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Whales seen at several locations during count

LIHU‘E — Saturday’s second Sanctuary Ocean Count for 2022 was an exciting day for site leaders Colleen Ogino and Marga Goosen at the Ahukini State Recreational Pier viewing site.

“I saw a breach,” Ogino said. “It was right at the start of the first period. What a nice way to start the Ocean Count. A big breach, not just a mini-breach.”

The Ogino and Goosen team was just two of the 81 trained site leaders who gathered data from the shores of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i island and Kaua‘i during the second of three coordinated whale counts conducted at 43 sites across the main Hawaiian islands.

For the fourth year, the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui coordinated with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count to ensure the data from the main Hawaiian islands are collected at the same time.

A spokesperson for the Ocean Count reported a total of 228 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30-to-8:45-a.m. period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count, and coinciding with Ogino’s exciting breach sighting.

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the HIHWNMS and the Pacific Whale Foundation are operating modified programs without the normal participation of volunteers. Instead, each site is monitored by trained site leaders observing social distancing and wearing face masks.

On Kaua‘i, data was collected from 10 sites, with an average of 3.9 sightings during a 15-minute count period. This is an increase in the number of sightings compared to the 1.5 average sightings in the February 2021 count.

“The average number of whales observed on Kaua‘i Saturday was reduced compared to the Jan. 29 Kaua‘i count,” said Jean Souza, the HIHWNMS program coordinator.

“However, that could have been attributed to the less-than-perfect viewing conditions of wind and occasional whitecaps at some of the sites. Nonetheless, many breaches were observed, a possible indication of more active male-to-male competition activity that is normal for this time of the season,” said Souza.

Ogino said that, in addition to the big breach, the team saw a lot of blows, and a possible mother-calf interaction.

“Ka‘iwa Point Site Leader Carol Everett reported a very active mom-calf pair,” Souza said. “It appeared that the calf was learning to breach from its mom, and Carol added when the mom was logging, or staying stationary at the surface, the calf remained nearby, rolling around and making pec slaps.”

Souza said an active calf was also observed from the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge at Crater Hill.

That calf breached five times in a row — in different directions each time, reported site leader Perry Maglidt.

The Kilauea Lighthouse location was one of three active sites, along with the Kapa‘a lookout and Makahu‘ena Point, with an average of five sightings on average for the 15-minute count periods.

Maha‘ulepu-Makawehi Point was the most-active site on Kaua‘i, with an average of seven sightings per 15-minute period, and Ahukini reported two sightings on average, up from the one sighting average on Jan. 29.

The Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, HIHWNMS and shore-based whale-watching opportunities. During the count, site leaders tally humpback-whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior that provides a snapshot of humpback-whale activity from the shorelines of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island and Kaua‘i.

The next Ocean Count takes place on March 26.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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