Monday, January 30, 2012

Great Photo

Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

This is a wonderful photograph taken by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission during one of their aerial surveys of the right whale calving area.  The right whale mother (with the white belly) is upside down with her calf on her belly.  We see this sometimes in the Bay of Fundy as well but the calves are much bigger by the summer. 

Unfortunately, the last memory of a right whale mother, also with a white belly, who died in the Bay of Fundy in 1992, Delilah, was of her upside down with her calf, Calvin (one of our adoptive whales), on her belly, wiggling back and forth, and surrounded by several males in a courtship group.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Right Whale Calving

So far, the right whale calving season has been very low but that does not mean that it won't pick up.  As of January 17, there are 3 calves and two of the mothers were seen prior to calving. 

Half Note #1301, daughter of Fermata (#1001) was seen in late November off South Carolina and then again December 20, 2011 with a calf, her fifth. 

#1821 was also seen in late December prior to calving and then again January 4, 2012 with her sixth (?) calf.  She has been seen six times in the calving area but two sightings were only two years apart which would mean that if she did have a calf in 2002, that calf would have been lost at an early age.  Because nursing is so energetically demanding, right whale birthing cycles are a minimum of three years if a calf is successfully weaned.  The female is pregnant for a year, nurses for a year and then takes a year to regain the massive weight loss, yielding a three year cycle.

The third mother (#3220) is a female who has only been photographed twice, in 2002 and now in 2012, both times in the calving area.  She has never been photographed anywhere else and was an adult when she was photographed for the first time.  These are the whales that obviously have chosen other feeding areas that are not surveyed or seldom surveyed and the probability of photographing them is low.

Hopefully the calving with pick up but a poor copepod year in 2010 in the Bay of Fundy may be reflected in this year's calving.  Low food levels prevent females from gaining enough weight to get pregnant.  Right whale females seem to have a threshold weight which they must surpass before they can become pregnant.