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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Js (and the L12s!) Off the Pender Islands

Lately I have seen a lot of jumping fish in the area - both large salmon and smaller bait fish. The word is the fish runs are strong this year and that is great news for all the local marine wildlife. In the last few days I have seen many bait balls and multiple minke whales, which are undoubtedly enjoying the schooling fish. Here is one rhinoceros auklet I saw today:

The good salmon runs are likely responsible for the fact that orca sightings continue to be fantastic. This afternoon we headed north and caught up with J-Pod just as they passed Turn Point and started crossing Boundary Pass. With the beautiful clear weather this made for some great photo-ops with Mt. Baker in the background. This shot shows J1 Ruffles in the foreground:

We followed the whales across Boundary Pass to the Pender Islands in Canada. They were spread out over a couple of miles but the first group we spent time with included J1 Ruffles, J2 Granny, and the entire J14 family group. As I scanned the waters it seemed reasonable to assume we had most if not all of J-Pod in the area. Next we came across J8 Spieden:

J8 Spieden was rolling around on the surface with a male, who I thought was J26 Mike. Nearby were J19 Shachi and J41 Eclipse, so at the time it seemed like we still had just J-Pod whales in the area. Not so! After I got home and looked at my photos closer, I noticed that L12 Alexis was traveling right with J19 Shachi. That made me doubt my original ID, and sure enough it turns out the male playing with J8 Spieden was actually L79 Skana! So at least some L-Pod whales were there too! Here's L79 Skana, who was right behind J8 Spieden, at time swimming upside down underneath her:

It's never safe to make assumptions when it comes to the whales, because as soon as you think you know what they're going to do they do something completely different and surprise you. I'm still puzzling over some of my photos to figure out who all was there today!

For a while we continued to follow the whales slowly north, and several of them were right along the shoreline maybe just yards from shore. Before it was time for us to leave, however, a few of them pulled a little further offshore and started getting much more active, which was a great joy to watch. Here is L79 Skana surfacing in front of another male doing an inverted tail slap:

I recently posted a sequence of photos showing a female whale spyhopping followed shortly thereafter by her calf. Today we saw one better, a mom and calf spyhopping simultaneously! I think it was J35 Talequah and her first-born calf J47:

The last group of whales we saw came by at high speed, porpoising out of the water and creating huge splashes. I think this whale is L85 Mystery:

On the way home we passed what looked like it may have been a wildfire on Stuart Island, and a little later we saw a fire boat heading out that way. I hope everything is okay out there!

1 comment:

Rhett Wilkins said...

Hi Monika,

My Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel can't compete with your Rhinoceros Auklet.

I hope you're enjoying the San Juans. I'm very jealous.

Rhett W.