...the Residents were not here on the 25th or the 26th and showed up coming back in this afternoon... ...I was on Imagine with Andy at the helm and we were out looking for transients or humpbacks...when we got the call...it was a long way to go but the passengers were ready for it... ...and lucky for us the whales had continued to move in our direction and we toward them and we met up with...guess who? ...yep...I could hardly believe we were getting to see baby J-53 again...and so soon...and so glad we were...everyday they can put another day behind their tail flukes is a good day toward survival...if that makes any sense...and sometimes you have to look really closely to even see the calf...
...J-53 was again traveling tight to the side of Princess Angeline J-17 and Moby J-44, just like on October 24th...
...and with them this time was Polaris J-28 and her offspring Star J-46...but they were just there not in the middle of it at all...
...I am beginning to wonder if maybe this family will do what they did in 2009 - that was to have three offspring in this one family group over a 12 month time period...especially because the expectation is that Polaris is pregnant... ...we won't know until we either get surprised again or if we don't...but it's pretty darn exciting to think of the possibilities... ...after getting off the boat I went to the west side of the island...they were coming across and just maybe they would come up island... (this image is on my FB page)...
...they stalled out a bit and there was some shuffling going on...the first few seconds are while I was on the Imagine boat...the rest is from shore at the park...enjoy...
..here's the 'set up' as I saw it out there today... ...south of Discovery Island, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca... ...when inbound it was five whales: J-17, J-44, baby J-53, J-28, and J-46...the other two family members, Tahlequah J-35 and her boy, Notch J-47 were not with them...
...passing the park... ... when they went up San Juan Island a bit later it seemed that it was three whales: J-17, baby J-53, and Tahlequah J-35...Moby J-44 was somewhere around... ...and behind them were the J16s, Polaris J-28, Star J-46, and Notch J-47... (of course they can move about rapidly and that set up could change moments later...it's just what I observed at that time)... ...and behind them were Oreo J-22 and DoubleStuf J-34...and then it got too dark...
...so I came home and listened to them over the Orca Sound hydrophones... ...and they slowly made their way up island... ...if they continue north and they disappear again...we might all wonder just where the 'delivery room' is!...of course that would only be if they show up with another baby when they come back down...note: Polaris J-28 had her first calf somewhere north because J Pod was seen to the north a few days before they came past Lime Kiln Lighthouse on 11-11-09...and that's when Star J-46 was first seen - back in 2009...
...back to today...before getting word on whales we had come across a not quite adult bald eagle...maybe a late 3rd year, but I'm not sure... ...someone commented on the size of the wing span, someone else said it was the dirtiest eagle they had ever seen, and I always love getting nictitating membrane images of bald eagles...
Saturday, October 24th ...with all the excitement of a new calf in J Pod (see prior post) some other bits and pieces from the day didn't get told... ...other whales from all three pods were present...we didn't see everyone since they were spread for miles... ...but Scoter K-25 went after some salmon...
...not long after, Rainshadow K-37, in just about the same spot did the same...
...Spock K-20 passed by and offshore from her was her 11 year old, Comet K-38...he moved inshore...
...back up island in Open Bay area Tahlequah J-35 (she comes into play later too), her offspring Notch J-47, and Saturna K-43...not going anywhere except for back and forth and it looked more like some social time for the two kids than anything else...it was unusual to see Saturna in this mix...
...Saturna's nephew, Tika K-33, I noticed was way inshore...then I saw Tika's mom...and a bit ahead of them I got a look at Sequim K-12...the last of that family group is Rainshadow K-37 and he was up ahead... ...when Princess A J-17, new calf, and Moby J-44 came along about 25 minutes later, they spent about 30 minutes going back and forth...big circles but no direction...as they began to travel down island, Saturna and her family group dissappeared from our focus...they may have had Notch with them, for a while, because he wasn't with the new baby group of four whales... ...the whales do this...since Notch's mom was about to be busy, he was 'sent to the neighbors' ... :)
...Cookie J-38, a twelve year old male, showed up and was visiting with Moby J-44, who was close behind Princess A and the baby...Cookie was there only a few minutes and then went somewhere else...
...when they began to travel Tahlequah J-35, the second offspring of Princess Angeline, took the place of Moby for a while...at first she would drop back and he would move up next to J-17 and the baby, and then he and J-35 would trade places again...
