprise report from the Surf Clubmother #3370 and calf heading southafter we had, erroneously, assumed she had begun the northward migration and departed the area.

We have updated our YouTube Channel.  Go to YouTube, search on Marineland Right Whale Project, click on the Project logo, and you will see four videos.  Two videos with snapshots of our volunteers (2016 and 2019) and two drone videos (8 February and 2 March).

The 2020 Season
Our next season, December 2019 through March 2020, will be our 20th.  We are hopeful for a continuing rebound for the right whales.  But, as Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”  We’ll be here.  Join us if you can!

During the season, we will have the 20-year retrospective presentation―not to be missed!  Look for our announcements and schedule here in December.

We are grateful for the donations that help keep the program viable.  If you would like to help support this effort, please make out your tax-deductible check to “ASWH” and mail to: Jim Hain, Marineland Right Whale Project, 9741 Ocean Shore Blvd., St. Augustine, FL  32080-8618.  You will receive a receipt acknowledging your donation in return.

Thank You
To each and every one who helped make this season a success―thank you!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Surprise Sighting!

We thought the whale season was over.  Done.  Whales gone.

But, Thursday morning, 21 March, the phone rang.  A mother-calf pair, #3370, off Surf Club.  They went slowly south, and by 5:30, they were off Varn Park. 

The surprise is that this pair was sighted off Georgia on March 8, headed north.  Somehow, and for some reason, they changed their mind.  Two weeks went by.  Then, the Surf Club sighting!

On Friday, 22 March, they were sighted again, just south of Grenada Blvd. in Ormond Beach, still heading south! They continued south at a steady pace until we left them at Main St. Pier in Daytona Beach just before 5 PM. 

Will we see them when they return north? Keep your eyes peeled just in case!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Whales on March 2

It has been a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g 2 1/2 weeks since our last right whale sighting.  Recall that on Tuesday, 12 February, we had female #3370 and her 2nd calf, down at Highbridge in North Peninsula State Park.  It was a memorable event, as our report was a new mother-calf pair for the season:  #6.
Then it got quiet―at least for us.  But not for mother-calf pair #3370.  They traveled farther south, south of Cape Canaveral, and getting down to Sebastian Inlet on 19 February.  They then turned north.  They were off New Smyrna Beach on 28 February, and off Daytona Beach Shores on Friday, 1 March.
Saturday, it was our turn.  The phone rang at 07:47 in the morning.  Terry Clark and Dave Gustafson reported whales from North Flagler.  We were on site at N 16th Street by 08:35.  We relayed information to Florida Fish and Wildlife, and their plane arrived about 09:45.  We also got in a number of drone flights (image below).  The whales were slowly moving back-and-forth, in close, and in calm seas, until about noon.

Our season has two more weeks. In some past years, March has been a strong month for sightings. Keep your eyes peeled seaward!

Female #3370 with her 2nd calf, returns to our area after 2 1/2 weeks down south. The calf is growing! (Image from N. Flagler Beach on 2 March by Terry Clark, conducted under NOAA/NMFS research permit #20626)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Aerial Video of Right Whales

Our drone operator, Ralph, made a very nice video of our mother and calf right whale sighting from Ormond-By-The-Sea on February 8, 2019. Runtime is 5:20. Click on the link below or copy/paste into your browser:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mother-Calf #6

The winds were brisk.  The seas were lumpy with lots of whitecaps.  At about 9:00, the phone rang.  Julie Albert, Marine Resources Council, relayed a call: whales in south Flagler, moving slowly south.  The initial call came from Linda Grissom, an off-duty team member (her neighbor alerted her and she in turn went to confirm). Team 4 was alerted.  They re-positioned.  At 09:10 team leader Stephanie York called: yes, further confirmed as right whales.  The responders and drone operators got on the road.  Lookouts at a walkover at the Flagler/Volusia line reported a possible mother-calf pair.  At 10:39, the whales were approaching Highbridge, within the Peninsula State Park.  A mother-calf pair was confirmed.  In windy and challenging conditions, drone operator Ralph Bundy obtained the identification photos we were looking for.  Images were relayed to our colleagues with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Team in Ponte Vedra.
Soon, the information came back: Katie Jackson, Florida Fish & Wildlife, identified the mother as Catalog #3370 with her 2nd calf.  Wait! The story gets better.  This was a new report for the season—a new mother-calf pair!  This brings the total to six—we are inching forward!
The whales are like mirages.  They appear and disappear. Female #3370 was sighted without a calf on 1 January.  At the time, she was with another adult female, #2503, Boomerang, also without a calf.  Six weeks later she appears in south Flagler—with a calf.  Since the 1 January sighting, Boomerang has also had a calf.
The Marineland Right Whale Project has prior experience with this right whale.  She was also seen by us in February 2005 and March 2009.  There are some unknowns:  her age is unknown; her mother is unknown.
The drone (and drone operator) has/have once again proved its/their value.  On a day when windy conditions precluded the survey aircraft from flying, the Marineland Right Whale Project’s volunteer sighting network, supported by the drone photography, was able to add a noteworthy finding to this season’s right whale research.
The research is conducted under NOAA/NMFS research permit #20626.  The drone is flown by an FAA-certificated drone pilot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Volunteer in the 2019 Whale Season

