Saturday, January 30, 2016

1-30-16 All those Orca Babies

Saturday, January 30th
...since the early morning hours of January 19, when I was hearing J Pod faintly over the Lime Kiln hydrophones, the hydrophones have been absent of any Southern Resident calls...
...little did I know at the time that there was a new baby - J-55 - who had been first seen in Puget Sound less than 24 hours before...very cool...that explains to me why the whales took so long to get from the exit of Puget Sound (Admiralty Inlet) to passing by within hydrophone range somewhere south of Discovery Island...
...AND...why it took them so long to then reach Sooke, B.C., where they were spotted heading west...
And just how long was that?  From point to point - Admiralty Inlet to Discovery - 10 hours, and from Discovery to Sooke, 10 hours.
That is twice the length of time it normally would take them, documented many many times over the last several years.
...they were going against the current is one thing, but still that is way longer, and perhaps it was due to new baby, J-55...

...there was some question as to whether J Pod had been present on January 5th when whales had come in late in the day and no one had any visual confirmation as to who...
...from calls I heard that evening, I went back to prior recordings when only one pod was present and then recordings when there were mixed pods, etc. to compare and has taken a lot of time and has been very enlightening too. I'm not wanting to know every single call they make but am more interested in knowing the calls that would clue me in on who was present...there's more to explore, but here are some... There is supposed to be a recording might be slow to show up. J Pod was present, for sure, on January is most likely they were up north...I keep asking 'where's the nursery?'...there must be one up there somewhere :)

...with so many babies in J Pod, normally one could tell who belonged to whom because they are usually seen close to their mom...well, watching all the mixing up they had been doing, that might not hold true...this image will give you an idea of dorsal fin shape differences and eye patches too...their dorsal fins will grow but will basically retain the shape they already have...from what I have seen in the past anyway...
...I can see how Sonic J-52 might get mistaken (except for his open saddle patches) for Scarlet J-50.  Scarlet has rake marks on her body and her dorsal fin, from birth, and Sonic has mainly scratches on his body...but then he acquired rake marks on the front edge of his dorsal fin...I'm guessing his will fade and Scarlet's might not ever fade, but only time will tell with that.

...the L Pod babies, Windsong L-121 belongs to the L12s, a group we haven't seen as often as the other unless Matia has another, Windsong will be 'obvious'...
...L-122 belongs to the L47 family and L-123 belongs to the L-55 family...they used to travel together just about all the time...last year there were a couple times in the late part of the year when the L55s were not present when the L47s, L26s, and L43s were, but we might now know why...a baby was on the way! - L-123. 

...Bottom line:  everyone just hopes they all survive the winter. many babies - 6 in J Pod...that's the most babies I've seen born in a 12 month time period in the same pod...
...L Pod has three new babies...
...and K Pod...well, I think they are just waiting to surprise us - wishful thinking on everyone's part, I know :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

1-18-16 Mid January Update

Monday, January 18th
-There are never the right words to say.
The passing of Eva Saulitis, a whale researcher of the Chugach Transients, of Prince William Sound, Alaska, author of many books, most recent Into Great SilenceFrom reading her account of 25 years, I felt like I knew Eva, yet met her only briefly in Friday Harbor in the fall of 2014.  There are some with whom you just connect, no understanding as to why, but you just do.  Through her writings and her work I connected.  I would like to have known her.  I am sad that I didn't. 

Happening upon a link on FaceBook I explored more...this is stunning video from Whale Haven, the Great Bear Sea, and the place that is threatened by oil tankers...
I encourage you to watch the video in silence (turn off the volume)...the whales don't travel to our human music...they travel to the beat of their world not ours.
Enjoy that video in silence...your eyes will be totally focused to take it all in without the distraction of your ears having to work too.  Give it a try, try it both ways, see/hear what works for you.

-as I am writing this blog I am hearing J Pod whales over the Port Townsend hydrophones... (it's about 5:30 pm)
...they were here on January 5th, in the dark...on January 16th a friend called to let me know he was hearing whales passing his place on the east side of San Juan Island...they were going down San Juan Channel...of course it was dark!...the next thing I know, two days later, J Pod is coming back up Puget Sound!
...they most likely had been way north, which makes sense for what they do at this time of year, came down on the 16th and into Puget Sound in the night to check out the food situation and were undetected until today when they were seen coming back up and out of Puget Sound...nice to hear them once again...

...listening for those fish sounds...there have only been a few and all but a couple have been over the Orca Sound hydrophones, not the Lime Kiln hydrophones like last year...
...I find that interesting too because when the whales came in on the 5th they didn't come across Haro Strait and up passing Lime Kiln lighthouse, instead they cut through Baynes Channel and angled up toward Kellett Bluff which is north of Lime Kiln by a few miles where the Orca Sound hydrophones are located...and that's where the majority of the calls were heard...

