Gray Whale Migration Update: April 17, 2013
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The first gray whales were reported at Seward, Alaska! "We seem to be in the traditional lull between phases of the migration," notes Michael Smith, as we await more mom/baby pairs starting migration.

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Mud Circle indicates feeding attempt
Image: Caroline Armon
Clue: Hungry Whale?
News: Leaders Reach Alaska

The first gray whale sightings from Alaska, in Seward, appeared on our map April 12! This migration appears to be later, with no whales yet in Kodiak (16). In Tofino, B.C. (15), Kati reported a number of Gray Whales stopped for feeding, not usual there until early May. Feeding behaviors were observed all along the migration trail as the hungry grays plow northward.

Whales Passing California
This year's parade of moms and babies is off to a slow start. "This is our lowest northbound cow/calf count to date in 12 seasons," reports scientist Alisa Schulman-Janiger at Post 6. The past two weeks brought 11 of their 14 northbound cow/calf pair sightings. Last year by this date, they had seen 32. Bottlenose dolphins interacting with the whales, a whale pair breaching 15 times, and mother whale that twirled 360 degrees while doing a "headstand" were thrilling highlights. Wind, weather, and nearby mammal-eating orcas continue to affect the counts.

At Post 7, Michael Smith noted on April 14: "We are more or less at the end of Phase One of the northbound migration: the General Migration (not calf-associated); and we are awaiting the flow of Phase Two: the Cow/Calf migration. In spite of haze, fog, and wind, we have the second highest Count to this date in our nine surveys."

At Post 8, the transition from offshore animals (older whales) to those migrating close to shore (mom/baby pairs) is underway. Weather has cut down their observation time, but Wayne Perryman reported 24 adult gray whales, 16 juveniles and 7 cow/calf pairs last week. "I am sticking with my prediction of a drop from last year's numbers," said Wayne, "but we can only wait and count them when we see them."

Whales in Mexico
An April 12 census of whales in nursery lagoon Ojo de Liebre showed 78 baby whales and 81 adults. Keith Jones summed up our thoughts: "I hope they hurry north and get some food!"

Looking Ahead
We've seen the turnaround period, the peak migration of northbound non-cow/calf pairs, and the first Alaska sightings. Next: Watch for more cow/calf pairs!

Lunge-feeding gray whale
Photo: Daniel Bianchetta
Lunge Feeding!
Skim-feeding gray whales
Photo: Daniel Bianchetta
Skim Feeding
Diving gray whale's tail
Image: Caroline Armon
Feeding Lesson?
Gray whale migration route
Map: Journey North

See Latest Field Notes:
Post 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 15

Explore: How Do Baby Gray Whales Learn to Eat?

You don't remember, but as a baby you had to learn to eat solid foods. Do whale babies need to do that too? How do they learn to eat? Imagine how tough this is to investigate! See how some scientists contributed to what we know about baby gray whales learning to eat—and think about how you would investigate this question, too!

Image: Renee Bonner

Tracking the Migration: Daily Data

This week, look at the calf sighting numbers at point-count posts 6 and 7 as we start the next phase of the northbound migration: cows with calves. How many calves have posts 6 and 7 seen so far? How does this number compare with their sightings last year (go further down on the data page)? What do you predict next?

How to track gray whale migration with Journey North

Gray whale migration analysis chart
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Record Data
Next update May 1, 2013