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Gray Whale Migration Update: Feb. 15, 2012
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Whales are still arriving in Mexico, but northbound sightings have begun. In the two-way whale traffic near Los Angeles, more northbound whales than southbound were counted for the first time on Feb. 10. This week's slideshow gives a glimpse into their mysterious world as we explore what gray whales can teach us about survival. Delve into a real-life migration rescue tale and see why gray whales themselves are Big Miracles!

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Poster from the motion picture Big Miracle.
Video: RIPproductions9
Big Miracle
News: Heading North!

Whales are on the move! Hopeful whale watchers in the Mexican lagoons are enchanted by the baby whales, while observers along the Pacific Coast are thrilled to see these gentle giants up close. Viewers at Post #6 (see map, below) even saw dolphin jumping over whales' heads, and sea lions and bottlenose dolphin seeming to play with the migrating gray whales!

Counting the Whales Passing California
Near Los Angeles, ACS/LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project (Post #6) Director Alisa Schulman-Janiger reports what we've been waiting for: "We are right in the middle of our migration turnaround, with gray whales going in both directions. February 10 was the first date that we saw more northbound grays than southbounders. However, on February 11 we had mostly southbound grays; this  flip-flopping is to be expected throughout the next week during this turnaround time as the southbound migration tails off and the northbound migration picks up."

Further north near Santa Barbara, the northbound count for Gray Whales Count (Post #7) began on Feb. 13. No whales yet, but that will change by our next report! How will this season compare to last? We'll soon find out as we watch the daily data at these two point-count sites.

 

Read Field Notes
Click on the map to see the migration route and Observation Posts. Click on a 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!

Animated diagram of migration order for gray whales
 
What's the Order?
 
A Valentine-shaped whale blow!
Photo: Michael H. Smith
Gray Whale Valentine?
 
Gray whale migration route
Map: Journey North

Latest Field Notes

This week: Observation Posts #2, #6, #7

Slideshow: The Monumental Migration

A gray whale's size is enormous. Its migration is the longest of any mammal. Its life is always in motion. The changing seasons drive the whales' endless migration, and gray whales can face monumental challenges. Read about their migration in this week's slideshow. Next, learn more about the true story of NOAA's part in the 1988 rescue depicted in the film Big Miracle. Finally, reflect in your journal about the connection between migration and survival.

Cover of slideshow: The Monumental Migration
Slideshow
Tracking the Migration: Using Daily Data

It's time to track the migration! This week, think about why zeros are important in data collection as you view the data. On what date last year did Post #7 see their first northbound whales? How many have they seen this year? When will babies be heading north? Look for the northbound migration numbers to increase as February rolls along!

How to track gray whale migration with Journey North

Gray whale migration analysis chart
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The next gray whale migration update will be posted on Feb. 29, 2012.
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