Migration Update: March 30, 2011
Please Report
Your Sightings!

Gray whales are surging northward. The first leaders have reached Alaska. Reports are flooding in from Washington, and California Post #7 set a sightings record. Explore the order of travel; what are the reasons behind it? Discover what's so unusual in our Image of the Week.

This Week's Report Includes:

Image of the Week

What is so unusual here?
Photo: Daniel Bianchetta

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 fresh field notes from #2, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 , #10

We thank all the citizen scientists who report sightings. Be sure to click sightings or the dots on the MapServer for their stories and comments.

Image: Michael H. Smith

"Patch" (Cascadia Research ID# 49) is one of the regular returning gray whales in Puget Sound. Patch was first seen in 1991— and every year since.

Image: Michael H. Smith
A cow/calf pair migrates past Post #7!

The first gray whales to reach Alaska were joyfully reported March 19. The whale parade is causing big excitement off the coast of Washington, where highway patrolmen directed traffic near Penn Cove because so many people had slowed or stopped to see the whales! At Bainbridge Island, WA,"We've had whales every day for almost a week." Many, like Patch, are old favorites returning. "Seeing the gray on this beautiful 1st day of spring, I paused to reflect on the yearly visits of grays in Puget Sound. How they represent the time of year where winter is losing its grip—and the hope of warmer spring days awaiting us all," wrote a whale watcher.

In California, whales stream past Monterey Bay (#9) and the two point-count sites.

Alisa Schulman-Janiger at ACS/LA (#6) jubilantly reported a 13-year record of 64 northbound on March 21! She predicts: "I think that we will be seeing a good number of grays over the next few weeks. Hopefully they will be accompanied by a bumper crop of calves!"

On March 29, Michael Smith's Counters (Post #7) celebrated their first cow/calf sighting! Their string of double-digit days included a new record high. (See data.)

In San Diego (#5) they continue to see the gray whales heading North, notes Birch Aquarium's Staci Shaut, but "it looks like many of the moms and calves are still in the lagoons. One of our naturalists just returned from our last trip to Baja and said that the moms and calves were very relaxed. Moms were spy hopping and breaching and even some of the calves were trying to spy hop,"

March 28 was day one of biologist Wayne Perryman's annual cow/calf count at Pt. Piedras Blancas, CA (#8). It brought good weather and more than 40 adults and juveniles streaming past. The crew counted about the same on day 2, March 29. "No cows with calves yet but we are at the ready," reports Mr. Perryman.

All these observations indicate that the migration will soon end one phase and begin the next. What will we see?

Migration Order: What's the Pattern?

Over years of watching the migration, experts have seen that groups of whales generally travel in surges. These jumps in numbers are called pulses. They also travel in a certain order. Explore this animation with the help of these questions:

Tracking the Migration: Using Daily Data

Explore This Week's Questions:
What a surprise we see in this week's data! As you look at the numbers, think about these questions:

  • Do the latest numbers show any pulses (surges in numbers) at Post #6 and #7? Any calves yet? Summarize what you see.
  • Travel time for a whale choosing a certain route between Post #6 and Post #7 is just under a day—maybe 22 hours—for mature whales without calves. Since Post #6 had a HUGE day March 21, folks at Post #7 were hoping to set another record day on March 22. Did that happen at Post #7? Share possible explanations.

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.

 Questions? Prepare to Ask the Expert!

A photo gallery of baby gray whales!

Marine Biologist Kim Shelden, our Gray Whale Expert

What Do You Wonder?
Click your way through the gray whale images in the photo galleries as you prepare to Ask the Expert. Try to notice two things about each image. What makes you curious? What would you like to know? Wonder aloud about gray whales and their migration, then prepare your questions. Marine biologist Kim Shelden is waiting for them! Submit your questions from noon on April 1 until noon on April 15. Here's everything you need to know:

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

The Next Gray Whale Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 13, 2011.

CRC ID# 49 Patch: First seen in 1991 and every year since .