Gray Whale Migration Update: March 8, 2000
News Flash: No Salt Plant for Laguna San Ignacio!
Millennium Baby Behavin'
From Laguna San Ignacio, whale-watch guide Kristin "Ellie" Kusic writes news from the nurseries:
"Many of the mom/calf pairs have retreated to the shallow areas of the lagoon. It is too dangerous for the calves to be around the overzealous adult males, whose minds are on courting and breeding.
"We can identify the millennium baby, which was born on either December 30th or 31st, by a light gray birthmark on her left side near the dorsal knuckles. By now, she is gaining independence and approaching the boat while her mother stays below. On one of her surfacings the baby whale, mouth open, showed us her baleen and a lot of sand. Apparently her mom is teaching her feeding techniques. The baby seemed more excited to have the sand in her mouth than to use her baleen to strain out any food. Luckily she has 6 more months of nursing before she has to feed for herself."
Copying the Big Guys
Kristin continues her whale tales about the growing babies:
Kristin "Ellie" Kusic reporting from Laguna San Ignacio
Nursery News from Laguna Ojo de Liebre
"This big baby kept hurling himself out of the water time after time. He Just couldn't get enough of that high flying! We saw hundreds of whales, a few up really close. One very large mother and her youngster approached us and stayed just out of reach for at least five minutes. We could look the baby in the eye and there was no doubt that he was checking us out as well."
What if your heart weighed 285 pounds (130 kilograms)? What if your eyeball was the size of a baseball? You might be a gray whale! Given verbal clues, can you draw a gray whale? For instructions and more, see:
Latest Highlights from the Gray Whale Observation Posts
The first northbound whales have reached Vancouver Island, British Columbia(49.50N -125.50W)! That means Susan Payne is keeping a close eye on her shores at Kodiak Island, Alaska. Meanwhile, at the ACS census site at Long Point, California (33.74 N, -118.39 W), windy weather and bad visibility continue making it hard to see and count whales. The increase in northbound activities is still slight, with no surges of northbound whales and NO cow/calf pairs yet. One unusual sighting was a skinny, lone calf, swimming around the dock in Ventura harbor (34.73 N, -119.26 W.) Could it be the same baby reported four days earlier in the Los Angeles harbor (33.74 N, -118.28 W)? As of March 4, the ACS reports 254 northbound grays, compared with 246 in 1999. In the last 20 years the range has been 116 to 551 northbound grays, with 1262 in 1984, the first year of the census. Think about these up-and-down numbers and see how you will answer:
Just Hanging' Out
After reading comments of Strawberry Isle Research in Susan's full report above, what's your answer to:
Thar' She Blows! Discussion of Challenge Question #4
"What causes a whale's blow?"
Discussion of Challenge Question #5
Last week we didnÝt know that the long-awaited decision about the saltworks was just days away. We asked, "What will the salt be used for if a saltworks is built at San Ignacio? Could you end up using some of that salt?"
The human body can't produce salt on its own, and salt is necessary in both human and animal diets. Some of the salt would be for table salt. But salt is also used to de-ice (melt ice) on sidewalks, highways, and roadways. It is used in food processing, food preservation, chemical production. You no longer have to be concerned that you might use some of the salt produced at Laguna San Ignacio!
Discussion of Challenge Question # 6
"How do adult gray whales feed? When and where do they feed?"
Gray whales feed primarily during the summer months of long daylight hours in the cold Arctic waters of the Bering and Chukchi seas. They feed primarily on benthic (bottom-dwelling) amphipods (shrimp-like animals about 1/2 inch long). The whale dives to the sea floor, rolls on its side, and sucks up an area about the size of a desktop and a foot deep. Sometimes this makes pits on the ocean bottom. The whale expands its throat to hold huge amounts of seawater and food, then compresses its throat and pushes the water out through the baleen plates in its mouth. Water and sediments squirt out through the fringe-like baleen, but the food stays trapped inside. Then the whale uses its tongue to lick food off the baleen, much as you might suck peanut butter off the roof of your mouth, and swallows it.
Some observers believe that gray whales eat nothing from the time they leave the Arctic in autumn until their return there in the spring. Recent research at Laguna Ojo de Liebre has shown that there are critters in the muddy bottom upon which the whales may feed. At least one noted authority on gray whales believes the animals feed wherever and whenever they find food. It's clear that we still have much to learn about gray whales.
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Please answer ONLY ONE question in EACH e-mail message.
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #7 (or #8 or #9).
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.
The Next Gray Whale Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 22, 2000.
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