Three high-profile visitors from the north were still on holiday in Long Island waters Saturday, doing beluga things like swimming and expelling air.
The juvenile beluga whales were spotted in Manhasset Bay during an aerial search shortly after 3 p.m. by The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation in a data gathering expedition. The bay was where boaters and dock builders reported seeing the belugas Friday morning, thrilling Long Islanders because these mammals normally live in cold waters off Alaska and Canada.
"The three were there in close proximity to each other," said Rob DiGiovanni, a marine biologist and the foundation's executive director. "It was good to see that."
Authorities have been warning boaters to stay at least 150 feet away. With heavy boating traffic for Memorial Day weekend, they fear the belugas may be slashed by propellers or hit by vessels.
Coast Guard and state environmental officials were on the water Saturday monitoring the belugas' well-being, DiGiovanni said, and authorities expect to continue watching as long as the whales are here.
In 1986, a beluga that thrilled Connecticut communities off Long Island Sound for a year was killed when someone shot her four times with a .22-caliber rifle.
DiGiovanni had hoped to gather more data on belugas but their plane had to fly higher than usual because of flight safety rules over the bay.
He said the waters were too turbid to see the belugas feeding, but the whales were near clearer waters, where fish that school swam -- potential meals for belugas, he said.
Beluga sightings may be reported to the foundation at 631-369-9829.