Migration Update: April 13, 2011
Please Report
Your Sightings!

Whales have reached Kodiak Island, Alaska in time for Whale Fest.The northbound parade of cows and calves is starting right on time too, with official census Post #8 reporting the first pair on April 4. "Blows" are big in this week's image, activity, and surprising video clip from the lagoon. See how one city honors gray whales for Earth Day 2011.

This Week's Report Includes:

Image of the Week

The whales pass so close at Post #8 that no binoculars are needed to see them. What is that "cloud" over the whale?
Photo: Wayne Perryman

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, #6, #7, #8, #15 , #16

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.

At 3:01 on April 8, Counters at Post #7 saw this cow/calf pair: "They were terrific: slow traveling, with frequent blows from the calf, who stayed very close to momma."

The gray whales have reached latitude 54 N at Kodiak, Alaska (#6) — just in time for the annual Whale Fest celebration! Whale-watch cruises are done for the season at many southern posts on our map, while the whale-watching season recently began in Canada and Alaska.

At the other end of the whale trail, migrants continue streaming northward along the coast but not with the high numbers seen earlier.

At ACS/LA (#6), counts have dropped this past week, as expected, reports Director Alisa Schulman-Janiger. Wind, haze, or fog hampered sightings on several days but they are are now ahead of last season's northbound count (which was their lowest northbound count on record). "Reports of high calf counts from the lagoons give us good reason to anticipate great whalewatching ahead, featuring cow/calf pairs. Our calf counts generally peak around April 25; the next few weeks should be quite interesting!"

At Post #7, Michael Smith's Counters (see data) saw their second calf of the season on April 8. On April 11 Michael reports "the blowingest single we have documented: six blows before a fluke at one surfacing." (You'll see more about whale blows, below.) They are ready and waiting for the calves.

The season's first cow/calf pairs arrived at Pt. Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Station (Post#8) on April 4 and April 8. After a slow start, the numbers of calves are expected to pick up a lot this week. The transition from offshore animals to those migrating close to shore is underway. Here they come!

Video Clip: Let Out the Breath!

Did you know that a gray whale has a predictable breathing pattern while it's migrating? The whale generally exhales, or blows, 3 to 5 times in 15-30 second intervals. Then it raises its fluke (tail) in a dive and submerges for 3 to 5 minutes.

Try This: Ask a partner to watch the clock while you pantomime this sequence of events. Get a feel for the whales’ pattern of inhaling, holding its breath and diving, then surfacing to exhale and take another breath. (But don't try to imitate the whale in this video clip!)

The whales don't follow that breathing pattern while in the lagoons. Check out this video clip and you'll see!

Click, listen, and see a surprise! How do you explain what is happening?
Video: BajaEcotours

Tracking the Migration: Using Daily Data

Explore This Week's Questions:
As you look at the data, think about these questions:

  • What was the biggest number of sightings at each post during this period?
  • Add up the totals for this 2-week report period and the last 2-week report period. Compare the totals and summarize.
  • Predict trends you will see in the next 2-week report period.

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.

 Earth Day: Gray Whales Honored at Pacifica

The concern and efforts of the students of Dana Hills High School of Southern California led to the California Gray Whale (Pacific Eastern Stock) becoming California's official State Marine Mammal in 1975.

This year the city of Pacifica, California, proclaimed Earth Day 2011 as California Gray Whale Awareness Day. They dedicate April 2011 and the Pacifica Beach Coalition's 2011 Earth Day of Action Event (April 16) to gray whales. Thousands of volunteers, including 6,000 students, will join in habitat restoration, tree planting, gardening, and cleanups at every beach and bluff, street, park, creek, and open lot in the town and spots down the coast. Last year the volunteers removed 11,000 pounds of debris. Imagine!

How does protecting the shoreline and keeping debris out of water help whales—and people too? Visit The Pacifica Beach Coalition's site to join the action if you are near, or read about it wherever you are. We can all improve habitat and help whales no matter where we live. Let's do it!

Questions? Ask the Expert Until April 15

ACS/LA volunteers reported on April 11: "Our cow/calf pair were so close to shore that they swam between the cliff and whale rock. Then we saw some bubble blasts. It looked liked both mom and calf blew bubbles. Shortly after that, both mom and calf rolled. Then the calf did something between a lunge and a breach; its head came way out of the water."

What would you especially like to ask an expert? (Kim Shelden is hoping you'll write!)


You have a few more days to submit your questions to marine biologist Kim Shelden, our gray whale expert.
Links: Gray Whale Resources to Explore!
More Gray Whale Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

The Next Gray Whale Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 27, 2011.

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