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Saturday, November 30, 2013

11-28-13 Thanksgiving Day Whales

Wednesday, November 27th
..."a squeak?" "What?" "It's the Residents!"...oh, wow, after three weeks of not hearing from them!...it sounded to me like they were coming across, but there was no telling where they would be the next morning...


Thursday, November 28th
...based on what I thought I knew from listening to the whales last night, I was out the door scanning early and was completely surprised when, right away I saw whales a few miles to the south and off shore...
...at first I thought it might be Transients, because I only saw 3 whales and last night I knew I had heard J pod whales, a few L pod calls and possibly some K pod calls but I couldn't be sure, but I knew it would have to be way more than just 3 whales...
...and then...oh, my goodness!...there they were - all over the place! 
...it wasn't long before I found myself out on the Center for Whale Research boat...when Dave spotted the whales I think everyone said, " Happy Thanksgiving!"
...the whales were spread for miles, slowly moving toward and up island...they were so full of energy, mixed up, lots of socializing - it was wonderful to see just about all the members of the community...as they passed by Lime Kiln Lighthouse they were very vocal...
...early afternoon I found myself on another boat...by now the whales had gone north past Kellett Bluff, Granny J-2 and some others were up ahead in the middle of Haro Strait...others, who were behind her, had moved off shore, going east to west, but still going up...
...what they did next was really interesting...one group made a turn at Halibut Island and traveled west along the island, coming out at the west side of Halibut and angled up to the south east side of Mandarti Island...

...then they turned and headed back into Haro Strait, turned left and continued heading up...
...then when they got to Tom Pt. off Rum Island, I could still see whales out in the middle, still going up Haro...(you can see on the video clip a whale, in the distance, breaching)
...the ones we were with stopped just south of the Rum Island and the next thing they did is something we don't get to see very often...we were getting a glimpse into their world of communication - perhaps deciding which way to go, maybe they were communicating with those out in mid-strait letting them know what they were going to do...it lasted a few minutes and was fascinating to watch...

...they traveled west along the south side of Gooch Island...
...having fun along the way...
...the west end of Gooch - a bald eagle in that tree...

...they then turned and traveled east through the very narrow channel between Comet (corrected from Canoe)Island and Gooch Island, and ended up back in Haro Strait...


...I think it may have been to avoid a strong ebbing current...

...when they came out into Haro Strait again, some others joined them and now the group numbered close to 40...they continued moving north...Simon, of Ocean Ecoventures was out on his boat...CB-CA = Cowichan Bay, Canada...
...he told me he could see blows up along the bluffs at Pender Island, that's where Granny and 20+ other whales were...
...with Morseby Island on their left, the 'island hopping' group we were with was heading up their way...

...and we went the other way very thankful for the day...

Monday, November 25, 2013

11-25-13 I Think She Was Trying To ID Us!

Monday, November 25th
...out on Maya's Westside Charters...I always tell the passengers that at this time of year we never know what we might see once we leave the harbor...but little did any of us know what was in store for us on this afternoon...
...Melisa spotted a humpback whale...
...the whale was a bit north of Kelp Reef marker...trending down island, zigging, zagging, and circling along the way...after getting south of the marker - deeper water - the whale showed her fluke...
...Capt. Jim said we'd watch the humpback for a couple surfacings and then head on to see what else we might find...the humpback didn't surface and didn't surface...where was she??? and all of a sudden she was spyhopping right next to the boat and just holding that spyhop!...she came up so quietly we didn't even know it until one person saw her LOL!!!...and then the 'adventure' began - amazing!
...we had not approached the whale.
...she came to us and because she did not leave the boat we could not move.
...she was under us...all around us...more than once her head was on the starboard side while her tail was on the port side! - Scary!!


...I don't know the ID of this whale...and this didn't add any information!


I've uploaded a 11 minute video to YouTube of this once in a life time encounter from today. (Of course if she sticks around she may do it again!) ...here's a 1 minute clip to give you an idea, but it pales in comparison to what's on the long version...

...this may be common in Hawaii during the humpback season, but it's not common here, making it all that much more unbelievable...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

11-24-13 That's Why You 'Gotta' Have Pictures!

