Gray Whale Migration Update: Feb. 29, 2012
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Here they come! The number of whale sightings has increased and most are heading north. Still, the buzz now is all about the babies. Our new puzzle and article reveal why the young calves are tons of fun. Meet a whale called Varvara and find out why she's so special.

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Baby gray whale's face
Baby Face!
News: Here They Come!

The season's newest "first" northbound sightings in California have now been reported for Post #5 (San Diego on February 17), Post #7 (Santa Barbara on February 16), and Post #9 (Monterey Bay on February 8). A "first" sighting reported from the Mendocino/Sonoma Coast came on February 19, with five grays spotted.

The journey north is picking up, but much of the action is still in the nurseries. "It has been a great year for the gray whales here at Laguna Ojo de Liebre," reports tour leader Keith Jones at Post #3. "Latest count showed 1,700 total gray whales inside this nursery lagoon. It's the highest count in four years!"

At Laguna San Ignacio (Post #2), Chris of Baja Ecotours reports the whales "having a blast playing with us and teaching their young the ways of life." His field notes describe how the friendly whales interact with tourists in the small guide boats, and how baby Valentine's mother is now teaching her little whale to brave stronger currents.

A very special gray whale named Varvara is mingling with other whales in the lagoons and creating a big stir among scientists. Find out who she is and why her journey is so unusual when you read the field notes from Posts #1 and #2. Watch for more news about Varvara this season, as many eyes are on this wayward whale.

Counting the Whales Passing California
The first phase of the spring migration is building as newly pregnant females have headed north, followed by adult males and nonbreeding females, and then by immature males and females.

At the ACS/LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project (Post #6), Director Alisa Schulman-Janiger notes: "We are coming out of the turnaround period, with more gray whales going north than south now." Many gray whales have passed close to shore, some "so close that we heard their blows." In the field notes for Post #6, see why it will be hard to determine a turnaround date this year, and what weird sighting occurred on February 24.

When will the season's first northbound cow/calf pair be spotted? Stay tuned!

Read Field Notes
Click on the route map to see the migration route and Observation Posts. Click on each red dot to read the Field Notes at that post. You'll discover counts in the lagoons and wonderful details about the behaviors of migrating whales!

Map of Varvara's travels as of Feb. 16, 2012.
Follow Varvara
Migrating gray whale is spouting off the coast of California.
Photo: Allen Vinson
There She Blows!
Photo Gallery: Annual Cycle of the Gray Whale
Annual Cycle: 12 Months with Gray Whales
Gray whale migration route
Map: Journey North

Route Map

This week's field notes: Observation Posts #1, #2, #3, #5, #6, #7, #9

Explore: Tons of Fun! Babies in the Nursery

Baby gray whales need a lot of nurturing before they can venture out on their own. They're keeping the watchful mother whales very busy right now. Visit the nursery and take a closer look with our puzzle, article, and challenge page. Find them all here:

Cover page for Tons of Fun: Babies in the Nursery
Tons of Fun!
Tracking the Migration: Using Daily Data

What changes do you notice in the daily data at these two California point-count sites? What do the data show for northbound calves? Why? This week, predict what you might see before phase one of this migration gives way to phase two: the cow/calf pairs. What questions do you have?

How to track gray whale migration with Journey North

Gray whale migration analysis chart
Access Data
Record Data
The next gray whale migration update will be posted on Mar. 14, 2012.