...I have mostly relied on the signature calls from each pod and some of the subgroup specific calls...but it looks like now I'm really diving into learning them all...
I found one that sounds like a kitten call but it actually is an L Pod call!
It is crazily confusing and quite the challenge!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

1-16-16 K-12 and K-33 Are Ready for the Game

Saturday, January 16th
...when the whales were heard over the hydrophones on January 5th, I had heard mainly J and K pod the beginning of the audio encounter I also heard a couple L pod calls...
...when observers located the whales the next day, they only saw some K and L pod J pod whales were seen on that day...Center for Whale Research encounters page for more about who was seen...
...whales came down from the north a few days later, in the dark, and headed out to the open ocean...
...Tika K-33 had been satellite tagged by NOAA researchers and every few days they post an update...
...the most recent update shows that Tika K-33 had gone down the outer coast, presumably with his mother, Sequim K-12, the rest of his family as well as some other K pod members...
...but the question remains...where is J pod...and did they really come in?...

...going back through the recording of the night of the 5th, learning a lot in the process, there were many L pod versions of some of the calls that I have been able to match up.  But the next step is to verify those with previously recorded calls when knowing who was present - J, K, or L...confusing?...yes :)

...most of all, yes, J pod was present that night over the Orca Sound hydrophones...but which way did they go?
...only J pod knows for sure... the mean time Sequim K-12, the number 12 being the operative number ready for the next playoff game - Seahawks and whoever else (I just keep track of the whales and not football)...
...and since Tika now has a satellite tag, the operative word here is satellite...
well no doubt the whales may be listening to the game via 'satellite' !


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

1-5-16 'Game On' Say the Whales to the Humans!

Tuesday, January 5th
...late afternoon 'three groups' of whales spotted, coming in, and they were not too far away...

(...okay, so a bit of humor here...)
...Game On...

- 1 point for the whales
... cloudy and getting close to dark when first spotted...

- 0 point for the humans:
...who could they be? Residents or Transients?
Rs and Ts have been seen in their own large groups in the past.

- 1 point for the humans:
...location located - coming through Baynes Channel
 -verification call heard over Lime Kiln and Orca Sound at the same time with about a 1to2 second delay.
-30 minutes later another, same situation - both hydrophones with the delay, one call.

- 1 point for the humans:
- those calls revealed it is Residents.

- 2 points for the whales:
- one hour passes - no calls
- second hour passes - no calls

1 point for the humans:
-loud clear J Pod calls, loud clear K Pod calls,
-echolocation clicks galore

Game analysis:
-Information:  'three groups'  'sounded like an L Pod 'signature call'
no other information available.

Hearing an L pod signature call might cause one to think it is L Pod. 

However, Onyx L-87, travels with J Pod and not L Pod.

L Pod has 35 whales in their pod, made up of several family groups.
They often travel as three groups.
The L12s, L54s (now with L-84 and L-88), and the 4 family groups - L26s, L4s, L43, L47s.

You have 34 whales if you add up J Pod and friends who were here the other day - 29 Js + 1 L (Onyx L-87 who travels with Js) + the K14 family of 4 who were with them the other day. 

And the rest of K Pod (16) had been in the area several days ago.  They could be there too.

But then there was something else!
A lot of J and K pod calls and some really funny sounding calls too.

It's not about who wins or loses 'the game', but about how you allow the whales to draw you into their world.
To listen, to watch, and yet to never to fully understand them or why you are fascinated by them.
It's their gift to you.
In return, let us give them the gift of healthy oceans and abundant food.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

1-2-16 They Came From the North

Saturday, January 2nd
...prior to today, as far as I know, J Pod was last seen December 22nd, inbound in the Strait of Juan de Fuca...they must have turned and gone out that same day because today - 11 days later - they show up coming down from the north! (They do that in the winter from time to time.)

...when I first heard calls it was over the Lime Kiln hydrophones and then I turned up the speaker on the Orca Sound hydrophones and they were quite loud!
...I bolted out the door and got to the park as quickly as possible..the roads were still a bit icy, so... took a while to locate where the whales were in Haro Strait...knew they were coming down, I knew J Pod whales at least, but where were they?
...then a blow near that clearly on the left and one on the right...
...the first whale I saw through the binos was Granny J-2...sweet...
...they kept coming down, but there weren't very many...hummm... they got closer there were two at the surface...
...this is Yoda K-36...
...see the fish?! I almost missed it...this is Lea K-14...

