Right Whales At Dawn

On very ambitious mornings I sometimes like to grab coffee, my swimswuit, a towel, and a camera and head out to the coast to watch the sunrise. I’m not a morning person at all, so this plan – often made at 10pm the night before – doesn’t always congeal into fruition. In fact I once famously planned to watch a sea turtle emergence but overslept, causing my grandfather to endlessly tease me with the question: “What time do the turtles get up?”

This morning, along with the gorgeous sunrise, I was rewarded with sightings of Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, North American river otters, manatees in the underpass beneath the causeway in the lagoon, herons, wood storks, anhingas, and gopher tortoises crossing the road.

Most spectacularly, I also spotted right whale(s) perhaps a football field off the beach. I’ve never seen right whales before today but they are known travelers along the Florida coastline. From December to early March they travel into the warmer water to calve. I am not completely sure if the distinctive blocky head and blow I spotted today belonged to just one cow or a cow and calf pair, but they were a beautiful sight to see and I confess that watching them move along with the sun rising peach and pink and soft yellow in the background definitely moved my soul.

Northern right whales are one of the most endangered of all species of marine mammal and estimates for their population are at the 300 mark. In fact, most of the Florida coastline on the Atlantic from Sebastian Inlet north into Georgia is designated as critical habitat for northern right whales and has held that title since 1994 by NMFS.

I imagine these whales are beginning to travel northwards back to the more temperate waters off New England, the Bay of Funday and the Scotian Shelf where they more routinely feed and nurse in the spring months. I feel very lucky that I happened to stumble across the sighting this morning.. it is very late in their season. Perhaps next winter I’ll remember to make a few day trips to the windy cold beach to purposefully whale watch for these enormous aquatic tourists.

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7 Responses to “Right Whales At Dawn”

  1. You are a role model to fellow not-morning people! Getting up before dawn (or before 7 AM in my case) is unspeakable torture, and I’m glad it paid off. 🙂

  2. Oh it is unspeakable torture alright, but the quiet on the beach in the early morning is hard to beat! There’s always something to see.

  3. Cool! Do you live near the Aquarium’s right whale research station?
    http://www.neaq.org/education_and_activities/blogs_webcams_videos_and_more/blogs/right_whale_aerial_survey/2008/12/2-research-station.html

    While I understand that they do an insane amount of work, I like to think that they just lay on the beach all day.

  4. Hello to a fellow Floridian. I guess I need to make more trips to the Atlantic Coast of FL and try my own whale spotting. Amazing! I favor the gulf so the most I normally see are the dolphins! 🙂 Do you have a way to subscribe in email?

  5. That is a very good question about email. I’m not sure how to make that feature happen. I know many RSS feeds go through an email reader (like my smartermail has that option) but I’ll try to work on that today! Thanks for the idea!

  6. I am many many miles to the south of Fernandina Beach, although I remember making trips out to Amelia island as a little girl growing up in Jacksonville! I didnt realize that the aquarium had set up a research station so I will definitely be checking in with them to see updates on right whale goings-on. Thanks for the hat tip!

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