Migration Update: March 16, 2011
Please Report
Your Sightings!

The migration is in full swing, with the leaders passing British Columbia. Spotters in California reported their first cow/calf pairs this week. In the nursery lagoons, serious spring training occupies the cow/calf pairs preparing for their journey north. Except for puzzling numbers at one post, it's shaping up to be a whale of a migration.

This Week's Report Includes:

Image of the Week

Baleen in a baby whale's mouth.
Photo: Renee Bonner
The babies are coming! This is what spotters at ACS/LA saw on March 6.
What's in this baby whale's mouth?

Think, then link...


Whale Watching: News from Observation Posts

Click on the globe to see the migration route. Then click red dots for latest news from our Posts.

This week: See field notes from observers at sites #2, #5, #6, #7, #8, #10 and #15.

We thank all the citizen scientists who report sightings. Be sure to click the dots on the MapServer for the details on the latest sightings!

Photo: Mike Hawe
Baby rests on Mom's back

Here they come! The first mom/baby pairs have been reported! The first sighting was March 6 by the volunteer counters at the ACS/Los Angeles census: "The calf rode on its mom's back, and opened its mouth enough that we saw its baleen, reports Director Alisa Schulman-Janiger. The lucky spotters at San Diego (Post #5) saw a pair on March 11 and again March 12. Staci reports: "One of our trips to Baja just returned and the numbers in San Ignacio Lagoon are down to 800. So there are about 700 whales beginning their journey north from that lagoon." Indeed, the migration continues to build. On March 11, Michael Smith's Counters (Post #7) had a big day with ten sightings. Making their way up the CA coast, the first migrants have reached OR, WA and BC!

Biologist Wayne Perryman starts his annual cow/calf just before our next report. See Post #8 for his prediction!

But here's the puzzler: ACS/LA's Alisa Schulman-Janiger (#6) notes: "Although our migration phases have reversed — with most whales now going northbound — we have yet to see anything close to a northbound migration peak. We are well below last season's northbound count, which was lower than our 10-year northbound average. This season continues to be a very late northbound gray whale migration. Reports continue to come in: many gray whales in Mexico's Baja California, well above the counts of this time last season. Hopefully our northbound counts will pick up soon!"


Babies and Moms: Serious Spring Training

With the first cow/calf sighting off California's coast this week, we wonder how the other cow/calf pairs are doing. From the lagoon at San Ignacio, guide Caroline says the lagoon is now like a big nursery-elementary-middle school. What are the whale kids up to? See for yourself with Caroline's field report:

Springtime in the Lagoon: A Big School

Spouts of a mother and baby whale.
Photo Adrienne DeLiso, Baja Ecotours
Mystery Solved: Who is That Whale?

Each year along the whale trail, people wait to see certain whales they know. A sighting on March 3 was whale #53, one of the ten or so Saratoga Grays who feed in the Saratoga Passage during spring. Cascadia Research confirmed the sighting from a photo, which was
"great news and good timing for the initial confirmed return; #53 had been seen at 13 different years going back to 1991."

How could people be sure? The identity of many whales can be confirmed through the photo catalog at Cascadia Research.

How do markings like this help identify gray whales? Find out here:
Who is That Whale?

Tracking the Migration: Using Daily Data

From the data, at which of our two point-count sites have more northbound whales been seen? Connect your answer with a big concern talked about by Alisa Schulman-Janiger in her report summarizing the past two weeks.

Explore This Week's Question
Make a prediction.

  • Do you think the migration has peaked yet? What do the data show?

Tracking the Migration Using Daily Data

Tracking the Migration Using Daily Data

View, record, graph, and analyze the latest data from California Posts #6 and #7.


Journal: Whales and Tsunamis Gray Whale Journal

On March 11, Michael Smith (Post #7) wrote: "The devastating, tragic earthquake in Japan generated a tsunami that approached our coast just after 8:00 AM. Fortunately for us at Counter Point, it was negligible. Santa Barbara Harbor, further east, was in disarray with considerable damage and churning tides well into the afternoon." That day, 10 whales were counted by volunteers at Post #7.

Meanwhile, a 4th grader wrote to ask, "With the tsunami, are the whales okay?" Yes, but there's more to the question than you might think. We asked Dr. David Rugh for his thoughts if you'd like to ponder too:

Gray Whales and Tsunamis: by Dr. Dave Rugh

Links: Gray Whale Resources to Explore!
More Gray Whale Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

The Next Gray Whale Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 30, 2011.