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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

7-19-17 L Pod Whales Yesterday

this post is about Tuesday, July 18th
...here's more about the day full of L Pod whales along the west side of San Juan Island...
...they had been coming in through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, all day long...not sure if they would make it all the way in and across...had last seen them at almost dark on July 17th...
...so early in the morning on the 18th they were down island off False Bay area, spread out and foraging...after a while a few began slowly coming up island...
...Racer L-72, Fluke L-105, Kasatka L-82, Finn L-116, plus Nugget L-55 and one other were slowly going up island...but it was several hours before a small group made it almost up to the lighthouse...

...then turned and went back down island with the 'pooch in hot pursuit' (joking!)

...throughout the rest of the afternoon the whales were spread out...a few were up island along the Hannah Heights section...most were down off False Bay or South Beach...and at least one was way off shore...
...similar to the pooch...another unusual sighting...
...the mother and calf were Muncher L-91 and Magic L-122...they had gone up and were going back down island at that time...
...now it's three hours later - 7pm...and Moonlight L-83 and Midnight L-110

...behind Muncher L-47 and Mystic L-115 were Moonlight L-83 and Midnight L-110...they stopped to forage and spent about 10 minutes chasing salmon...
watching them as they worked together was fascinating...
...these two moved on north and it was apparent that others were coming north...this time it looked like all of them - The L26s, L72s, L55s, L86s, and L47s for a total of 19.  
...they were really vocal when they passed the lighthouse and loud too and appeared to be in a very social mood...

...yes, the waters of the west side had come alive...even Rhinoceros auklets had lots to eat...
...the whales didn't go very far and turned and came back down island giving those on shore the opportunity for some wonderful sunset images while watching some very active orcas...
...after dark I heard them over the Lime Kiln hydrophones from about 9:50pm, for about 20 minutes...their calls were very faint...
...by this morning, July 19, it appeared they had headed back out to sea...

...we wait again and we watch the bird activity, the fish activity and the life changes in the waters along the west side...for they may give a clue as to when the next group of Southern Residents comes in...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7-18-17 L Pod Whales All Day Today

Tuesday, July 18th
..yep, the first image I took today 7a.m.
 
...and the last image I took today...at sunset...at the lighthouse...
...worth every minute of waiting, scanning, scanning, waiting...

the day began...the day ended...with a whole lot of action in the middle...


...the L Pod whales, who are in here, did finally make it up past the lighthouse as the sun was setting and then they went back down island... 

will post more later...too tired now :) 


Monday, July 17, 2017

7-17-17 How Quickly Things Can Change

Monday, July 17
...over the last few days more bait fish (tiny silvering flashing herring, I'm told) and a bit larger fish maybe 3 or 4", have been appearing and bigger fish have been going after the larger of the small fish...
...more gulls have been showing up, but not a huge amount...
...a few harbor porpoise too...
...last evening a small group of Transients came down the west side of San Juan Island at just about dark-thirty...
...and today L Pod whales were seen coming in from the open ocean...

...they made it into Haro Strait at about 8:30pm and very faint L Pod up-tick calls could be heard over the Lime Kiln hydrophones...
..now that's a big change - first time of hearing SRKW calls over the hydrophones since July 1st!
...it was an evening of watching the boats as they slowly came across the strait...caught a couple blows and one splash but that's it...still too far out...
...lost sight of them not long after...

...will they be here tomorrow?  maybe, maybe not...can't wait to find out!

Friday, July 14, 2017

7-14-17 Their Silence is Deafening

Friday, July 14

In late June, stepping out the front door, of where I live, I heard some noise and then realized those were the sounds of gulls. That might not sound very unusual but I realized at that moment that I hadn't been seeing or hearing them prior to then.

That noise came from at least 50 gulls that were on Low Island, the small island just off San Juan County Park.  The next day I counted about 70 gulls about 4 miles down island from County Park.

It was at about the same time that J Pod, Onyx L-87, and the K14s showed up.
Related?  hummm...

