A nice surprise to hear extremely faint J Pod calls early in the morning. And so the day began. And those calls got louder and the day more interesting...
SRKWs on the west side in late October & early November
In the early hours of today...a humpback was heard over the Lime Kiln hydrophones.
At first he seemed to be distant...then 'at' the hydrophones. This is cropped down to get the great parts, so there is a tiny pause early-on to eliminate when he wasn't making any sound.
It seemed like he was checking out the hydrophones and working on them too! (joke).
Sounded like he had a hammer! (toward the end)
Enjoy...it sure has me smiling!
A year has gone by. And this year, at least for a while Onyx was with the L subpod which consists of several matrlines. Who specifically among those? I think the answer is, 'only he knows for sure.' How would we know since they haven't been in the inland waters much at all this year.
The whales travel is changing, social groupings are changing and social groups are different, more so than in years past... 1) when there were more intact family groups, 2) when there were more whales in the entire community, 3) when they were here on a consistent basis as they 'used to be' in the spring, summer and fall, 4) when they didn't have to spread out for miles in search of food, 5) when there were fewer interruptions to their own personal lives, etc...
We know more of what they aren't doing than what they are doing.
For example, even though he was with that L subpod earlier in the year, word was that recently Onyx showed up with J Pod. HOWEVER, it wasn't clear if he was the ONLY L Pod whale present.
We know that he has 'connections' with each pod, as they all do, but he seems to have a different connection. Could it be from him having switched pods several times that he 'has connections' with each? Could it have anything to do with him having been with Granny J-2 (the matriarch of the SRKW community until her death in 2016) when she was still alive? Did he receive some kind of 'status' from that? (just grasping at straws here.)
Only the whales know for sure.
All I know is that I care and I hope you care and want these whales to survive and to recover from the downfall that has been occurring to their community for the last several years. Actually it's more than just several years. When I first came here in the late 1990's the SRKWs were being referred to as 'like the canary in the coal mine'.
If you don't know what 'like a canary in the coat mine' means then please look it up. It's serious and it matters.
May Onyx live long and keep us wondering. Hopefully enough people will see how important all the whales in the SRKW Community are that they are willing to change what they are doing to help them recover.
Thanks for reading this, if you did.
...this is the morning......when the whales came up island in the afternoon...
Foggy and rainy but not yet windy...good, because there are whales on the hydrophones! That was early this morning.
The first part are K Pod 'kitten sounding calls' then a slight break and J Pod calls. These would be common to listen for when learning to distinguish between these two pods. Listen for the difference tone. To me, K Pod is higher pitched than J Pod. (note: this morning there did not appear to be any L Pod calls.)
They were spread out as they came down Haro Strait, some foraging as they moved down island. Some were so far off shore they were barely visible. But that's what they do these days.
Thank you!...J and K pod whales for the gift of your presence.
It began shortly after 7:00am...SRKWs on the Lime Kiln hydrophones... I was now off an running....
She was quietly watching...it was obvious she was 'with them'...such a treat to see someone seeing their first Southern Resident orcas and be in total silence as they slowly approached one after another...
...soon her mother came on scene and she watched her daughter...no doubt she too was taken by the whales but also taken by how focused and silent her daughter was while watching them.
It was unusual in a few ways.
Not that they were spread all across Haro Strait. That has become common.
But unusual in seeing: no J Pod whales, 8 K Pod whales, and 5 L Pod whales, when there were actually 60 SRKWs present.
And to go along with that there were many K and L Pod calls and only a few J Pod calls, way in the distance.
The visual and the acoustic helped put it all together.
With all the information, publications, on-line and TV information about the importance of respecting the whales' space...there was one person, in what looked like a river kayak, who actually left the shoreline and went out and was turning one direction as they saw a whale and then turning to 'follow' it and then turning again another was spotted..
So what's the big deal?
Become an orca for a few minutes here...
"I use sound, I use my echolocation, I use my communication with other orcas as I navigate my waters. So when I see a 'log (aka kayak)' on the water I make note of the object. I now have something to pay attention to. Usually a 'log' bobs along with the current so it's no big deal. But when the 'log' keeps changing direction I now have to take time away from my foraging/travel/watching out for my little ones, etc. to make sure that 'log' doesn't get too close. There isn't any noise from that 'log' but it's not normal for a 'log' to act this way. And it sure gets in the way of my chasing after a meal when I have to pay attention to an 'unreliable' object."
Just because you don't have a motor does not mean you have no impact on the orcas' world. Staying tight to shore in the kelp, out of the path of the whales, a person still gets to 'be there' with them without disturbing the whales.
In this instance it was sad to see a person on shore encouraging this behavior. So it opened the door to have conversation about what had occurred. Hopefully there is greater understanding by one more person.
Think of the whales first, please.
This is their home and not ours.
It has been a very busy several days...
Most important to note is that WDFW has issued another emergency ruling, today Sept 13. This time one that brings hope coupled with concern for the 3, yes, three who are in late-term pregnancy:
Alki J-36, Hy'Shqa J-37, and Shachi J-19.
The whales have had a difficult time over the last several years. Maybe them having spent an unusual amount of time along the outer coast has provided the food, less disturbance and quiet needed during this later portion of their 17 month gestation time.
J Pod was already here and spending time up near the Fraser River. K Pod and some L Pod whales - Onyx L-87, L-90, the L55s, L86s (including new calf L-125), L72s, and the L47s. K and L pod whales came in on Sept 9th and met up with J Pod and they all went north toward the Fraser River.
(Not present were the L12s and the L54s, which is not uncommon, as these two groups often travel on their own and sometimes come into the inland waters by themselves, as the L54s had done the last part of August and into September.)
Since I'm far behind in all this...here are a few images from the most recent sighting along the west side which was on September 12...It began at around 6a.m. hearing the whales over the hydrophones and then seeing them which was almost an all day event, a reminder of how it used to be for the whales. Here are just a few images of the morning portion which lasted until at least 11 a.m.