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.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Marineland AirCam Surveys

For the last four years The Marineland Right Whale Project has utilized aircraft surveys to search for and identify right whales off the coast of northeast Florida. They do so using an AirCam, a unique twin-engine, conventional gear kit plane with an open cockpit that seats two people in a tandem arrangement. 

The first prototype AirCam was built here in Florida back in 1993 (see photo below) and was designed by Phil Lockwood. The AirCam was first commissioned by the National Geographic Society for research in Congo, Africa as they needed an aircraft that would be a safe and fuel efficient way to fly low, fly slowly,  provide a wide, unobstructed view and needing only a short distance for landings and take offs. The current generation (also below) has improved on the original prototype while keeping its basic form.  

Above: The 1993 AirCam Prototype
Below: the new and improved Lockwood AirCam (stock photo)

The Marineland AirCam right whale surveyors flew out of Hastings, FL yesterday (January 13) at 12:30pm and were only up for a short time when they sighted a mother right whale with her calf just 2 miles north of Matanzas Inlet and only about a mile offshore. They believe they know the mother identified as #3157. She is nine years old and this is her first calf. For more on this and other sightings this week please visit the Marineland Right Whale blog (link at left). 

Currently I am on Cape Cod, Massachusetts visiting with my parents and while I may not be able to get down to visit Associated Scientists at Woods Hole (ASWH) on this trip I may be able to get up to Provincetown to check out the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. For more information on these organizations as well as the Lockwood AirCam see links to the left.  To all on my volunteer team, watch on!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Right Whales Sighted Near Our Coastline!

Yesterday I questioned whether the warmer ocean temperatures further east of our coastline may be attracting the whales out of our sight range and today Marineland's new blog (see link to the left and below) confirmed this. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aerial team reported seeing right whales over the past two days between 4.8 and 13 nautical miles east of St. Augustine Inlet!  There have also been sightings to the north of Ponce Inlet and south of Cape Canaveral including mother/calf pairs and two groups of five whales. For more information check out Marineland's new blog: http://marinelandwhale.blogspot.com 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Update

The weather continues to be very cold and yet the number of fishing boats out on our waters both during the day and at night remain constant. Are they still shrimping or is there something else they are catching with their nets? I also saw two large barges heading south way off shore on Friday and yesterday morning I saw a tug boat heading north. It was pulling a barge with a large crane attached and I thought about the whales as they were traveling about the same distance off shore as our whales are been seen. I guess no news is good news regarding this.

The waves have kicked up a notch or two since Friday and while the usual bird sightings have been reduced I did see a large flock of birds out on the water on Saturday and tried to get a picture but then my camera battery died.

Currently, here in Palm Coast, the air temperature is 33 degrees, winds are from the west at about 10 knots and the seas are 2 to 3 feet with some light chop. The coastal water temperature today at Fernandina Beach is 44 degrees F and the open sea temperature at the St Augustine Sea Buoy is 67 degrees F. The weather the rest of the weeks looks to be more of the same. I wonder if any of our whales that are heading south are swimming further out from our coastline than normal?  I am still amazed at the size of these whales as well as the fact that they migrate this far and seldom swimming faster than 5 knots.

I am heading to Cape Cod, Massachusetts later this week and will see what the right whale activity is like there. To all on my whale watching team please feel free to email any information you have or things you would like to see added here and I will do while I'm on the road. And of course CALL ME if you make a sighting. Whale on!