Saturday, August 27, 2022

8-27-2022 Looking for Seals, eh?

 It has been 14 days since the SRKWs were seen in Haro Strait.

The boat that sank is due to be brought up tomorrow (8-28).  You can see US Coast Guard Pacific Northwest for updates as to the status.

The other preparations that are occurring are the team consisting of U.S. and Canada people in official capacity, The Whale Museum - Soundwatch, San Juan County Marine Stranding Network, Wild Orca, Dept of Fisheries and Oceans (Canada), US Coast Guard, and others (apologies for anyone I left out).

Had you been a pleasure boater or just casually scanning into the distance you might have thought these were a bunch of fishing boats or a boat group having a party.

However, they were together to practice various postures they might need to take to deter oncoming SRKWs who were heading into an oil spill.  I could see them from a great distance and couldn't figure out what they were doing until there was a report about what they were doing.

Some people have expressed concern.  I got to where I just had to reply and here is my reply.  

"Some have had a difficult time with the idea of noise to deter the SRKWs. So I wrote a reply. I wanted it to be displayed on my FB page directly and not just as a comment: Here is what I wrote:
I understand concerns expressed here. Several years ago I watched from shore as the whales were coming up island, their path of travel was aiming right at a seiner with their nets out. When they saw the whales approaching they started banging on the side of boat and did not stop until the whales turned and went back down island. As the whales came up, they slowed, paused and turned back.
The seiner finished their work and a while later the whales came back up island as if nothing had occurred.
In the case of an oil spill I would prefer the whales turn away from potential life threatening danger than to watch no attempt be made to save these whales from inhaling toxins.
Please remember the whales pass on information to one another and generation to generation and surely Granny J2 taught them well. Remember all they have gone through and they continue to press onward because they have learned and remember.
It pains me to think that some people would prefer nothing be done to help save the SRKWs."

I do my best to allow people to have their own opinion, but when it comes to doubting what others are doing to help save the whales is not helpful.  

So today Saturday 8-27, I get a call that whales are moving up island and are very close to shore. Oh, no!!  I got to Lime Kiln asap and ran down to the lighthouse.  Ten seconds later I heard a blow and it was loud. and oh my, goodness, right along the shore!

Below image is zoomed in version of the above image.  He was in the kelp.  I bet he was looking for harbor seals.

There were two.

They are Transients.

They were there at 7:26 a.m.

They dove just before the lighthouse and poof!  they disappeared!

Later I learned from a friend who was staying at County Park that they came inside Low Island. They must have been looking for seals. they went north...good time to run errands in town.

....oops! they had gone up island likely up around Henry and then came back down through Mosquito Pass. There were 2 whales and at least 11 boats.  Well, I saw the boats sooner than the whales...and it seemed the whales had fooled the boats because some of the boats headed offshore as if they had spotted them...when all of a sudden there was one 'at my feet' - momentary and amazing!

The whales continued on their line...this taken from County Park. 

It might be difficult to see the whales in this image but on the left side is the point at the south end of County Park and they were steadily going down island...hurry to the park!

And another point of land but this time it's on the opposite side. Looking up island from Lime Kiln lighthouse and it's not easy to spot just two whales in not very calm water.  But...

...and then - right along the shore - again!

...and again, surfacing with kelp on his dorsal fin, in the same spot he had it on his dorsal fin in the morning.

Still looking for seals, eh.

...There haven't been as many seals along Lime Kiln as in previous years.  I wonder if the Ts are making a dent in the seal population here. 

...They continued down island but more offshore and last I saw one through the binoculars he was heading west.


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Observations after the Boat Sinking

-boat sank 8/13/22 in mid afternoon

-SRKWs were on their way inbound and did not reach the west side of the island until about 20:30. Images were taken from Pile Pt. with a statement that the whales appeared to be heading down island and offshore.

-the next day the whales were seen in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the Coho ferry between Pt. Angeles to Victoria. Three researchers were on the Coho and ID'd the whales and stated that most all but the L54s were present.  K-44 and L-89 – each had not been seen in many months, so unrelated to this event.

7 days later, 8-20, seen in the morning off Hannah Heights, heading north, close to shore were two humpback whales. By the time they were approaching County Park they were very far offshore, could barely see the HBs except for the prominent exhale (blow).  Looking from shore at County Park the HBs had not quite reached the middle of the parallel to the County Park lawn viewing area when the HBs turned and headed farther to the west. 

A few hours later Ts were seen off Discovery Island coming into Haro Strait. Many boats were with them as they traveled in CA waters and were far from shore.  They came into U.S. waters north toward Lime Kiln and then turned to going down island when they were just south of Lime Kiln area. 

Transients and humpbacks are unpredictable, though HBs more often continue on their direction, eventually.

Transients are the least predictable. 

Southern Residents are the most predictable, though in this case it was a surprise that they headed back out to sea in the middle of the night (based on where they were seen the next morning) when more often they would stay off the south end of SJI and head north up Haro in the middle of the night or early the next morning. If that had been the case, they would have passed through the oil spill area.  Sometimes, in the past, they have done this travel, with no sounds of their presence over the Lime Kiln hydrophones.

