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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

9-28-10 The Last Time I Saw Canuck

Tuesday, Sept 28th

...all three pods showed up coming down Boundary Pass, and rounded the corner at Turn Point...

...several stopped to forage...

...then continued moving on down island...
...I could see way up ahead were Ruffles J-1, Granny J-2, Lulu L-53 (Canuck's daughter) and lots of J pod whales...with K pod whales in the mix too...
...the L12s were the last to come by...Mega L-41 - well you can't miss him...
...the last whale I saw of the inshore group as they were crossing Spieden Island toward Henry Island was Canuck L-7 part of The Continuing Saga of Canuck and Lulu...that was strange... (added later: and sadly that was the last sighting of her ever.)
...soon the whales began to fan out and by the time they reached Lime Kiln they were spread all the way across Haro Strait......I made it to the park before the first whale reached it...that was amazing in itself!...

...several, including the K14s, passed by somewhat close to shore...


. ..the others were a 'million' miles offshore looking like they were heading toward Discovery Island which usually means...bye, bye...
...with the glare of the sun and the whales spread all over we don't know if Canuck ever made it down this far.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

7-24-10 Nugget and the Harbor Porpoise

Saturday, July 24th

...as I was taking pictures I didn't know that something else was going on as this group of whales and the L-55s (aka L4s) were moving along in a nice calm, picture opp manner up island along the west side...
...but first their calm quiet travel would be disturbed by an official type boat driving at high speed over them...they actually 'scattered a bit' for a few minutes, turning and heading back down island...
...and then got back together and moved north again...
...what totally amazes me is that the first pic I have of her with it is at 10:17 a.m. and the last pic is more than 5 hours later as she and her family group rounded Turn Pt. heading north...I was on the Peregrine of Maya's Westside Charters in the afternoon and didn't even think to look to see if she still had it...that is until I looked at my pics later...

...she didn't share it...
...her kids were on either side of her..what a great training opportunity...but she didn't seem to want to do anything other than keep it for herself...
...I believe the thought is that the whales play with them, as a toy...and the porpoise has a heart attack...but she didn't seem to even play with it...I have only one pic that shows the harbor porpoise in a different position......the harbor porpoise tail is sticking up on the far side of Nugget...

...when they rounded Turn Pt. she still had it...prior to that, I have just two pics of her without it...but that's it, every other surfacing she had it...these two images verify that it was Nugget who had the porpoise on this surfacing...

 ... over 5 hours - that's impressive...now I wonder just what was she thinking...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

7-1-10 Early In The Day-A Mike and Canuck Moment

Thursday, July 1st
I put together several images...it's not video but as close as I can make it...the whales were moving slowly...they stopped right in front of me...


...as Mike J-26 begins to surface part way through the clip, you can see his dorsal fin is laying over and then on Canuck's L-7 back...
...earlier in the year when Canuck L-7 and her adult daughter Lulu L-53 were traveling with J pod...I remember noticing that Canuck was not in the 'place' where she normally would be...and that was next to Ruffles J-1...

...I'd check on her location when I'd see her, and sometimes she was where she was 'supposed' to be, so I figured I must be off base in my thinking...

...when I had this early morning encounter with the whales at the park in July, I wondered what the whales knew that we humans didn't...I'd have to wait to find out...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6-17-10 Let the Babies Play!

Thursday, June 17th
...out on Maya's Westside Charters, with a few kids and their grandparents on board, we came upon some other kinds of kids - baby killer whales...
 

Question: What's a family to do with three little kids?

Answer:
Just keep moving along and let the babies play!


The J17 family had three babies in a 12 month time span. This presented an unusual opportunity to watch little 'whale kids' play just about any time and any day...
...Princess Angeline J-17 had her third offspring in January 2009...her oldest offspring Polaris J-28 had her first offspring in November 2009...her youngest offspring Tahlequah J-35 had her first offspring in January 2010...

...so Princess Angeline became a a new mother for the third time, a grandmother twice in 3 months...
...Polaris and Tahlequah each became a sister for the second time and an aunt for the first time...
...there were times during the summer when the kids were very active...
...it was definitely fun for us humans to watch...
...and of course all three were rarely at the surface at the same time...
...Southern Residents travel with their families their entire lives...so there's lots more play to look forward to...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5-12-10 It All Came Together!

Wednesday, May 12th
(3rd post regarding our encounter with Capt. Hook and the T71s while out with Capt. Jim of Maya's Westside Charters...)

...my previous post showed that one of the whales of the T071s has notches on both flukes and is a female...so today I went searching to find a dorsal fin that belonged to that whale...
...I came upon a pic of T071A lunging after the Steller...and realized her tail was partially uncovered from the water...

