Gray Whale Migration Update: April 11, 2012
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Your Sightings!
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Migrating gray whales are plowing north from Mexico to Alaska! Cow/Calf sightings bring cheers in California, while Kodiak and Seward observers celebrate the returning adults. How easy is it to spot a calf? Our new slideshow gives a glimpse. Send your questions to the Gray Whale Expert by April 13!

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Cow/calf pair passing close to Pt. Piedras Blancas, California (observation post #8).
Photo: Wayne Perryman
Here They Come!
News: Cows and Calves are Coming!
North to Alaska! The first report from Kodiak (Post #16) was 15-20 gray whales spotted from the cliffs of Narrow Cape on Monday, April 2nd. Woo hoo! Just in time for Whale Fest Kodiak, the annual celebration of the whales' return.

Last time Kati from Post #15 in Vancouver, Canada, predicted moms and babies off Tofino about three weeks after the first sighting (March 20/21) at Post #6 (ACS/LA). "And sure enough," reports Kati, "on Saturday of the Easter Holiday weekend we encountered our first Gray Whale mother & calf pair off Tofino!"

Counting the Whales Passing California
At Post #7 Gray Whales Count celebrated their first calf sighting on April 3. On April 9 Director Michael Smith reported: "We were excited to count our seventh calf, but concerned that as the pair arrived a quarter mile off the Isla Vista kelp, the whales were confronted with a commercial fishing boat heading right at them and then traveling over the submerged whales. The calf surfaced a minute later, seeming to be just fine. But mom seemed to want to get along, with no lingering. We saw them through a few more surfacings as they headed west outside the mooring buoys." We wish them safe travel.

What's the news at Post #6 on the migration route? ACS/LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project Director Alisa Schulman-Janiger reports: "Our cow/calf migration phase has begun. We have spotted 8 of our 11 northbound calves since March 26." They saw a gray whale breach seven time in a row! But boat traffic mixed with whale traffic here, too: A calf on April 9 was traveling a distance from the mom, even swimming in front of her. "Then a small motor boat came fairly close to them; the next time they surfaced, the calf was right next to the mom, riding back toward her dorsal ridge in classic cow/calf formation." They saw zero grays but lots of orcas on April 7; do you think there's a connection? Read the field notes to see why March 29 was so exciting at Post #6!

Official Calf Count: Scientific Research Site
The 19th season at Pt. Piedras Blancas, CA (#8) was quiet for the first week. Then, on April 9, the first cow/calf pair appeared. Here we go! Will the numbers measure up to expectations? Stay tuned.

Alisa Schulman-Janiger predicts: "Calf counts [in California] should continue to increase in number over the next few weeks, and will probably peak near the end of April."

Read Field Notes
Click on the route map to see the migration route and Observation Posts. Click on each red dot to read about the location. Click on the 2012 Field Notes link to read the latest news. The comments of the observers make you feel like you are there!

Map of Varvara's travels as of Feb. 16, 2012.
News About Varvara!
viideo sreen shot of gray whales at sunset in Laguna San Ignacio
Video: BajaEcotours
Sunset Swim
Attaching a satellite tag to a gray whale
Tagged for Tracking
Student by whale-sized poster filled with gray whale facts
Photo: Wayne Perryman
Whale-sized Fun!
Gray whale migration route
Map: Journey North

Route Map

This week's field notes: Observation Posts #6, #7, #8, #10, #15, #16,

See MapServer too!

Slideshow: Gray Whales on the Move
Gray whale babies migrate more than 5,000 miles when just a few months old. No wonder observers all along the route are eager to see them pass by with their mothers. But how easy is it to see a baby whale on migration? Join some observers that saw cow-and-calf pairs along the California coast in this slideshow:

Slideshow cover
Reminder: Send Your Questions for the Expert

Ask the Gray Whale Expert: Open
March 30 - April 13, 2012.

Send Questions Today!

Tracking the Migration: Using Daily Data
"Each day we talk about now being in the calf phase of what is actually two separate migrations: the general population and the cow/calf pairs," comments Michael Smith at Observation Post #7. What migration story do the data tell this week? What was the largest day for whale sightings at both point-count posts? This week, summarize what the data show about the migration phase. What do you think will happen next?

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 April 25, 2012.