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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Whales Return, Frolic in Flagler Beach

A right whale and her calf were spotted today in Flagler Beach! As life would have it I wasn't able to jump in the car right after the call came in just prior to noon, but by around 2pm I was able to join the small clicks of whale watchers gathered off A1A. As I pulled off the road I was able to spot the whales almost immediately. They were that active. And one of the unique signs of being a whale watch volunteer is how quickly you are able to "spot the spotters," however I had my small dog with me and only a short amount of time so I decided to focus on capturing the whales on video. The whales were close to shore and seemed to be lazily enjoying each other's company and, like many of us, another beautiful winter's day here in paradise...uh, I mean Florida. So without further ado, here's the video to share. If you can pull it up and watch it in "full screen" mode (click on the link in the lower right of the video box when you scroll over it) you'll be amazed at how much you can see. Enjoy and...watch on!

P.S. As we had hoped, this mother and calf were confirmed to be the same mother/calf pair that my friend, Jan Geyer spotted off the boardwalk up at Marineland on the eve of Superbowl Sunday. Yeah! :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Whale of A Super(bowl) Sighting

Right whale mother and calf frolic (upper left) off the Marineland, FL shores.
Photo credit: Jan Geyer

As I was returning from visiting our daughter in Gainesville yesterday (Sunday, February 3) I received an excited voice mail message at about 5PM from my friend Jan Geyer who, while most folks were preparing for the Superbowl game, was with her mother enjoying an ocean stroll up at Marineland. The message went something like this, and spoken in a very excited and almost out of breath tone, "Chris! I am standing here with my mother up at Marineland and there are TWO WHALES right in front of us (!!!)....spouting like crazy and rolling in the waters... and the first person I thought of to call was...you!" We have had somewhat random conversations about my whale watching experiences as we paint together at Hollingsworth Gallery (in Palm Coast) but how fortuitous as it set off the appropriate chain reaction as I made several alert calls and discovered that no one, as yet, was aware of these whales so a big thank you goes out to you, Jan! 

Shortly after I spoke to Sheila McKenney of the Marineland Right Whale Survey Project who had  arrived and confirmed it was a right whale mother and calf. Sheila was able to connect with Jan and her mom and her enthusiasm at this sighting spilled over and it was then that Jan learned how special this event truly was. Sheila began capturing the sighting details and shared her binoculars so that Jan could see just how big and beautiful they were. Project leader, Dr. Jim Hain, Senior Scientist arrived and began the difficult task of trying to capture photographs of the whales as they breached ever so slightly, and attempted to identify the whales.  And then the sun was quickly getting very low in the sky.

So on this late Sunday evening while most were home watching the kick off of the Superbowl, here on this wide and windswept and deserted beach, Jan and her mom Judy, Sheila and Jim were able to witness a mother and her calf playing their own kind of games as they rolled and spouted and nudged each other. Truly a "super" sight to see. Here's to even more sightings as we...watch on! 

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: As I write this a hotline alert has gone out to all volunteers in our sector letting everyone know about this sighting and to keep a close eye out for them today as they were heading slowly south and could be in our waters during watch today.