...at one point Echo J-42 and Suttles J-40 were right in there to see this new baby...those two girls seem to love the babies...whenever there is a new one they want to get right in to see it...
...eventually they entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca heading west...
...I wonder when they will be back... (hint...soon!)
...out on Peregrine with Andy at the helm we leave Snug Harbor with no word on whales...at this time of year that is often the case... ...no sooner are we out when we get word that whales had already passed Open Bay (which they weren't but we didn't know that) so we headed down island because it was supposed to be that they had gone by about 20 minutes ago... ...okay we had whales! - yay! that's the first thing...now to locate them... ...we had gone less than a mile when we turned back to see what was up that way...first two humpbacks!...cool...but no orcas... ...and then...who pops up but Muncher L-91 and baby L-122 (first seen in early September by a photographer from shore on San Juan Island)...
...wow!...L pod has come back down from the north... ...we could see that the whales were spread across the strait... ...then Scoter K-25 pops up...wow!...K pod is here too...
...but the big question for me was: Where was J pod?...as far as I knew no one knew for sure... ...we gradually made our way IDing the whales we saw...it would be great to see J pod...if they were here...ah!...we hear over the radio that some J pod whales are here... ...we came upon Tahlequah J-35, Notch J-47, Saturna K-43, Tika K-33, and his mom Sekiu K-22...I had already seen Rainshadow K-37 who was chasing fish like Scoter K-25 had been doing...and several other L and K pod whales...we had hardly moved at all...and everywhere you looked you could see a whale... ...then Andy begins to move the boat a bit up island...we were looking for more J pod whales...he spots a baby...thinking that it was one of the J16s -- J-50 or J-52 -- (we had already seen Eclipse's baby J-51)...I look...at first I only saw Princess Angeline J-17 and one other...and then a 'very tiny' whale surfaces with those two...huh?...that doesn't compute...neither J-50 or J-52 would be with Princess Angeline... I said, "this is important, stay with them"...they were about 500 yards away...and I needed to see them again...everyone on the boat was focused on finding this tiny little whale... ...and then...it was so very small...definitely it's a new baby!!!
...and that's the main story for all day today...there is a new baby in J pod. (I will post more of the story of this day in my next post...there is a lot that went on today with all the whales that were present.) ...for now, here are some images of the newest member of the community...
...Tahlequah J-35 for most of the time we were with them, seemed to be the 'support person'...as I call it...she traveled behind J-17 and the baby...Moby spent more time up with his mother than any other whale during the time we saw them...
...next question everyone asks: who's the mom?...the Center for Whale Research will determine that provided that this baby is seen again...let's hope... ...it's October the whales were heading out to sea (they might be back soon)...it can be the toughest time of year for a newborn...
...Princess Angeline J-17 might be the mother or the grandmother or even just a friend helping out for the day...
...they were heading west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca..
note - so there is no confusion: while on the water and hearing that some J pod whales had been seen, as well as some Ks and Ls...there were a few boats up in the direction of who we thought might be the J16s or the J17s...the J16s have two calves the J17s' youngest is five years old...there was NO mention of a new calf or a little whale, or any indication of something new, by any of the boats...it was was around noon that Andy spotted a baby and I began to try to figure out which one it was (as I wrote, above, in this post)...we thought we had discovered a new calf...once sure it was not any of the other J pod babies I called the Center for Whale Research but was unable to connect...I kept trying...
...I knew this was a brand new calf and assumed it belonged to J pod because of who the calf was traveling with... ...I did not know that it had been seen by another person and the people on that boat or that the Center had already been alerted...without that information I believed that we had discovered a new calf (and we needed to stay with this little group until the Center arrived on scene - it just made sense to me)... ...in the end we were not the first eyes on that new calf, but we were glad we were able to stay on scene until the researchers arrived... ...and the passengers?...I think they were delighted to see a new orca calf for the first time in their human lives :) ...and Andy, Jeff, and I - oh, yes! We were delighted so very much!
Thursday, October 22nd ...out on Peregrine with Andy and Jeff to go see some Transient orcas that Simon, of Ocean Ecoventures, happened upon early this morning...