Sunday, November 24th
...the phone rings, it's Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research, "did you see those whales?" 
...of course I replied with, "No! what? where?" ...then... "Okay, I'm out the door to see if I can pick them up!"
...I get to Land Bank, on the west side of the island, and based on what Ken had told me it didn't take long to locate them. I was totally surprised I could pick them up from that distance, but Ken's information about location and with their blows made it possible...
...it wasn't long before he showed up with his friend, who had first spotted the whales from the Center...with their 'big eye binos' they were able to track them better than I with my 10x50s...
...off to the boat to go out with friends to see if we could catch up to the whales...Ken, friend, and Dave were not far behind...
...how many whales - 6 to 7, maybe the ones from the other day...but we'd have to locate them first to know for sure...
...we went 'this' way and the other boat went 'that' way...but no contact was made...
...Capt. Jim had a private trip this morning and let us know that he had seen two humpbacks, a mom and a calf, traveling up island and to let him know if we make contact with the killer whales...
...Ken and crew had also spotted two humpbacks off Beaumont Shoal...but we were way to the south still looking for the transients, so we didn't see any humpback whales today...
...soon we headed toward Discovery Island and were going up Haro Strait, closer to the Vancouver Island side...
...we were approaching lots of bird action...an eagle flying amongst them...

...as I was watching the birds, off on the far side of this large area I saw the whales...oh, my, what a low profile they were keeping!...I just saw that one surfacing and down they were for several minutes...but I saw 'Arrow' (actually T38C) so I figured they were the same whales as a couple days ago...
...the next surfacing showed me why we had such a tough time finding them...we could barely see their blows!...

...the previous encounter with this group occurred off San Juan Island two days ago...they were sly when taking seals (or seemed to be)...and today they were once again sly...for a while the whales seemed to be in a resting pattern and were taking 6+minute dives...sometimes they would zig or zag, but for the most part they were maintaining a steady course...
...at one point they woke up, but I couldn't tell if they were playing around or got something to eat...
...they continued on and it was getting time for us to head back...
...the whales were in the Strait of Juan de Fuca...'Arrow' was pointing the way, and the way was west!...
...but will that be 'it' for their unusual visit to these inland waters?...who will get the next proof of presence images?...- that is the only way that one can verify a sighting is accurate...and to verify if a person is reporting about their encounter OR re-reporting something they heard/read about but were not present to witness, and that often leads to inaccurate information and to taking credit inappropriately...

...the whales we saw and got pictures of today are an interesting group...some members of three different family groups... T35, T38, T38B, T38C, T38D, T75B, and T75C...on the 16th of November while out on Maya's Westside Charters we encountered the other members of two of these families (see my blog post 11-16)...will they meet up in these waters or out on the outer coast as they head back up toward Southeast Alaska?...or perhaps they may stick around here for a while...
...I am wondering where T75B1 will show up next...in the transient world it's not uncommon for kids to be seen with a group other than mom...we wait and watch and look and match up...that's why 'you gotta have pictures'!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

11-22-13 Now That's Just Plain Freaky!

Friday, November 22nd
...for close to an hour I watched a California sea lion outside my window...
...at first it looked like a log, but then one end of the log moved as he brought his head up for a breath, and then turned into a log again...every few minutes he did this as he floated not far from shore...
...at 9:52 a.m. I sent an email to a friend, "calling all transient killer whales in the area. There's a lazy California sea lion hanging out in front of my place for the last hour. Come and get it!"
...at 10:24 a.m. I happen to look out and there were blows - whales coming up island!
Now That Is Just Plain Freaky!!  :)

...I knew that on Thursday, from Ivan of the Western Prince and Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research that there had been Transients near Friday Harbor (again) and also Transients in Puget Sound...could these be them?...I quickly called the Center for Whale Research and others...luckily these whales were moving at a steady pace and going up island...out with friends to see just who we had...luckily CWR was ahead of us and we were in contact with them and they gave us the IDs...with the whales and this lighting I wouldn't even bother to try to ID them!
...however, I called it out that the whales were probably going to go through Spieden Channel and then head down San Juan Channel and be at Friday Harbor at about 3:30...(because multiple times in the last week killer whales have been seen from the ferry at about that time, at the same location - two times with a proof of presence picture and one without - so only two of the sightings are confirmed)
...they were passing Battleship Island...
...oh, my they started making the turn into Spieden Channel!...
...and that's when I saw the ARROW...
...the international ferry passing through Spieden Channel with the whales...I think this makes the 4th time in a week that whales have been seen from one of the WA state ferries in these islands (it's not common and always exciting for those who get that opportunity)...
...they continued east and moved closer to the east end of Spieden Island...
'Arrow' was still showing us the direction..(that's actually T38C)...
...at the east end of Spieden Island we thought the whales might run into some Steller sea lions, but none were seen... 
...well they didn't go down San Juan Channel, but instead headed up President Channel on the Waldron Island side...
...they had been rather sly in taking seals..
...but some scrappy gulls sure helped...one had the prize...
...then dropped it and another gull got it...
...the brown gull took off, the white one went after it...the prize dropped onto the water again and the fight was on...  
...nothing like standing on your foe to get the prize!
...not only were the whales veiled, like in this image, when taking seals, they were like that when we last saw them...

