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Sunday, July 27, 2008

J-Pod Families

Today on the Western Prince we got to spend some time with two separate J-Pod family groups. We met up with Js in the northern part of Haro Strait, and they were very spread out with a mile or more between different families. The first group we came across was the J14s. Samish (J14) is the matriach, and her youngest calf Suttles (J40) still looked very small next to her despite turning four years old this year. Hy'shqa (J37) and Riptide (J30) were also there, and they were quite playful on the surface between long dives. At one point Hy'shqa and Suttles surfaced together, and one of them spyhopped while the other lifted its tail high into the air. Later on Samish pushed Suttles at the surface while she waved her little flukes in the air! Despite being the matriarch of the family Samish seemed to be encouraging the play as she lifted her tail, draped in kelp, three times in a row.

Next we found the J22s, a group we affectionately call "The Cookies" since they are named Oreo (J22), Doublestuf (J34), and Cookie (J38). Also hanging out with them was Rhapsody (J32), who often spends time with her aunt Oreo since she has no other immediate family. Cookie was traveling right in mom's slipstream while Doublestuf was a little further offshore lunging at the surface, probably in pursuit of a salmon.

An interesting note about Oreo is that she has little black spots in her eyepatch, as seen in the photo below. Usually the whales' eyepatches are purely white, but I've learned for the last few years that every individual whale looks different. Some whales have clean oval eyepatches while others are shaped like a peanut and have gradual fading edges. It's just another example of how every one of our Southern Resident killer whales is a unique individual!

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