...yesterday I had heard that the whales with the bright white marks on some of their fins had shown up in the Strait of Juan de Fuca...well, those are none other than the T038s and most likely the T035s, who most often are with them... ...in October 2013 they showed up for the first time ever in these waters...they are known whales of the regional transient community...you can tell because the number is so low...T = transient/marine mammal eating orca and # = the order in which first seen...and since the matriline number is reaching close to T200 (won't that be neat!) that let's you know how long they have been being accounted for...(hope that makes sense)...
...as far as I know there are still 4 animals in the T035 group and 5 animals in the T038 group... ...BUT, when we got on scene...we only saw a total of 5 animals...it took a while to figure it all out... ...T038A (A = 1st offspring of T038) had a calf by her side...these two were traveling together the entire time, but I wasn't aware of her having had an offspring...in the few years they've been seen here, they show up in October... it's October and they showed up with a calf that was born earlier in the year...
...Jared Towers of Dept of Fisheries and Oceans, Nanimo, B.C. confirmed that T038A had a calf earlier in 2015...we are getting to see it here for the first time.
...there were three others together...T035A, T035A1 (in this case 1 = 1st offspring of T035A, who is the 1st offspring of T035), and T035A2...a bit confusing at first, but this is actually great because the animal is always connected to the matriline even if, in this tranisent community, they don't always stay connected with their family...different from the Southern Residents in that way...
...during the time we were with them they made three kills...this group had a style and it was quite obvious...T035A, T035A1, and T035A2 were together and T038A and calf were together, traveling parallel and spread several hundred yards...there was a lunge at the surface and that was it...they traveled for several minutes and then one of them spyhopped...they proceeded to eat...they would be down for a few minutes then surface and move on...fascinating to watch their 'routine'...for today anyway...
...it looked like they were going to go through Active Pass, but instead chose Trincomali Channel...
...time for more to eat...
...love these 'hidden' shots...
...now for the rest of these two families to show up...
Note added: The title of this article I believe is misleading. It sounds as if all is just hunky-dory in the whale whale world of the Southern Residents. Please read the whole article.
Just because they think they look good now, does not mean to become lax about doing everything possible to restore wild stocks of salmon. Because when they don't 'look good'...well, then they will be chasing the problem instead of front loading it and actually fixing it.
Restoration of wild stocks of Chinook salmon are imperative for many reasons.
In the case of the orcas, photos and videos taken this summer using a
drone about the size of a large pizza reveal the animals are looking
The information is particularly important as a warm El Niño climate
pattern sets up along the West Coast, which could lead to declines in
salmon runs, especially chinook, the preferred food of Seattle’s picky
cetaceans. Other orca whales will eat seals, but not the orcas that
frequent Puget Sound. They not only confine their diet mostly to salmon,
but specifically the best quality, high-fat chinook.
The situation of one endangered species relying on another animal that
is also struggling for survival — chinook salmon — as its primary prey
has added to the plight of the orcas. The whales are among the eight
most endangered species in the country, and are trying to survive in
waters crowded with shipping traffic, tainted by stormwater runoff and
other pollution. Orcas are among the most contaminated marine mammals in
the world, carrying residues of pesticides, flame retardants,
industrial coolants and solvents.
Southern-resident populations dropped last December to 78 whales, a
30-year low, prompting concern. Photos in 2008 and 2013 also revealed a
decline in the condition of the southern residents, and the loss of
But this summer’s births and the animals’ apparent good condition offer
hope, according to experts gathered to release the photos Wednesday at
the Vancouver, B.C., Aquarium. The photos also offer a baseline to judge
the animals’ health going forward.
Scientists used a hexacopter drone the size of a large pizza to
photograph and measure all 81 southern resident killer whales in the San
Juan Islands. (Video courtesy of NOAA Fisheries & Vancouver
The photos were transformational for scientists getting their first
close-up look at southern-resident killer whales going about their daily
“They make visual the social bonds between these whales; they spend most
of their time traveling so close together they can touch,” said Lance
Barrett-Lennard, senior marine-mammal scientist at the aquarium.
“It makes them look very fragile … You cease to see them as these big
black and white animals that can eat anything in the ocean, they are
fragile animals and we have to take care of them.”
The connection between the health of the orcas and salmon is well established.
