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Friday, July 18, 2008

Return of the Missing Ls


I had heard rumors that the missing L-Pod whales discussed a few posts ago had been seen in the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (hence no panic as to their well-being), but simply had not been "in" to the San Juans yet this year. Yesterday, I heard a large group of Ls had come in, but they met up with Js and Ks in the middle of the straits and I feared that they were all going to go "out" for the third Thursday night in a row.

That all changed this morning. I was on-call for work, and got the call to come hop on the boat. We headed north, since we had heard that all the whales (for the first time this summer, all 87 whales together again!) had headed up that way late last night. The first report was of Js at the coal docks heading north - far away and heading the wrong direction. Then a call about whales maybe seen at Lummi Island, so we checked out some harbor seals and bald eagles off in that direction. Then - yes! Whales coming south down Bellingham Channel. It took us 90 minutes to get there, but we got to see a large group of L-Pod off the south end of Cypress Island. It's so nice to see all those young adult male's tall dorsal fins out there again. All the whales were active with lots of cartwheels, tail slaps, and a few breaches for good measure - hopefully a sign they're getting enough to eat if they can be that exuberant! The closest group we got to parallel was none other that L74 and the L54s - some of the "missing links", so I got my confirmation that they are indeed back.

The above photo of L100 (a member of the L54s) was taken last summer off Lime Kiln Lighthouse. It was unusual to see that family group so close to shore, as they are often out in the ocean more than some of the other Ls.

5 comments:

Jeanne said...

Hey Monika - I met someone who was on your boat trip yesterday and she told me about you seeing the L-54s - too cool...Glad to know they are back and that Coho was there too!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Monika!

I heard you guys encountered some of the missing L's. I was hoping that you took lots of photos of who you saw, and if you could forward them to me at the Center. Talk to you later :)

Courtney

Monika Wieland said...

Hey Courtney,

I tried to call you back but wasn't able to reach you, and I don't have your e-mail address.. Unfortunately I didn't take photos since I was working. Still, I conferred with the other naturalist on board and we agreed on who we saw: L74, L54, L100, and L108. How weird that the ~40 whales we had in the morning turned into the 9 Js for the boats in the afternoon before they snuck out the next day.

Were they really considered missing? I heard through someone else that Ken had seen all the Ls in the west Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Anonymous said...

Hey Monika,

I know! I lost your number too! Do you have a Facebook?

Bummer about no photos -- we can't officially say who is present without photo ID confirmation, but at least we have some credible eye witnesses. Yes, some of them were considered missing. Ken did encounter the L9s, L2's and L54's, but did not see L74, L2, or L5. BUT, the weather conditions were rough, so he could have missed those guys. L74 is the one we are really worried about because he is so easily mistaken as L85 in the field, so photos of him are very important.

You should convice Ivan to let you guys take photos while you're working. We don't go out everyday (one less boat on the water) and we do receive photos from everyday people to validate who saw whom. At the very least, tell him you are contributing to science!

Anyway, give me a call sometime at the Center (you know the number)! I read your thesis, and it rocks. Im doing something similar for a masters project...maybe we can bounce ideas off eachother? Take care!

Court

Monika Wieland said...

Sometimes we do take photos on the boat while working (Ivan does allow it), but I don't want it to detract from the customer's experience so it just depends on the day whether I do or not. If I had known photos were that important it would have been a different story, but I was under the impression that they had all been seen since I had heard about Ken's sighting and, as mentioned in my previous post about the Ls, no one has seemed that publicly concerned about their absence.

I'm pretty confident it was L74, since his fin is broader than L85 and his right side saddle patch (how I viewed him) has a "bump" that L85 lacks. Hopefully they'll just all show up again soon so we can all get confirmation of those Ls.

You can find me on facebook, and I would love to chat sometime about acoustics.