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Friday, July 3, 2009

Western Explorer Trip - Js, Ks, and Ls off Turn Point

It was another warm morning today, so it felt great to get on the water and into the cool breeze for a trip on the Western Explorer. We started out by cruising along Spieden Island, where we saw some exotic Mouflon sheep, a couple of harbor seal moms and pups, and some great views of bald eagles. We came across the eagle who was sitting on the ground, and it looked like it was getting ready to take flight, so we stayed put for a minute to wait and see. Sure enough, it took flight and headed over to perch near its nest.

You can see the huge eagle nest above the perched eagle on the right side of the trunk. There is a chick in the nest this year, but it must have been hunkered down out of sight.

K and L pods came in from the ocean last night and met up with J-Pod. Today, we were excited to hear that all three pods were still together. When we caught up with them north of San Juan Island, we saw mostly J and K Pod whales. Supposedly there were some Ls with them, and the rest of L-Pod turned around and was hanging out off the south end of San Juan Island. There were still A LOT of dorsal fins to be seen, as there were maybe 50-60 whales in the vicinity and many of them were traveling in tight groups:

There were dorsal fins near and far, since some whales were close to shore and other groups were stretched out across the strait. This picture captures some of that, but I also like it because of who's in it. That's J14 Samish with five-year-old J40 Suttles in the foreground and J19 Shachi and four-year-old J41 Eclipse in the background. When Suttles and Eclipse were just a year or two old, I often saw them playing together and chasing each other around, with one mom or the other babysitting the two of them while the other one got the afternoon "off":

Being 4th of July weekend, there was a decent amount of boat traffic out and about. Not just whale-watchers and private yachters, but we actually saw the Washington State Ferry en route from Sidney, BC to Friday Harbor stop and watch the whales. A freighter also came through - one of about 30 or so that heads through Haro Strait every day. Here you can see the tall dorsal fins of adult males J30 Riptide (in the back) and K21 Cappuccino (up front) as the freighter goes past:

Cappuccino was traveling with his big sister K40 Raggedy, as he often does. The two of them are pretty inseperable. K40 has an interesting story, as she was originally identified as being an L-Pod whale and was designated L40. When they figured out she really belonged in K-Pod, they changed her alphanumeric designation to K40, and never named another L40 to avoid confusion. She's also a 45 year-old female that has never been seen with a calf, so the speculation is she may be infertile. I bet you can tell by looking closely at the picture below (click on it for a larger version if you have to) why her name is Raggedy:

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