A 2014 special report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) on southern-resident killer whales pointed to
limited salmon populations, vessel traffic and noise, and chemical
contamination as the main threats to the whales. They have been listed
for protection under the Endangered Species Act since 2005 but their
numbers have continued to decline.
It is a unique family group, sharing its own language and greeting
ceremonies. Recent research reveals southern residents will eat chum and
even bottom fish if there is nothing else, but their preferred diet is
chinook salmon. Scales and fish tissue samples from fish kills by orcas
has enabled researchers to trace those fish to Canada’s Fraser River in
the summer, and the Upper Columbia and Snake River in the winter.
That information can help researchers understand what the orcas need to
survive, said Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist at the Northwest
Fisheries Science Center in Seattle who tracks the orcas’ diet and
One orca male Hanson tagged and tracked in the winter of 2012-13 ranged
up and down the coast as far as California at least three times, and
hung around the mouth of the Columbia River just in time for the spring
chinook run — the biggest and fattiest salmon of them all.
“We know those orcas are hungry,” said Joseph Bogaard, executive
director of the Save Our Wild Salmon in Seattle, which, with other
conservation groups, is pushing for removal of four dams on the Lower
Snake River to boost salmon runs for the whales.
“It is not just any salmon anywhere,” Bogaard said. “It is delivering
the fish that are very important to them, the fatty fish that provide
them what they need and that already fit within their known set of
behaviors.” The Snake is the Columbia’s largest tributary, and the
stronghold for chinook.
Protecting that food source may be critical to ensure killer-whale
population stability and survival for the southern residents, notes Sam
Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington.
He has noticed in his research on orcas that thyroid hormone levels that
set metabolic rates are highest when the orcas arrive in late spring,
suggesting the whales are arriving in Puget Sound after feeding on a
rich food source: spring runs of Columbia chinook salmon.
The level goes down as the Fraser River chinook runs decline in the
fall, further corroborating the nutritional impact of chinook on the
Lynne Barre, branch chief for the protected resources division in NOAA
Fisheries’ Seattle Office, said the photos revealed both good and bad
The photos confirmed the survival of a total of five new calves in the southern-resident families this year.
“But they are only at 82 whales and they are not growing at the rate we
would like to see, or where they need to be to get to recovery.”
She said the photos can be used with other data, including the diet
studies, to better understand how management decisions can be made to
help the orcas survive.
Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition
811 First Ave, #305
Seattle, WA 98104
206-300-1003 (cell) www.wildsalmon.org
I'll start with Monday the 19th and then go back to Sunday the 18th ...it's been foggy...most of the Southern Residents had gone up north...but we'd look for humpbacks and hope that the Residents would come back soon, that is unless they have more salmon up there. ...on the 19th: ...a bizarre encounter with two deer...not whale watching but wild just the same!...Capt. Jim had gone up to get the passengers...just as they were about to start coming to the boat I saw a deer coming down the hill from behind the two story building at Snug Harbor...the deer walked up to the people and from what I could see was just standing there...huh?...what in the world?...then came a buck...but it looked like he didn't do much either...they tried to scare them away...well it took a while and then...
...and then another bizarre incident that we only got to see the end results of - but if we hadn't we might have wondered if it really happened!..It did...thank you Orca Spirit Adventures zodiac for sharing that with us. You all got to see it happen...we got to see the end result!
...okay, here are a few not so bizarre images from the day... ...little did he know (maybe) but three adult male Stellers were heading his way and fast...I wonder if they got any of that fish?
...this is the whale who almost swallowed 30 gulls...
...we heard about this humpback whale yesterday, the one with the very weird tail flukes...and we got lucky...she was still here today...
...they had been calling her 'Gnarly'...I can see why!
...on the way home we briefly stopped for a California sea lion ripping apart a salmon...
...and this gull...well I don't know if he dropped that huge piece or not...
...then backing up a day to the 18th...it took a long time to find this whale...
...while I was searching for an ID of the above humpback I came across this image...the humpback is upside down, in the middle of a breach...but check out that eye - wide open!...cool...
...these two Steller sea lions and the harbor seal were just fun...
...the harbor seal looks like he/she is striking a pose like the Stellers do...
...these next two were taken on the 19th...
...great couple of days with humpbacks...and on this day, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, at one point we could see blows, in the distance all the way around.