2014 Florida Volunteer Updates

As the North Atlantic right whales migrate to the South Georgia/Northern Florida coast each winter volunteers help watch for and capture critical details related to this endangered species. This information helps scientists track the fate of the species and acts as a first alert system to pilots in the shipping lanes to avoid accidental killings. This blog shares the findings, photos and other pertinent information gathered from the Palm Coast Sector Volunteer Team while helping to connect and communicate the many ways we can protect the right whales and sustain our wonderful ocean life.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy to Return to My Friday Watch

I was up at dawn with my first cup of coffee in hand and as I looked out at the ocean I struggled to differentiate the water from the sky. All that was left of yesterdays storm was a hazy, fog-like cloud cover blurring the horizon line. Would this be a good day to sight a whale? You betcha!

I packed up my bag and went over to "Clicker Beach" to start my watch. What an amazing location! From this height you can see well out across the water as well as great views both north and south. The patterns were beginning. The birds began their diving rituals. The fishing boats pulled out of the hazy fog. And soon a few people appeared on the shoreline. I thought the weather was improving as the clouds and fog seemed to be clearing but then the winds shifted and a few gusts came up. 

There wasn't enough wind to create white caps but it was almost like a nudge from mother nature as my instincts heightened and so I spent the next 30 to 45 minutes with the binox up. That's when I spotted the first dolphin. Not unusual. They usually show up around 9:30 and this one was just a bit early. Then another appeared. Very casual. Very easily up and over and back into the water then up and over and back in again. I started to play the game of anticipating where they would next pop up. I almost always lost.

I turned to look south and noticed the beach further down was now being settled by fisherman setting up their rods and coolers and chairs. I pulled my blueberries out and updated my data sheet and got back to watching when something caught my peripheral vision. A huge fish was repeatedly jumping straight up and out of the water and was coming down with such a big splash it was amazing! By the fifth or sixth time I realized the big fish was actually another dolphin! I looked around it to find three, four,,,no five more dolphins with him all actively circling, chopping and diving. The birds congregated and starting diving right over them and as the group came closer I couldn't help but think that if the ocean was offering up such great food for these guys that surely it must be doing the same for the whales and that they may be coming by shortly!?!

The weather couldn't make up it's mind between cloudy and clear and eventually all activity seemed to slow and the sun was out more than it was not and I needed to head over to the San Gabriel walkover.

I found this location to be very popular and was happy and eager to split my time sharing and explaining to those using the walkover what we do and why we are doing it. Everyone seems to love our whales and are happy to learn and discuss their own experiences. As I headed off to my car I was thinking about how much I love the ocean, how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place and how being a part of the whale watch volunteer program allows me this opportunity to slow down and really look and watch and learn about the natural world going on around us. Then the spell broke.

I was headed towards my 1 o'clock appointment in town when I took a quick look at my blackberry to see a message from Becky saying that whales were just sighted at High Bridge!?! OMG!! I would love to pull a no-show and head straight for the Flagler/Ormond area but I just couldn't. And while I was relieved to learn they had come in from the south versus having them pass in front of me while on watch I made a mental note not to make anymore appointments on a Friday...just in case. Watch on!

P.S. Here's a few pictures taken before Thursday's storm.

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