Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blue Whales in New York

blue whaleNormally I post about birds here, but this is pretty cool. Blue whales have been heard singing in New York's coastal waters, apparently for the first time. A blue whale was recorded singing about 70 miles off Long Island on January 10-11 of this year, with a second responding farther away.

During 2008-2009, ten of Cornell’s acoustic recorders were deployed about 13 miles from the New York Harbor entrance and off the shores of Fire Island to study the acoustic environment of New York waters and examine whether noises, including shipping traffic, are affecting the whales. By knowing the whales’ seasonal presence, New York state policymakers can make critical conservation decisions to help protect blue whales by developing management plans to avoid ship collisions with whales and reduce noises that interfere with their communications.

The acoustic monitoring was initiated from March through mid-May of 2008 to record the northward migration of right whales from their calving grounds off the Florida eastern coast to their feeding grounds off Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Cornell scientists and DEC are able to monitor and provide specific data on the species that are detected, including when and where they occur in New York waters throughout the year.
Apparently the Natural History Whale has some real baleen-and-blubber company in the area.

It is not entirely clear from the link whether this represents a first state record or simply the first acoustic contact. I suspect the latter. It would surprise me if 19th-century whalers had not caught up with one at some point. Still, it is a reminder that a lot more things may lurk off the coasts about which we are only vaguely aware.

Speaking of things lurking off the coast, see this article on what lies at the bottom of New York Bay.

Back to birds in a bit...