...there was one other whale with them and when that whale surfaced it was Granny J-2...not far behind them was Lobo K-26...

...about 15 minutes later came Shachi J-19, mother of Eclipse J-41 and grandmother of Nova J-51...
...Nova was having an active time...

...there was a long span of time, no whales to be seen, but every once in a while some could be heard, faintly, over the hydrophones...once again it was, "where are they?"... some still coming down...
...Slick J-16 and her youngest Scarlet J-50...
...not far from them were Slick's oldest female offspring, Alki J-36 and her baby Sonic J-52...he is about three months younger than Scarlet...

...there were a couple whales very far off shore...difficult to get positive ID images, but from the size/shape of the dorsal fins, it could have been Slick's other two, Mike J-26 and Echo J-42, but I couldn't be certain...

...then ten minutes later another mother and calf came along...who is this?'s Princess Angeline J-17 and her newest, J-53! shore from them was Moby J-44...

...the rest of J Pod, I imagine was out there, spread far and wide...the Center for Whale Research was on scene so watch for their Encounter post from today to learn more...

...though the whales have been in split groupings a good portion of the time since 2010 - Group A and Group B  (see the side bar on the right for who is in which group) - today there were some members of both Group A and Group B, though I only saw 3 members of Group B - that would be Princess Angeline, Moby, and J-53...and those are only 3 members of her (J-17's) family that now consists of 8 whales!

...and my 'apologies' to the K14s...oh, how quickly in my mind I had you back with the rest of K Pod and not traveling with Granny's Group (Group A) - oops!
When J Pod came up the west side on December 16, it was only J Pod, no K Pod whales were present. 
They have been traveling with Granny's Group pretty much of the time since 2013...but it seemed that in the winter they had gone back to being with K Pod.
We shall see what they do next.

It's not uncommon to have J Pod come through here in the's more uncommon for them to do that in the middle of the day, on a nice sunny day, with pretty calm seas, even if it was cold!

Friday, January 1, 2016

1-1-16 Ending and Beginning

Ending 2015
8:29 pm on December 31, 2015 K Pod calls start to faintly come over the Port Townsend hydrophones...the calls didn't last very long - at first - a ferry came through and then more faint calls until about 9:25 pm.
That was about the best way I could spend New Year's Eve!
Beginning 2016
39 minutes into 2016 K Pod calls - again!...only this time they were coming over the Lime Kiln hydrophones...very faint, lasting just a few minutes.  "On the right track." I thought to myself...

1 hour and 47 minutes into 2016 K Pod calls - again! They were still coming over the Lime Kiln hydrophones but this time they were a bit louder and lasted about 30 minutes...

K Pod most likely headed back out the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Succession of births
Perhaps the whales, for the time being, have ended this succession of births.

Taking care of those babies
Perhaps the whales are back in their 'routine', now that the babies are born.
-When looking back at all the things that occurred with the whales during 2015, what stands out are the unusual groupings, unusual travel locations, actually just about everything.  What was most unusual was the birth of 8 babies.  It all makes sense now.

Last year at this time there were what I called 'fish sounds' or 'burp sounds' that got my attention.  In years past I had noticed a relationship to those sounds and to when the whales would show up, so last year I got diligent in recording what and when.  There was a definite relationship between those sounds and then the appearance of the whales. It wasn't about fish that the whales were eating but instead it was about these fish sounds (burps) that occurred before the whales showed up, sometimes by several days and then ended when the whales arrived.
Observations of SRKWs and Fish Sounds - 3-10-15

The "Paul Revere' of the Whales Are Coming - 3-18-15

Those Fish Sounds and Then - 3-30-15

Fish Sounds tracking Spring 2015

The end of March got very busy.  The fish sounds diminished and with three new babies the variables changed.

Fish Sounds tracking Winter 2015
Since J Pod, especially, has been gone for many days now - last seen on 12/22 - it's a good time to start paying attention to see what occurs this winter:  basically it's what sounds increase in frequency in the hours or days before the whales show up?

So far, for at least the past week there have been no fish sounds over the hydrophones at all. 

The Southern Resident Killer Whales are endangered because they don't have enough food to eat - #1 basic need - food.
Basic need from the humans:  make sure you do everything you can to see that these whales have a chance at survival into the future. 
Sign the Petition
Send it on to your friends
Make the Phone Calls
Write letters
There's lots of information here:

Also support:
The Whale Museum

The Center for Whale Research

Check out their Facebook pages - lots of good information there as well.

I can write about it over and over, but if people only want to see these magnificent animals and yet not take the time to act on their behalf, well, then...
...every little action you take for the whales is a helpful action...