Watching With Mike & Winston
Volunteering at the gray whale census is not just kicking back at the beach in a chair! We have to keep careful notes for every sighting.
But before we even take notes, at least one other observer needs to verify the sighting. In Whale Watcher's Lingo, I taught you how we track whales and call out a sighting using binoculars with a built in compass and reticles. Shouting out the sighting with the reference position enables anyone else to look in the same place and verify the sighting. (Even the best of us whale watchers can make a mistake.)
to Log Sightings
Every sighting is recorded on the census
behavior chart. It's easier to follow along if you divide a big
piece of paper into 12 columns, and label the columns as you
read these descriptions:
Column 1: the sighting number of the day (first sighting = 1, second sighting = 2, and so on) and what whale parts or behaviors we saw on that sighting. Examples:
Column 2: the number of whales in the sighting
Column 3: if we saw a cow/calf pair (mother and baby)
Column 4: the direction in which the whale was swimming (N= north, S= south)
Column 5: time of day and the distance from the census site bearing. (i.e. 07.27a.m.; 2 miles)
Column 6: the compass reading of the sighting (i.e. 214 degrees, 10 mil)
Column 7: the next sighting's time and distance from census site
Column 8: the compass reading at or around the transect line. (The transect line is an imaginary line running straight out in front of the census location. Once a whale has crossed the census line, we can determine if the whale is northbound or southbound.)
Column 9: the next sighting's time and distance
from the census site.
Column 11: initials of the obsever who first sighted that whale. Although other census volunteers have been tracking the whale too, normally the first person to sight the whale is the one who will track it until its last official sighting.
Column 12: total number of whales sighted so far on that day.
On the other side of the chart we record the weather conditions every half hour.
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