...drum roll please...NOTCHES ON BOTH SIDES!!!

...her saddle patch mark on the right side is an 'upside down J' - that was the piece I was looking for...that is T071A !!
...so now I knew there were two females - which would be T071 (mom) and T071A (with the 'upside down J'), and that meant the male was T071B (see prior post)...and the youngest one T71C I didn't get enough info on him/her...
...now I only had to match up the dorsal fins for each of these whales...
...with the info I now had, it didn't take long and the rest of the puzzle just fell into place!
...I will probably never have an opportunity like this again with a small group giving away so much information...it sure was an exercise in scrutinizing every image to find the pieces of the puzzle...
 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

5-8-10 The Tail Flukes Puzzle Continues

Saturday, May 8th
...more on the 'whale tail' puzzle...of course these several posts about this encounter were all thanks to Capt. Jim and Maya's Westside Charters...

...here's the next puzzle piece...

...the second whale from yesterday's post has the very pretty smooth edged flukes and a bit hookie...so I guess it wasn't too difficult to figure this one out...

above...the top pic on the right shows partial belly marking with the absence of mammary slits and the pic below it shows that it belongs to the whale with the 'hookie' flukes...the two pics on the left also give indication that this is a male...but who?...well my guess would be T071A, but that is only because of the wide fin...but if a male this whale I would think would have a taller sprouting fin...so...could it be the middle sibling - T071B??? 


...whale #3...

...I know this next one is the youngest of the T071s...
...look at how this young whale's white marking appears to look longer as he/she dives...
...and in the next post the puzzle pieces get all put together...

Friday, May 7, 2010

5-7-10 Flukes and the Whales Who Own Them

Friday, May 7th


...delving into my pictures from the May 1st encounter with Capt. Hook T-40 and four other whales while on Maya's Westside Charters with Capt. Jim... ...well little did I know I would actually be able to isolate 4 different killer whale tails...now I won't count Captain Hook T40, as his tail is unmistakable...but what about the others?...
...I will have to have matching info on each image layer to be able to draw a conclusion - i.e. saddle patches, body scratches, dorsal fins...this is definitely a several layer puzzle...

....since they were flying out of the water so much...they gave lots of opportunity...

 
...the tail above has notches on both flukes, and of course the scratch marks...and the black edging...

...below, this tail is smooth edged on both flukes...with little scratching...much more hookie on both sides...male...maybe...
 

 

...below, this tail is smooth on one fluke and notched on the other... and the black edging is really thick...it took me a while to realize there were two with notches - whew!

...below, this one belongs to 'junior' or 'juniorette' the youngest/smallest of the group - T071C...
T071C has a blemish on the lower section of this one's tail...

...so one ID'd and three to go...
...at least one of the others is a male and one is a female...not sure on the third...
...the ID book on these whales says '??' under sex...but I did get belly shots of a male - not Capt. Hook -that shows the ID-able tail....now to attempt the next layer!

...I'll keep searching and maybe next time I will be able to match them up!...

...I love a good puzzle!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

5-1-10 Capt. Hook Is In Town!

Saturday, May 1st


Off to see J Pod with Capt. Jim of Maya's Westside Charters...oh, no wait there are Ts not far away...and guess who??? Capt. Hook T40 was one of them...

...he hasn't been seen in these waters since April of 2009...and this is just the second time I've seen him...
...that's his hooked dorsal fin as he is diving and about to do a cartwheel...strange looking image!

...I noticed that he did that a lot and also tail slapping... (from his left side his fin looks like it is flat across the top)... ...well he cartwheeled and tail slapped but he wasn't anywhere near the Steller sea lion...I just wonder if he was the 'hazer'...because he seemed to be patrolling the outer circle...his unusual dorsal fin and cartwheeling made for some pretty unusual photos...


...they had zigged and zagged up Haro Strait and then changed back to the south and BAM! another Steller sea lion attack began...unreal...fascinating to watch...
...she is actually lunging on top of the Steller...one of his flippers is protruding out from under her pectoral fin...
...as she continues she appears to be rolling over in her lunge...how do I know it's a female?...
...she showed her belly markings...now which female she is of the group I don't know...
...these 4 whales with Capt. Hook are T071,T071A T071B and T071C...confirmed by Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research...
...not to be outdone by Capt. Hook the others had 'flukes flying' a lot of the time too...as I watched the transients and the Steller I saw a similar pattern to attack and retreat, as I had last week (which was the first time I'd ever seen that!)...we couldn't decide if this was another 'training/practice' episode or not...but after we had moved on...we later learned that the Steller became a meal for those 5 Ts today...
...my next post delves into figuring out which tail fluke belongs to which whale!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

4-14-10 Transients and Steller Tango!