As we begin the 2019 whale season, there is an opportunity for local citizens to help sight whales.  We need "eyes on the water" to detect and report the small number of whales (right and humpback) that may occur from January through March.  Please print the card below and carry it with you when on the deck of your condo, or on beach walks.  There are also a few opportunities to participate in our dedicated survey teams.  For the latter, please reach out to

Return to this site for lecture and event schedules, and whale updates. 

Thank you.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Whale Season is Coming !

As the 2017-18 right whale season approaches, there are several news items:
* The November 2017 issue of Right Whale News is posted at
* The training class/kick-off meeting for the season is 30 December 2017, from 2:30 to 4:30, at the Center for Marine Studies, University of Florida's Whitney Laboratory, 9505 Ocean Shore Blvd., Marineland.  All interested participants are encouraged to attend.
* The surveys begin Tuesday, January 2.
* Please check back in this space for the introductory talks in December at your local library and other venues.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Right Whale Calf #5 Sighted

On Sunday, 30 April 2017, an aerial survey team from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, sighted a new mother-calf pair east of Nantucket, in the Great South Channel. The mother was identified as Catalog #1515, first sighted as an adult in 1985, and currently greater than 31 years of age. She was last seen in 2009 in Florida with a calf. Then, she went unseen for the next seven years. As with Catalog #1414, this individual is rarely seen, and much of her life history is unknown.

There are intriguing questions. How is it that these two senior females, with sparse sighting records, converge in the Cape Cod area in 2017 with calves? Where did they come from? Were they simply unsighted in the Southeast US, or, did they have their calves elsewhere? Of the five mothers reported so far for the 2017 season, four are 30 years of age or older. Where are the younger reproductive age females? 

We have had some history with female #1515. On 7 February 2009 she was photographed by the AirCam team with her calf off Hammock Dunes, seen at right. Later that month, on the 21st, the AirCam team documented them again, off Daytona Beach.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Season Summary and Recent News

Cape Cod: Good News, Bad News

All three mother-calf pairs observed in the SEUS this season (but not by us), including the elusive Catalog #1711 and calf, have successfully made the 800-mile migration north and been sighted in Cape Cod Bay. In addition, the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) discovered a fourth mother, Catalog #1412, in Cape Cod Bay. This female is rarely seen during any of the regular survey efforts; the last report was from Iceland in June 2003.

In contrast to the low count from the SEUS, the Cape Cod area has experienced a record high count. On Friday, 14 April, the CCS aerial survey crew spotted 206 individual right whales, or about 40% of the population. This gives hope to the idea that the population has not experienced a catastrophic event, but rather, was somewhere else (Where is still the big question!)

On this same day, there was some bad news (also from Cape Cod) with the sighting of a dead juvenile female. The cause of her death has not been conclusively determined. The 27-foot whale was the 2016 calf of Catalog #4094. We have some
history with this mother-calf pair; the AirCam crew sighted them on 17 February 2016 about 1 3/4 miles off the beach in South Daytona. This was a young mother with her first calf. After nursing and weaning, a year later, the calf is dead.

Season-End Event

We gathered to review our 2017 season at the Whitney Lab auditorium on Saturday, 25 March. Jim presented an overview, the issues facing right whales, and questions and possibilities for the 2018 season.

Next, Joy gave a presentation on our core asset―our people. Check out this video of the various teams and highlights of the season:

An April Scramble

On the morning of 17 April, our colleagues with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received a fisherman’s report of whales off the St. Augustine Pier, heading south. Conducting follow-up interviews, the FWC team concluded that the sighting might be mother-calf right whales and contacted us to assist with verifying it. We made calls and, together with FWC, fanned out between the Pier and Washington Oaks. No whales! On the next day, 18 April, the AirCam team flew a manta ray survey and kept eyes peeled. No whales! Later that day, a call came in to the MRC Hotline from Daytona Beach. This report turned out to be rafts of Sargassum weed.


Thanks to the many of you who have contributed, we have reached our Level One Goal ($10,000). A success indeed! To date, a total of 53 have donated, with Survey Team One having the highest number of checks arriving in our hands. For those of you who may have an unused envelope, and are willing and able, your donation checks (made out to ASWH, and mailed to 9741 Ocean Shore Blvd., St. Augustine, FL 32080-8618) will be gratefully accepted.

The Future

We will continue to send periodic updates during the off-season, and in the fall as we approach the 2018 season.


J.H. and J.H., MRWP