Field Notes 2013
Point Piedras Blancas, California, United States
Reports from Biologist Wayne Perryman
Leader, Cetacean Health and Life History Program

"We are monitoring the number of gray whale calves migrating north each year because we think that the number of calves born is related to weather conditions (ice cover) in the Arctic." —Wayne Perryman

FINAL COUNT, Spring 2013: 313 cow/calf pairs! See graph.

May 26-30: We saw three pairs on Monday, the 26th, but it has been pretty quiet since then. Today is likely to be our last day of watches. It's been a really good year.

May 19-23: We had 7 pairs this week.

May 13-17: We got 24 c/c pairs this week in pretty good sighting conditions. Things are winding down. We will probably stand watches for 2 more weeks.

May 6-10: We had another really good week at Piedras Blancas with sightings of 58 c/c pairs, bringing our total count to 279 for the year. Still behind last year's count but a very respectable total.

Most exciting day was Wednesday, May 8th, when the team watched a group of about 9 killer whales attacking a group of 10 humpback whales. Interaction went on for several hours with the killer whales appearing to try to isolate a smaller humpback from the group. Attack appeared to be unsuccessful (well, at least from the perspective of the killer whales). May 8 was also the day of our highest calf count for the week: 24 pairs. We also had 5 blue whales pass pretty close to the point this week.

April 29-May 3: We saw 92 pairs this week, even with the loss of an entire day's effort to fog!

April 22-26: We had 82 c/c pairs for this week and we have seen a lot of pairs rolling through over the week end. Next week should be a good one!

April 15-19: We had 39 c/c pairs during this week, along with 22 adults/juveniles and two blue whales thrown in for good measure. Expect an increase in calf numbers next week. It's too early to compare this count with others, but after next week I think that we will have a feel for the flavor of this year's migration.

April 8-12: We lost about 1/3 of our normal 60-hour survey week to weather, but we did count 24 adult gray whales, 16 juvenile gray whales and 7 cow/calf pairs. I am sticking with my prediction of a drop from last year's numbers, but we can only wait and count'em when we see'em.

April 6: We completed the second week of the shore-based survey of northbound gray whales from the Piedras Blancas Light Station. This week we lost 10 hrs of effort to fog, but still recorded 143 adult gray whales, 51 juveniles and 1 cow/calf pair. Migratory corridor is shifting inshore now and counts of adults and juveniles are winding down. Next: the cow/calf pairs!

April 4: The first cow/calf pair!

April 2, 2013: No calves last week and none so far this week. I expect we will get our first customer over the next few days. Last week yet but we had a steady stream of adults and juveniles.

March 12, 2013: We are gearing up for the start of the 20th counting season. Based on ice last year, I am predicting a significant drop in calf counts this year, but all the news that I hear from the lagoons is pretty positive. So we will just have to see how it turns out.

February 5, 2013: We will start watches on March 25th from the Piedras Blancas Light Station. This will be our 20th consecutive year of calf counts from this lovely site. Last April (2012) the ice cover in the Bering Sea was the most expansive on record, and we are expecting a significant drop in calf production this season. Hopefully, we will be wrong. —Wayne Perryman

Calf Sightings, 1994-2012
Year
Calves Sighted
1994
325
1995
194
1996
407
1997
501
1998
440
1999
141
2000
96
2001
87
2002
302
2003
269
2004
456
2005
343
2006
285
2007
117
2008
171
2009
86
2010
71
2011
255
2012
330
2013
313

Data: SWFSC NOAA

 

 

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Migrating gray whales pass close to shore at Pt. Piedras Blancas!
Photo: Wayne Perryman
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Sperm Whale in New Zealand
Photo: Wayne Perryman
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