Sixth Right Whale Calf is Sighted

Halo and her calf.

By Lauri deGaris

Right whale calf number No. 6 was born off Cumberland Island on Dec. 28, 2023. Halo is a 19-year-old mother of three known calves. Her last calf was born in 2020. Halo has three siblings and five nieces/nephews, all of whom have been entangled on more than one occasion.

Halo has callosities behind her blow hole which look as if she wears a halo. Halo’s sister Calamari – #3946 and her son Jagger #5046 both received their names just this year. Halo’s nephew, Kingfisher was entangled eight times in his short life. The last entanglement included a rope around his flipper which persisted until his last sighting in 2015.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Halo is known to enjoy the shoreline of Florida beaches. Halo and her calves have been spotted from shore on many occasions. Blue World Research Institute reported that in 2014, Halo spent spring break in Cocoa Beach with her newborn that year. Cape Canaveral ship pilots were on high alert as Halo and her calf passed through the busy shipping lanes eight times that spring. No vessel strikes occurred because the Canaveral ship pilots were alerted to Halo and her calf by aerial surveillance teams and whale spotters on the beach.

As mentioned in past articles, right whale moms and calves have been spotted off the shores of Amelia Island. I have seen them many times from our beaches. During right whale season, which runs from Dec. to April, I spend many days looking for right whales off our coast. Several factors contribute to successfully seeing a whale off our beaches.

First, go to Whalemap.org and see if any whales have been reported in our area. Next, look at NOAA marine weather report. If the wind is out of the north or northeast, I know the chances of spotting a whale along the coast are slim. Northerly winds cause rough water and rough water makes it hard to see a whale on the surface of the ocean. Ideal weather conditions for spotting whales along the beach are when the wind is from the west or southwest or when there is no wind and the ocean surface is calm.

If all the conditions are right, I proceed to the beach to look for whales. With binoculars in hand, I begin my search at Main Beach. I scan the horizon looking for any sign whales might be in the region. Many times, groups of birds can be seen flying over whales. Other signs include a large dark spot on the surface of the water that may rise and disappear below the surface every few minutes. Also, dolphins are frequently seen near whales along the shoreline. And, of course, spotting the “whale blow” tells me whales are here. Right whales have a unique “whale blow.” It appears in the shape of the letter “V.”

After stopping at Main Beach, I move to Peter’s Point Park and then on to Burney Park to survey the ocean surface. I really love Burney Park at American Beach for whale watching. There is a commanding view of the ocean with picnic tables, benches, and a restroom which all contribute to comfortable whale watching on a winter day.

My last stop is the south end public beach access about 1 mile south of the Omni Resort. From this point, I walk the beach south to Nassau Sound. On many days, I do not spot any whales. However, the days I spend looking for whales are always enjoyable and remind me of what is most important–my connection with Mother Earth and all living species that depend on her.

If you are interested in joining others who look for whales along the beach, please visit Blue World Research Institute’s Right Whale Sighting Network. They offer free whale spotting courses to the public.

If you are lucky enough to spot a whale call 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343) or call the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16. Please have the following information ready: location of whale(s); city, lat/long, nearby landmark; number of whales; direction traveling; are dolphins and birds present; your name and a call back number. Remember to remain at least 500 yards from right whales.

Happy New Year and may we resolve to help protect Halo #3546, her newborn calf and all whales in the years to come!

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Mark Tomes
Noble Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 month ago

Happy 2024! May the whales be with us!