Periodically through the late winter we have been updating you on the return of right whales to Cape Cod Bay. This past week marked a big increase in sightings of the rare mammals in our waters, along with the season's first calf.
On Wednesday more than 70 whales were spotted in the Bay. A month ago, that number was nine. According to Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, a senior scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies, that's a very good number for this time of year.
Also spotted in the Bay was a right whale calf and mother - the first calf of this year. The mothers typically bring their calves up from the southern coast of the United States, off Florida and Georgia, where they've given birth. "The mother was feeding and the calf was nursing," Mayo said. "So, just a very special sighting of the next generation of this nearly extinct species."
The Center for Coastal Studies reports that the calf was born sometime shortly before January 24 in the calving grounds of the southeastern US. It is the offspring of right whale #1233, a whale of at least 41 years of age, that was first seen in August 1974 in Southern New England. This is #1233’s sixth known calf; she also gave birth in '89, '92, '98, '03 and '09.
Boat crews are reporting very rich zooplankton (the microscopic plankton that the whales feed on) in Cape Cod Bay just now. Barring a big storm, this is generally a good signal that the whales will be here for a number of weeks, increasing still more in number.
Because we on Cape Cod see these creatures return each year, Mayo said, we may sometimes lose sight of just how remarkable this event is. "This is perhaps the rarest of all the whales," Mayo said.
Listen to Steve Junker's conversation with Stormy Mayo in the audio below.