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Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Good Old Fashioned "Whale Chase"

When I went to work in the Western Prince office this morning, I heard that K-Pod had last been sighted west of here heading west, looking like they were heading back out to the open ocean. I was invited to go out on the boat, and I was tempted because it's one of our last trips of the season, but I had some things to do in town so I declined. As soon as I got home from my errands, however, I got a text message saying that you could hear K-Pod over the Lime Kiln hydrophones! Sure enough, as I tuned in I could hear the characteristic high-pitched S16 and S17 calls of K-Pod. Knowing I might be too late, I quickly gathered my stuff, rushed to my car, and drove to the west side of the island to try and see them.

Big adult male Lobo (K26). As the rest of the pod grouped up, he broke off and started traveling parallel to the group but further offshore. We often see another big adult male (Ruffles J1) do this same thing.

As I reached Land Bank, I pulled over to scan Haro Strait. Nothing. As I stood there with binoculars however, another car pulled over, then two, three, four! It turns out I wasn't the only one who had gotten word on the whales! I ended up being joined by a local homeowner and whale lover, a research scientist, a whale watch boat captain, and a couple on vacation from Idaho. As we talked about where the whales could be, we got word that they had already traveled quickly north. So, most of us decided to caravan in our cars up to San Juan County Park further north to see what we could see. This, by the way, is exactly how I define a whale chase - driving from point to point along the island to try and catch up with the whales!

At San Juan County Park we could see the whales in the distance heading away from us. "Oh well, at least I got to see them at all," I thought. But then Jim Maya, the aforementioned whale watch boat captain, offered to take us out on his boat for a short visit with the whales. How could I refuse?!

As we met up with K-Pod, the first two whales we saw were Georgia (K11) and Onyx (L87), a male who has been traveling with K-Pod this year. Soon after we arrived the whales grouped up. and started heading back south. The lighting was perfect and I got a chance to get some great ID shots, so I figured out we definitely saw most of the K-Pod family groups including:
  • Mom Lea (K14) with son Lobo (K26), 5 year old Yoda (K36), and little K42
  • Mom Sequim (K12) with daughter Sekiu (K22), grandson Tika (K33), and 5 year old Rainshadow (K37)
  • Mom Spock (K20) with her little one Comet (K38)
  • Brothers Scoter (K25) and Cali (K34)
Noticeably absent was Cappuchino (K21), the biggest adult male in K-Pod, but he has been known to travel with L-Pod at times and I suspect that's where he and his sister Raggedy (K40) may be. The only other K-Pod whales I didn't identify in my photos are, coincidentally (haha), some of the ones that are most difficult to identify with fairly non-descript solid saddle patches - so I suspect the other four of them could easily have been in there.

I love seeing whales in October! We even got to see three breaches in a row before we headed back to the harbor:


Vickie said...

I so enjoy your photos! Thank you.

The K said...

Your story reminds of Alexander Graham Bell's quote: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." Looks like you saw the door that opened for you. Good job.

Michele Wassell said...

What a way to live! Love your photos.. Lighting was beautiful.. Tell Jim Maya I said hello... :)

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

If only our porpoises were as easy to see and photgraph!

Best wishes