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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Close Encounter With J-Pod

Yesterday afternoon I headed out to Lime Kiln Point State Park, and was immediately filled with disappointment as I saw whales were already passing by heading north. Even though I thought I had missed them, I walked down to the shoreline to get a better idea of what was going on. Sure enough, as many of the observers who had watched the first passby headed back to their cars, the whales turned around and started coming back south. Perhaps because they were swimming against a strong flood tide, several of the whales came close to shore - often there is a counter current along the shoreline here which might have made for easier swimming. My disappointment was replaced with anticipation as I saw them angling in towards the lighthouse. I found myself sitting on a different rock than normal, which gave me this awesome vantage point of a whale passing the lighthouse while excited viewers looked on:

Prints of this photo available here

The whales surfaced right in front of me, probably no more than 50 feet away. There's no words to describe the feeling of being that close to a wild killer whale. Here are a few shots:

L53 Lulu, who at some time recently switched from L-Pod (with whom she spent the winter) to J-Pod, as she's done the last several years

J40 Suttles
J41 Eclipse - a very special whale to me since I saw her just a few days after she was born in 2005. It's amazing to see how much she's grown since last year. I've started making some photo galleries featuring specific whales, and by request J41 was the first whale I did. See some of my favorite photos of her here.
I compared notes with fellow whale-watcher Jeanne, and we determined that J2 Granny, J19 Shachi, J41 Eclipse, J37 Hy'shqa, J40 Suttles, J41 Eclipse, and L53 Lulu were all in the group of whales that passed close to shore. J8 Spieden and L87 Onyx were further offshore, with the rest of the J14 family group.

I headed a little further south along the shoreline, where this group of whales stalled out and foraged in the strong tide rips. (The rest of the pod was reportedly much further south in Haro Strait.) I watched them until about 5:30.

J19 Shachi with J41 Eclipse, foraging in the strong currents off of Land Bank Westside Preserve

The grand finale of the afternoon was another close passby, this time by a turkey vulture:

I'm guessing the two groups of whales eventually reunited, as between 8:30 and 9:00 PM I heard lots of great vocalizations on the Lime Kiln hydrophones.


Jessica said...

Amazing. I love killer whales (and dolphins.) They have been my favorite animals since childhood. I even thought of studying marine biology when I was young but... (Maybe in another life.) I'm from Everett but as a military wife I'm currently living in the south and we move frequently. I just recently found your site and I look forward to seeing more sights from home and enjoying your wonderful photography of the wildlife there. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

The K said...

The photo of the orca with the lighthouse in the back is simply outstanding -- right spot, right time, perfect shot. Thanks for sharing.