Wednesday, April 14th

What an unexpected encounter...word came that about 15 transients were not too far away...in fact they were over near Constance Bank, off Victoria and headed toward Trial Island...meaning our direction...would they continue?...

...I went out with Capt.Jim of Maya's Westside Charters in the early afternoon ...we located the transients with other boats already on scene...the whales were traveling...
...but they split off into two groups...one of the big males, T30A went north with a group...and the other large male T87 headed toward San Juan Island, looking like they would be going southeast...
...Dave from the Center for Whale Research was on board and he immediately saw that T30 was in the other group from T30A...meaning that at some point they would be getting back together...this made it more intriguing...
...these 12 Ts (T87, 88, 90, 90B, 30, 30A, 30B, 30C, T124, T124D, T124E, T172)...first one direction and then another...several surfacings and then a longer dive...then all of a sudden off in the distance some surfaced with huge lunges...


...it was soon clear that a Steller sea lion was the target...
...it was fascinating to watch as the whales would move off as a group, from the Steller...then turn and slowly begin to move back in...I had to watch the water surface near the Steller to get ready for what might happen next...
...
...the whales repeated this behavior several times...when they moved off, the Steller sea lion could be seen holding up his flipper, almost as if he was saying, "I'm over here."...
...when in fact it was explained to us that he was keeping his eye on the where the whales were...
...the whales didn't kill the sea lion...instead, after close to 1 1/2 hours they turned and left...a practice session perhaps...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

2-21-10 #1 Of My Favorites

One of my favorite encounters...


...as we approached on Maya's Westside Charters, we could see there were many more whales than J Pod...
...K Pod was with them...
...AND not only were all the 'littlest guys' J44-45-46 and 47 present but there was an extra one...
...that 'extra' little whale - a baby for sure was traveling with K12 and family...

...I sent my images to the Center for Whale Research...we waited and waited and waited until the next sighting of K Pod...that wasn't to occur until June 8th...The Center for Whale Research met K Pod as they came in and they verified and gave that baby the designation of K-43!


Friday, January 29, 2010

1-29-10 - Ruffles J-1 Event - Part 4

Friday, January 29th


... J POD IS BACK TOGETHER today!... 8:54 a.m. I could hardly believe it this morning when I thought I was hearing calls...and then I knew I was, and I knew I was hearing more than just one whale!......the park of course for me...I'll be in the middle no matter which way they were coming from......scan, scan - ah, there's a whale making a huge lunge all the way over by Kelp Reef marker...then I saw a few more whales...I knew it was J pod from their calls...now was Ruffles with them?...
...then Dave from the Center for Whale Research  called to say:
"Granny just nailed a salmon in front of the Center 
and Ruffles is with her."

...need I say more? whew? sigh of relief... woo-hoo!!!! Several whales were about a 1/2 mile off shore as they approached the lighthouse...

...Ruffles was in the lead with Granny not far behind...Blackberry J-27 was there with Mako J-39 nearby...Riptide J-30 and Samish J-14 (J-45 was around and seen later)...a big 'nursery group' was way way offshore...

...were all the whales of J Pod identified today? no...not all were, however, the whales were spread across the Strait for several miles... of some of the whales really far out, I thought I saw Spieden J-8 but didn't get a picture to verify...and another whale who hangs out with her, Keet J-33 I thought I saw him far offshore too, but no verification as of yet...

I had the privilege of accompanying Ken Balcomb and Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research on their research boat to ID as many as possible..there was a keen interest in the well being of the babies and I'm glad to say: ...BABIES all present and accounted for.

It was a joyful day and the whales seemed to be in pretty good spirits too!

 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1-28-10 Ruffles J-1 Event - Part 3



Thursday, January 28th

A Quiet Whale Day
As the mystery continued today there were conversations and questions all around and I wanted to write but not sure how...

...a day of questions,
...a day of theories,
...a day of emotions beginning to arise,

...yet all we can do is wait,
...wait with hope,
...gathering acceptance for whatever is to come.

...the wait may be short until answers are revealed,
...answers accompanied by sighs of relief,
...or tears of sadness.

...it could be tomorrow that news will arrive,
...storms and seas may delay that news,
...it could be several weeks until we know for sure.

