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Monday, July 20, 2009

K-Pod From Lime Kiln

Whale-watching is part of my job, so what do I do on my days off? Whale-watch, of course! This afternoon I hung out on the westside of San Juan Island and was lucky enough to see K-Pod twice: once as they headed north and again as they came south. When they were swimming south they were fighting against a strong flood tide going in the opposite direction. They often swim closer to shore in these conditions, presumably to take advantage of the back eddies that will help them along. They also seem to put more effort into their swimming. Here is K20 Spock lunging high out of the water as she fights the current:

Lately it seems like all four of K13 Skagit's offpsring have been hanging out together, whether she is around or not. That was the case today when K20 Spock, K25 Scoter, K27 Deadhead, and K34 Cali were all together along with Spock's first offpsring K38 Comet. Spock is such a distinctive whale with her bold open saddle patch (an open saddle patch has black in it, as opposed to a solid saddle patch that is all gray). Here she is with younger brother Cali:

K27 Deadhead is more of a non-descript whale, having a "plain" saddle patch and no distinguishing features like notches or nicks on her dorsal fin. She used to be really hard for me to identify for those reasons, but with the whole family group traveling together as of late it's easier to find her. Here's a nice look at her in the photo below. She's 15....having a calf soon would definitely help find her in a crowd, and she's just about that age! Notice L87 Onyx diving in the background behind her:

After that whole family group traveling by next came the K14 and K16 families. A family is always named for the oldest female in the matriline - so the K14s include K14 and all of her offspring, and any of her offpsring's offpsring if they were old enough. K14 had a new calf last year, K42, who now that he has survived his first year of life will get a name this year. There's a pretty high mortality rate during year one, so it's always great to see the little ones return and see how much they have grown. Here is K42 following along with his family:

Even with a baby like K42 in tow, older siblings will still follow along with their mothers. Resident killer whales are unique in that both male and female offpsring stay with their mother for their entire life. Here is K36 Yoda with mom K14 Lea - she was named after Princess Leia, having been born the same year (1977) as Star Wars was released. As a Star Wars fan myself, it irks me to no end that they spelled her name wrong!

Finally, there were some kayakers just offshore of my perch on the rocks that got a pretty sweet view today, as well. Earlier in the day there were some "bad" kayakers that paddled right out into the middle of the whales and kept paddling to keep right with them. The kayakers in the photo below are demonstrating compliance with the current guidelines, which is to raft up and stay in a kelp bed while the whales go by. They got rewarded with an awesome view of 6 whales swimming in a line right past them!


Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

Lovely photographs of the majestic creature!

TV Tower on Sinhagad - Going Inside Clouds

Warren Baker said...

Hi monika - your as crazy about whales as I am birds ! Great pics again.

PS i'm up to 18 species of Butterflies on my patch this year.
How about showing us your flutterby's.

Monika said...

Thanks Bhavesh!

Warren - Its true, I'm quite an "orcaholic". Trust me, I've been casually trying on the butterflies but with no luck - I just can't get them to sit still! Its often breezy here so that doesn't help. I've just been trying opportunistically though, so I think I'll have to go out specifically for a butterfly jaunt and give it a fuller effort. I'll definitely post my results!

Warren Baker said...

Looking forward to those flutterers Monika.

Use a long lens, you dont have to get so close then!

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Ah Warren - you give away your secrets - and there was me thinking I had to go super-macro at 1cm from the quarry...Now I know what I'm doing wrong. Good luck Monika we are looking forward to some WA butterflies - hope the wind drops for you (and us!).


Vickie said...

Great post and images. This is the first time I have understood the pod names. I liked the shot of the kyakers respectfully watching the pod go by. That must be an awesome experience.

Monika said...

Warren and Dave - I'll try to get some butterfly shots soon! Sounds like we'll be having good weather for it next week. I just picked up a checklist of local butterfly species to help me with IDs, too.

Vickie - Hmm, maybe I should explain the whales names better in one of my upcoming posts. Whale-watching from a kayak is truly a special experience. I've been lucky enough to have it happen to me once. People come here to experience just that, but its not as common as people think with the whales traveling such great distances every day, but you definitely feel a part of their world and it is a humbling experience!

Unknown said...

I hope that I can photograph the whales from shore when my daughter and I are up there in a few weeks!
Great photos again!!

Unknown said...

When I was there in June, I went down to not American Camp but the other one near Roche. I can't remember the name of it. But anyway, there were several butterflies along the trail from the parking lot. Difficult to photograph as you mention, but after following them a little bit and ready to photograph them at any given time, I got a decent photo of one. However, I only wished I had a longer lens than the one I had on then. Good luck with the Butterflies! :):)