Sunday, January 18, 2009

Calvin is a mom again

On December 30, 2008, Calvin #2223 was spotted by the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) aerial survey team on their way back to the airport. She was about 10nm offshore and was not alone. A small new born calf was seen near her head. The two were photographed and as the plane was circling a small skiff approached the pair. The crew tried to contact the people in the skiff via VHF radio to no avail. It is illegal to approach to within 500 yards of a right whale in U.S. waters from Maine to Florida. This law was enacted to give these endangered whales some space as they conduct their daily lives in an often crowded ocean, particularly when they are close to shore.

The survey team headed to shore and double checked with the right whale catalogue, maintained by the New England Aquarium, and confirmed this was indeed Calvin and the small calf was her second. Calvin was seen in 2005 in almost the same spot, on the same day with her first calf. Most right whale females give birth off the Georgia and Florida coasts but a few do use other areas. In fact, Calvin's mother, Delilah, also used the Wilmington area as a calving area in 1992 when Calvin was born. Calvin was Delilah's first and only calf. Delilah came to an untimely death in the Bay of Fundy off Grand Manan in 1992 when Calvin was only about eight months old. Calvin managed to survive being orphaned and is now the mother of two calves, her first calf being named Hobbes.

It is expected that Calvin and her new calf will eventually make it to the Bay of Fundy, a traditional nursery area in the summer and fall for many right whale mothers, although the journey is fraught with dangers, including collisions with vessels and entanglement in fishing gear.

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