...as a friend said today,
..."all we know is that we all care"
...care for the humans of the sea,

...for now it is not about boats, or yards too close or far,
...it's only about the well being of our friends out there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1-27-10 Ruffles J-1 Event - Part 2

Wednesday, January 27th
Part 2 


...the last person who saw Ruffles yesterday said he was tracking down island, staying with the contour of the island as opposed to heading offshore...so I decided to scan as far off the south end of the island as I could...and eventually end up in town for a 10:30 appointment...then head back to the west side... if you ever want to know when the whales are going to show up on the west side just ask me when am I going to town! It never fails...yes, I was in town when calls started coming over the hydrophones...
...off I went the west side...I met up with another friend who went south to scan and I went to the lighthouse to scan...ah, ha! it wasn't too long when there he was AGAIN, just like yesterday, RUFFLES J-1 ...he was coming from the NORTH! -- what?...did he travel around the island last night???

...when I first spotted him he was tracking down island...he was much farther to the north today and to the northeast of Sydney Island...then he turned east...he continued east for several minutes...then he turned around and went back toward the west...there was a dark hulled boat out there, farther off to the northwest, and it seemed like there might be another whale or two near that boat...but they were so far away I couldn't tell for sure...I got word from Center forWhale Research that only Ruffles was seen...I guess those were 'hopeful whales' I was seeing out there...

...in my blog post yesterday I mentioned that there were faint calls in the distance...which to my untrained ear, that's what they sounded like... but today Scott told me that his analysis of the calls does not show any of the calls overlapping, meaning that they could have all come from Ruffles, and he could have been mumbling to himself...well don't we all mumble to ourselves at least once in a while???...

...we don't know why Ruffles has been alone for the last two days however:
...could this actually be normal behavior for him in the winter and has just not occurred within visual and acoustic hearing range in the past?

...maybe all those J Pod babies just got to be too much and he needed a break.
...is the rest of J Pod up in the Canadian Gulf Islands somewhere, and he is being the salmon scout?

...do we really know if this call is unusual for him?

at some point we may know why all this is happening...for now, 'we wait'...

As of this afternoon he was in close proximity
to the west side of San Juan Island...
so we will see what tomorrow brings...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1-26-10 Ruffles J-1 Event - Part 1



Tuesday, January 26th 
Part 1
...it began with a strange sounding call...at first I thought it was something squeaking on a ship that was passing by...then I realized the ship had gone and the sound was still happening...I didn't get a chance to record so if you want to hear the recording Scott made go to the Orca Sound Limekiln page...
Archived sounds from Lime Kiln...in the grey box below that, scroll down until you see:
100126-1235-1311 003615 lk repeated....click on that.

...off I went to the park (of course) to look...I almost gave up, when there he was!...Coming from the north...a few miles offshore...looking from the lighthouse toward Kelp Reef marker, he was just to the south side of it and a few miles away...who was it?...

...it looked like Ruffles...I looked at my pictures on my camera, but I hate to ID someone from that far away using my camera...He was traveling in a methodical manner, a few surfacings and then a longer dive...traveling in a 'straight line' down island, a couple miles from shore...unfortunately I had no access to the hydrophones so I didn't know if he was making these calls or if there were other whales in the area...so I kept scanning...

I talked to Beam Reach/hydrophone Scott and we pretty much concluded that this was the whale making the call...based on Scott hearing the calls (volume) and my seeing the whale (location)...he also let me know that others had heard some other calls that were very faint...whew! the rest of J Pod must have been around somewhere...Dave, from the Center for Whale Research, told me that he has seen them do this in the past...most of the pod would go close in along the east side of Vancouver Island... that might explain it...
...anyway...I could still see Ruffles traveling down island, then after another 20 minutes or so, and, deciding there was no one coming from the north (for at least 15 minutes) I would go south and look and then come back...I couldn't find Ruffles anywhere...I went to County Park and scanned to the north...it was a flat calm day - thank goodness - and I could see up to Henry Island and across Haro Strait but no more whales...so, when all else fails go to the park and wait...

...two more hours of scanning and no whales in sight...
what was the most bothersome to me was the sound of the call I had heard before leaving home...it was a very unusual call, not one that I associate with J Pod...but I'm no expert...and maybe it seemed unusual because it was the only call I was hearing...
...then later I got word from Scott who forwarded info from John Ford: "I've often heard whales that are traveling apart from the rest of the group repeat a single call over a long period in a similar fashion, though mostly just in the northern residents. This kind of repetitive calling is usually associated with high excitement levels."
Thanks Scott and John...that's pretty interesting...

...will J Pod be heard on the Pt. Townsend hydrophones tonight? ...will they show up on the Lime Kiln hydrophones?...or maybe they are going out the Strait of Juan de Fuca...

...I surely hope someone spots the rest of the pod, so we can all sleep well.