New grey whale migration research


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Super Pod of Gray Whales

27 January 2015

We ran an ultimate 8 hour Whale Watching trip on 1-25-15 from Dana Point to Catalina; we are Dana Wharf Whale Watching. Here’s the final sightings report from that day. There were sightings of 45 + gray whales which included a superpod of 15+ and another of 12+ (interacting with Risso’s dolphins), 1 Fin whale, 200 Offshore bottlenose dolphin, 40 Risso’s dolphin, 35 Long beaked Common dolphin, 3 Harbor Seals, dozens of CA Sea Lions and a Bald Eagle on Catalina Island. Watch all the way to the end you will see a group of Risso dolphin harassing the Gray Whales, and how they react to them. Enjoy once again, we thank all our “Whale Geek” friends and a BIG THANKS to Captain Todd Mansur and Captain Frank Brennan for flying these amazing drones.

From Wildlife Extra:

New technology counts migrating whales by seeing the warmth of their breath

The Grey Whale migration down the west coast of America from the summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to the wintering grounds off Baja California, Mexico, is being charted in even greater detail thanks to new technology employed by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just south of Monterey Bay.

Counts used to be done just by NOAA personnel using binoculars but now they are employing three thermal imaging cameras linked to a computer that is capable of analysing the images and distinguishing the whales from the heat put out by their blow as they surface to breathe.

“A whale is this great big motor that takes in a breath of air and holds it inside for a long time,” says Wayne Perryman, a NOAA Fisheries scientist who helped develop the new system. “When it exhales, the air is much warmer than the background, and we can detect that difference very easily, both day and night.”

Human observers can only work in daylight hours so in previous years the count could never be that accurate. Now the cameras work round the clock for the duration of the entire migration, so much more accurate figures can be recorded and compared year-on-year.

The thermal imaging cameras are much the same as those used by helicopter police to track criminals at night. What’s most innovative is the software that works with the cameras.

“The biggest challenge was getting the detector to be as accurate as possible without having it get fooled by false alarms,” said Dave Weller, the NOAA Fisheries scientist who leads the survey team.

The refined software the team developed can now distinguish between whales, flocks of birds and passing boats.

Not only that, but when the computer sees a blow, it can predict where and when the same whale will surface to blow again. That prediction algorithm, which is based on years of research into Gray Whale’s diving behaviour, means that the computer can track individual whales.

“If you don’t have a way of tracking who’s who, you can double-count some whales or miss them altogether,” Weller says.

“The biggest advantage of the new system is that it vastly increases our sample size. That means we can more accurately estimate the size of the population.”

Some of the thermal imaging footage can be seen here, with a passing whale being overtaken by a flock of birds and a pod of dolphins appearing in the foreground.

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