...all seven had surfaced as a group heading toward us and then they disappeared...scan as we did we could not find them...
...later, as I walked up on the deck at home I could hardly believe my eyes...5 Steller sea lions tight together moving down island...perhaps they had left Spieden Channel when the Ts came through!
...one minute later...
...about as pink as it could be - a magnificent sunset!

 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

11-16-13 Who Are These 4 Whales?

November 12th - Saturday, November 16th
...one exciting day full of marine life does not guarantee the next...in fact there were no Pacific White Sided dolphins spotted anywhere, no Transient killer whales found, not even a Dall's porpoise or a Harbor porpoise...
...out on Maya's Westside Charters, as close as we got to 'black and whites' were some very curious black and grey harbor seals...
...then to the other end of the light spectrum - a rainbow!
...that gull wanted some scraps from that Steller sea lion...

...no true 'black and whites' did we see on November 12th...
...out again November 14th on Maya's Westside Charters...
...Long tail ducks...
...he had a great vantage point...
...and then we were getting closer to the right species...
...there were two groups of Dall's porpoise in two different locations, the animals in one group were all huge!, while the others, not as large and some in pairs - assuming moms and offspring...fabulous encounters with both groups!


...but no killer whales seen on the 14th either...

...and then, out on Maya's Westside Charters on November 16th...we had heard there were a couple humpback whales in the Saanich Inlet a few hours before we headed out...we thought we'd give it a try...once we got to about the middle of Haro Strait the water became like a sheet of glass...our first 'black and whites' were...

...they are not a common bird for me, so it was pretty neat to see them and to see many too...onward to the Saanich Inlet...it was great conditions for spotting killer whales - transients - and a perfect area for them, in and among these islands we were passing...but none were to be found...
...as we entered the Inlet I began looking for the blows of humpback whales...they could have come back up and be exiting the Inlet by now, or not...they could be further down...THEN!...off in the distance I saw a blow then another and I saw dorsal fins...soon we could tell it was not humpback whales but it was some killer whales!...our quest paid off!  :)
...I could see there were two adults, both looking like females and two kids...
...and...
...a total of 4 transients we encountered...

..."oh, I know that one! I've seen it in the DFO book"...never thought I would ever actually see her...T38A...she has a white patch...it is the brightest white you can imagine...
...the other female whom I had not previously met...


...the two in front have to be T38A and T35A1...

...it kept me wondering:
I referred to the Towers/Ellis/Ford Bigg's Killer Whale Catalogue from 2012 (though one needs to find the catalogue once you get to that site) to match my images to the IDs and for some of the ages:
...T35A1 was born in 2010, making it seem unlikely for T35A to have had another calf, who looks at least 2 years old...BUT then I looked at T99 - she had her second calf in 2007 and her third in 2009...I also saw that T37A1 and T37A2 were born two years apart and in the catalog images they look similar in sizes to the two calves we saw during this encounter...

...maybe that unknown calf is the second calf of T35A and it was born in early 2012 and/or it's just really big for it's age...

Then again, might this unknown calf belong to T38A?

...T38A was born in 2000...which would have her giving birth at age 11...I found that a couple others had their calves at age 11...so it's not impossible...

OR...maybe T35A was baby sitting for T38A...

I have been every which way on this one, and now after looking through all this my guess is that this is the second calf of T35A...maybe this calf is younger than he/she looks...notice the eye patch and the yellowish coloration...some calves have that for a long time and others don't...

BUT...wait I must for the researcher to let me know...
...update:  I got verification from Mark Malleson, who had seen these same whales earlier in November.  He verified with DFO that the calf is T35A2...

...and I realized that T38A, who I was assuming is a female, only because the whale looks like a female, could actually be a male who has yet to sprout...so, I guess we'll see how that part turns out too...