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Friday, May 14, 2010

Part of L-Pod Returns!

Yesterday we heard the exciting news that many killer whales were southbound from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. We all expected them to be residents, but who? And when would they show up? They had more than a hundred miles to cover to get here by today, but early this morning they were seen of Nanaimo. The buzz among the whale-watch community was incredible this morning. As we left the dock there were still no reports, but we were hopeful.

Shortly into our trip we got the call we were waiting for - that there were whales in Active Pass. Active Pass is a narrow channel in the Canadian Gulf Islands that the orcas often use, but they almost always travel through it from west to east. Today, for the second year in a row, after coming down the inside passage they transited through from east to west - very odd!

The first thing we saw when we got on scene was several big splashes in the distance from breaches. As they continued south towards us I could hardly wait to see who was present. The first whale I identified was the adult male L79 Skana:

I'm totally speculating here, but the whales really seemed as excited to be back to their summer home as we are to have them. They were going crazy as they made their way down Swanson Channel, with multiple breaches, cartwheels, and tail slaps, as well as an occasional spyhop. Here are a few photos that capture the spectacle: the first one is L22 Spirit about to crash down from a breach, the next is a tail slap by L85 Mystery, and the third one is an enthusiastic cartwheel by another L-Pod female:

Whenever the whales first return from a long absence (this part of L-Pod hasn't been seen since February when they made a quick pass through the San Juan Islands), it is always exciting to see who all is there. In addition to figuring out which pods are present, we want to make sure that all members of a family group have returned and see if there are any new calves. The official word isn't in yet as to who was there, but from my photographs I was able to positively ID L12, L22, L25, L41, L73, L79, L85, and L89. From this I concluded that the L12, L5, and L54 family groups were present - a total of up to 19 whales if they were all present. Here is a picture of L73 Flash:

Now the big question is, will they stick around? We sure hope so! And maybe the rest of the Southern Residents will come in soon to meet up with them....J-Pod just stayed for two and a half days on their last short visit, but we expect to be seeing more of them and the other residents any day now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the photos! our orca watching trip with you was great

-Joe Bez from seattle, WA