You are now able to record ‘newborns’ separately from adults and calves on the updated 2021 Shorewatch Data Sheet! (Follow the link or download the attachement below).
Cetacean mums give birth directly in the water. The newborn may sometimes be assisted to the surface by another member of the pod and then s/he will remain very close to mum. For the first hours to days, mum may even physically support her baby as it learns to surface and breath but even once the little one is a more secure swimmer, s/he will stay close to mum's side for a period of weeks. Above is a great picture of newborn foetal folds. These white lines are quite literally crease markings which come from being folded up inside the womb. They can take weeks to months and even up to a year to disappear. Thanks to Charlie Phillips for this fantastic photo.
Shorewatchers have been sending in this data within the comments section and collecting it in a more targeted way might help us to identify sites which are particularly important as birthing and nursery grounds. The categories how many individuals you are seeing will now be: adult, calf/juvenile, and newborn. If you are unsure, just bump it up a category and adult will be the catchall category. If you see a youngster when you make a sighting, look for a few clues to see if it's a newborn:
- Is it very small compared to adults? Size varies between species but half of the size of an adult seems a good approximate.
- Is it staying very close to an adult at all times? Remember, it might be hard to see if it's surfacing on the far side of mum!
- Does it look paler than mum and can you see vertical white stripes? These are foetal folds and they are a great ID cue.