Field Notes from Susan Payne
The southbound migration continues off Los Angeles and Monterey. CNN reported, on February 18, that the gray whales had arrived a month later than usual at their breeding lagoons in Mexico. I will try to find some confirmation of this report.
Here in Kodiak, as elsewhere on the migration route, there appears to be two peaks to the northward migration. The first whales to head north are juveniles and males; the second peak consists of mostly females and their newborn calves. In my last report I mentioned that we should see our first whales by the third week of March. Two years ago we had our first report off Kodiak on March 18 and last year on March 23. I am certain that we may have missed the actual "first" whale of the season both years because our Whale Alert program is not a daily census. The first peak passes Cape St. Elias (59.80N, -144.58W) about mid-April and Unimak Pass (50.33N, -164.92W) in late April, early May. Last year the first Kodiak pulse passed around April 5-12, while two years ago it was April 14-21. According to Dave Rugh, of the National Marine Mammal Lab, the second peak may pass Kodiak towards mid-May to late June.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger has completed her mid-ACS census report. She shows in a graph that in years past the peak of the northbound migration from Point Vicente has been somewhere around February 27-March 8. In Alisa's1999 mid census update, she tells us that on February 15 the gray whale migration shifted from southbound to northbound. The northbound migration this year is off to a slow start, but should pick up this next week. Wind and poor visibility are making the sighting conditions difficult. Mike and Winston are reporting the ACS whale watch daily counts. All sightings are from Point Vicente on the Palos Verde Peninsula (33.44N, -118.24W).
Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whale Watch was out on the boat when I spoke to her Monday, February 22. The last three days were slow sighting days, but now they are seeing more northbound whales. All their sightings are from near Point Pinos in Monterey Bay (36.67N, -122.00W).
At the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary, Julie Goodson, the new Education Coordinator, reports sightings made by the whale-watch charters M/V Condor and M/V Rachel G. They have also been seeing Bottlenose and Common Dolphins, and even Dall's porpoise in 100 fathoms of water.
Christina Folger, the Science Director for Marine
Discovery Tours in Newport, tells me that they have not been out whale-watching
for three weeks because of the stormy weather, but she is keeping her ears open for
gray whale news.
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