The whales left the inland waters in the early hours on July 1. 
Early each day I would go looking for the whales.
What I found was that I also began looking for gulls.
There weren't any! (Note: there are lots of gulls in other areas.  I used a certain area:  Haro Strait - the north end of Andrews Bay and to the south off Pile Pt. )

Each day, same time, I would count how many I saw in that area and I didn't care how far offshore they might be. I would spend at least 30 minutes in each area looking and then watched throughout the day for any changes.
It was quite strange - most days I saw none.  One day, one gull was flying down and the next day one gull was flying up. 

In the last week there have been several days in a row that lots of small fish, some really tiny, going up and some, a bit larger (3 or 4" - maybe), going down. You'd think there would be gulls after them.  No gulls.

On July 13 there was one - just one - group of gulls that were acting as if they were dive bombing small fish.  Also saw about another 15 gulls.  But that's all. 



Questions I have that may take time to answer:
Will the gull activity in this area increase when the Residents begin to come in?

Why is Haro Strait, in this area, so void of sea life?  (void in comparison to what we usually see)

Though the Transients do not commonly use the west side of San Juan Island on any regular basis, why are they using San Juan Channel and Rosario Strait on a regular basis this year? 
(The likely answer is because there is an abundance of seals and porpoises. And why are there hardly any seals and porpoises between Andrews Bay to Pile Pt.?)


Of course the likely answer is food or lack there of.

Then why is the food 'there' and not 'here'?

It seems now I am looking for any sort of ocean life indicator.

The Southern Residents have been gone for 14 days now.
It is hoped they are finding plenty of food.
One can guess that because they are not here, then they likely are finding food, but we don't know for sure.

So we wait.

One day we will hear their calls over the hydrophones again.
Their Silence is Deafening.

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

7-7-17 Transients Have Taken Over

I figure I better catch up before the Residents return :)...one of these days...

...J Pod, Onyx L-87, and the K14s had been north, returning back down along the west side in the morning of the 29th...
...I almost missed them...not a sound until the leader was at the lighthouse...one quick 'eek' and I was off and running...knowing some had already passed the park I got down island enough to catch up to the leader...
...glad I did - it was Lea K14.
...she was up ahead of Eclipse J-41 and Nova J-51, Shachi J-19 was just behind them, but Lea was a good distance ahead and she just kept on going...
I checked with Bob and his intern to verify who they had in the lead and Christy showed me an image of Lea...so their order had been the same when I saw them a bit farther down island...
...behind Shachi was Yoda K-36 and Lobo K-26...and then others...the J16s were together...some of the J17s...
...the whales weren't close to shore and there were several who were offshore, very far off...
...they stayed down island by several miles, started to come up in the afternoon but turned around...then closer to 8pm several came up island and passed the lighthouse...
...if you haven't seen the webcam for the lighthouse ...that evening some who were in close could be seen...eventually all went up island and after dark their blows could be heard as they passed by here...
...they were back up near the Fraser River on the 30th and woke me up 1:30 a.m. (middle of the night 7-1)...their calls were faint, indicating they were offshore and likely heading back out to sea...
...it's now July 7th and they haven't returned...yet...

...for the last several weeks the 'Ts' (Transient, aka Bigg's) orcas have been all over these inland waters...it's like there is a void so they are filling it...
...the Center for Whale Research stated that T37A-1 who hasn't been seen in several years, showed up this week with mom and other members of that family group!...I got down to Cattle Pass just in time to see one of the two groups...
...T37A and T37A-1 as the whales were coming up San Juan Channel...
...one usually has a better opportunity to see Transients from a boat than from shore but sometimes you get lucky...
...in the last few weeks Ts have often been in several places at the same time...just about everywhere except for along the west side...and then the T101s showed up coming up the west side of the island on July 6th...
...I heard a very faint sound and got to the park quickly...they were about 3/4 mile from shore and then moved in a bit closer and slowly made their way up island... 
...following them up island, I found these two bird watchers who turned into whale watchers!...and one of them hadn't ever seen killer whales before!...
...fun to be able to share about the orcas with them...


...then today the T35s and the T38s showed up along the west side, but about 3+ miles out...oh, well...
....Residents with faint calls when they were leaving, Ts with a few faint calls as they were coming up...maybe next time it will be Residents loud and clear as they come in following a huge run of salmon :)
...one can always hope, right?!