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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Nothing Like Surprise Whales....In March!!

We were heading out to the west side of the island to go for a hike, and while driving past Land Bank I quickly scanned Haro Strait, as I always do, only to exclaim, "I just saw a whale!" That immediately changed plans, so I quickly pulled over and headed down towards the water with camera in hand. Seeing the whales is always exciting, especially in March which is a time they're still not expected to be around much, and ESPECIALLY when you have no idea they're in the area and they make a surprise appearance! Needless to say, I was all smiles.

I spotted about three whales pretty quickly, but they were all going down for very long dives, so it was good timing that I saw one surface initially. The first whale I saw, a male, headed south, and then there was always a mother and calf a little ways to the north. I was able to identify them as J28 and J46 - so it was J-Pod that had come in! They were just milling around, quite a ways offshore, but we found a spot to settle in out of the wind and see what would happen.

While watching the whales, quite a few interesting birds came by, including a harlequin duck, a black oystercatcher, a pair of red-breasted mergansers, and this immature bald eagle:

Then it seemed the whales were starting to head north with more of a purpose, and to the south I spotted a group of seven whales heading our direction. Here's two of them startling a cormorant:

Offshore two males came by, who I was able to identify from my photos as J27 Blackberry (left) and J34 Doublestuf (right). I can't believe how big Doublestuf is compared to last year! At 13 years old, his fin has really sprouted.

The group of five or six females and juveniles came in closest to shore, maybe about 200-250 yards off. It looked like J31 Tsuchi and J39 Mako, Blackberry's younger siblings, were in this group. It was exhilarating to hear whales breathe again after a 4-5 month absence. 

It wasn't until the whales had moved on that I realized how icy cold my hands had gotten. After planning to go for a walk in the woods, I wasn't quite dressed warmly enough for the breezy shoreline, and it's funny how you don't notice those things when the whales are in front of you, only after they're gone.

It was so great to see them....I wonder if they'll stay around for a few days? I'll have to keep my eyes out!


Lois Evensen said...

I have enjoyed your blog for some time now and realize you are not just a casual watcher of wild life. My husband and I spend half of each year at sea (where he has worked for 45 years) and have been to most parts of the world. We see a great deal of wild life. I am impressed how you are able to individually identify the animals that you see.

Scott Veirs said...

Keep an ear to the tracks, too. I wonder if we'll ever hear northbound whales on the Venus hydrophones --

Scott Veirs said...

Also, here's some recordings from Lime Kiln --

Anonymous said...

Am reading your post breathlessly to say you saw J pod with J1 as well :(...but no ,(

Monika said...

Lois - We have a unique situation here with the same 80 whales returning to this area year after year and being seen daily throughout the summer. It allows us to know the animals individually in a way that's very rare with wild creatures.

Scott - Thanks for the link to the Venus hydrophones; I had missed the news about that - very cool.

Anonymous - Yes, I know many eyes were searching for him today, but without any luck.

eileeninmd said...

Monika, I would be excited as you seeing the whales. Is March too early for them? Wonderful photos and I enjoyed your post.

Monika said...

Eileen - March is still a time when the whales are less common. We expect them to start showing up more in April and May, then stay around a lot until sometime in October, though they do come through occasionally throughout the rest of the year. Always an extra special treat during the "off season"!