This time they were not heard because they had left Haro Strait and were heading back out to sea.

Any relationship to anything?

I don’t know. However, I find the SRKWs behavior of leaving so soon, after just arriving, to be unusual.
As of August 23, morning, they remain far to the west or out to sea.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Whales and Oil Spills Don't Mix

This is about what has occurred on August 13 through August 16, my thoughts, etc.

(There are many sites that have detailed information on some of what was going on.  Do a search for San Juan Island Oil Spill)

Word came that many SRKWs were inbound in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Center for Whale Research reported in their encounter report that all Js, Ks, and most of the L Pod whales were present, except, of course, the L54 group.  They often do not come in with the others, so it's not surprising that they were not present.

They were a good distance west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  They might not get to the west side until close to dark.  Ah, but they did and then they went down island toward Eagle Point area where they will sometimes 'camp out' for the night and come up at the crack of dawn the next morning.  That is something they have done often this year.

Well before the whales reached the west side there was an INCIDENT that occurred.  Not directly related to the whales but something that has the potential to cause great harm to them, the ecosystem and all the aquatic and non-aquatic beings.

There was a purse seiner boat that was off County Park. It was in the afternoon and 'all of a sudden' the boat started taking on water. It sank. A Good Samaritan rescued the five people who were on the sinking boat.  The boat sank to the ocean floor.  How deep?  Ocean floors are not necessarily level as we think of a 'floor'.  At first it was at about 100' but later it moved and evidently ended up being a lot deeper. 

The response by the USCG was awesome and continues to be that way. Other agencies as well, but I just don't remember them all.  However, they are local, state and federal and all working together to contain the fuel and oil on the surface.  - Yes, it is a real horrible thing that has happened along the west side. 

The oil spill at the early stages was said to be almost 2 miles long. Later it spread out into Haro Strait going into Canadian waters, and that's about 2 or more miles from shore. Booms were set up at the opening to some small bays, a place where the oil could easily end up.

So what did the whales do?  It was an all-nighter listening to the hydrophones hoping to NOT hear any calls, which is what occurred.  Whew!  However, the whales will sometimes come up Haro Strait totally undetected over the hydrophones - not even a whisper.  

Early morning Augst 14 - okay, where are you whales? But would it be an 'easy find'?  Of course not.  There were whales seen in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and as luck would have it, 3 or 4 very knowledgeable SRKW people were able to ID SRKWs!  Yay?  But it was only a dozen or so...hmmm where were the other 50?  Another group of whales were seen in Active Pass...likely some of the SRKWs which would have meant they went right through the fuel/oil spill. Oh, no!

Now to add a bit of levity to it all, though this is a very serious subject.

Why would the whales come all the way in and then turn and leave before going north to check out the salmon availability near the Fraser River?  Here's the 'levity':  The whales realized that who they came to visit was Ken Balcomb, but he wasn't here he was over on the Olympic Peninsula and not far from there is where the SRKWs were spotted in the morning and later a report came that the only ones not seen were the L54s - as I mentioned - that's what the L54s will do!

A huge sigh of relief went through the whale community to know that none of the SRKWs had gone through the spill in the night.

The whales continued going west and kept on. As of Tuesday, August 16 they have not returned. I didn't think I would ever 'ask the whales to Stay Away' but that's what many have been saying.

The response teams from the many agencies had their hands full with the spill work and the whales helped by not being here.  Let's hope they stay out to sea a bit longer.

Today, Tuesday August 16, there was a group of humans learning/practicing coordination and the how-tos to deter the whales should they come in and head toward 'dangerous' water for them.

People have asked, 'Don't the whales know enough to stay away?  No, they do not.  Look up: Exon Valdes oil spill. 

So, for now, I've put my observations and thoughts here so I won't forget.  

This is a HUGE 'wake-up call' for making plans, preparation, practice, and to always be ready to go the distance for the environment and all it's creatures.  Oh, that includes us too. 


Friday, August 12, 2022

What the Whales were Up To!

First Part of August - there was a lot of activity/action. J Pod, the L12s and the group of 18 L pod whales, who travel together, came in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. the following day they all went north.  The L12s came back down in the middle of the night. The others had continued north.  The group of 18 L pod whales came down Rosario Strait on the eastern side of these islands and the mainland...some people on the ferry had a treat!

They met up with the L12s. The following day J Pod came down Rosario Strait.

Okay, it was a confusing few days - who was where & when!!

You just never know who might be looking at you!


You don't always know what might be coming your way!

...or what they might do!


J Pod stayed the longest, the L12s the second and the large group of 18 L Pod whales departed first.  The L54s might not have come in with the others.

J Pod came down island August 9, late in the day.  They were very spread out & most were within a 1/2 mile from shore.  
Though this one appears to be in a hurry, most did not.  They were pushing against an oncoming current.

Mike J-26 stopped just off the lighthouse to do some foraging.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

7-27-2022 What are those 'Speckles' on that whale?

Wanted to get this up just a quick look at J-59.

J-59 is about 4 months old.

I checked with CWR researcher, and he said this is about the time that skin slough occurs.

This is wild on this little one! 

That's it! This deserves it's very own post because it's so very unique!