Field Notes 2012
San Diego, California, United States
Birch Aquarium runs twice-daily whale watching cruises through April 15. Audrey and Bekah report:
March 8: The migration seemed to slow for a few weeks, and stormy weather kept us out of the water for a few days. However, the whales are back off our coast in full force.
We’ve begun seeing juveniles, adult males, and newly pregnant females begin the long journey back to their home in the Arctic’s Bering and Chukchi seas. This pattern is expected. After the initial migration to Mexico, males and females mate and pregnant females give birth. New mothers linger longer in Baja’s lagoons to make sure their calves build enough strength for the journey. We should begin seeing those pairs in mid-March.
Our whale watching cruises are venturing further west to find whales now that they’ve started home. The trip takes them about 100 days, and their route back tends to be a few miles further away from the coastline.
Feb. 20: This was a big day for northbound sightings on the afternoon whale-watching cruise. The whales were about 9 miles out: two groups of six and one group of four. Total: 16 whales, all headed north/northwest.
Feb. 17: FIRST northbound gray whale sighting! Two whales, showing flukes and sounding, were definitely headed north.
On January 17, 2012, whale watchers had spotted nearly 200 southbound gray whales so far this season. When will the first northbound whales be seen?
Last year (2011) the first north-bound gray whale mom and calf pair was spotted March 11. When the the first cow/calf pair of 2012 be spotted?