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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Counting Animals

Yesterday at Lime Kiln I saw a nice variety of wildlife, including....

1 bald eagle
2 Dall's porpoises
3 harbor seals
4(ish) transient killer whales
5 harbor porpoise
6 resident killer whales

I thought it was cool how those numbers worked out, but most of these sightings need some elaboration! Like the last two years, Dall's porpoise seem to be notably absent from the region during these summer months. They used to be a nearly guaranteed find in Haro Strait, but the last couple of years they have only returned (in great numbers) in September. That's why it was notable that I saw two of them yesterday, and as an added bonus they were pretty close to shore for porpoises:

Which direction is this porpoise heading? It's hard to tell because of their interesting triangular dorsal fins. This one was going from right to left.

It's not often you can see transient killer whales from Lime Kiln, and probably even rarer to see resident and transient killer whales at the same time (no matter where you are), but yesterday both of those things happened. When I got to the park there were no orcas in sight, nor were any thought to be approaching. Then, a group of transients that had been foraging off of Beaumont Shoal started heading north on the west side of Haro Strait. Almost at the same time, a small group of residents unexpectedly popped off a mile and a half north of the lighthouse coming slowly south against a strong flood tide. The whales passed each other on opposite sites of Haro Strait (the transients were just tiny dots through the binoculars, several miles away), taking no notice of one another as far as this human observer could tell. It's so interesting that these two different types of killer whales, for now still considered the same species, are so culturally distinct that they won't interact with one another at all.

The resident whales were an interesting story in themselves yesterday. It was an odd little group that passed by heading south: K21 Cappuccino, K40 Raggedy, K16 Opus, and K35 Sonata from K-Pod - a small group that has occasionally branched off from the rest of their pod, and apparently did so yesterday as the rest of K-Pod went north to the Fraser River. With these Ks were L5 Tanya and L84 Nyssa, two other whales that are all that remain of another rogue-ish matriline that often broke off from their family. At the time I thought there were 7 or 8 whales present, but my photos and those identified by others only turned up these six whales as far as I know.

L5 Tanya (left) and K16 Opus (right)

K35 Sonata looped back while the rest of the whales kept going, perhaps in pursuit of a fish. After he got whatever he was after he porpoised south again to catch up with the rest of his group:

Prints of this photo available here

Later in the evening the rest of K-Pod made it to Lime Kiln as well. I saw members of the K12, K13, and K14 matrilines, so I believe all the other family groups were present. The new calf K44 was there alongside his mama K27 Deadhead, and it's amazing how quick he would surface - if you blinked you could miss it! I did get one presentable photo of the little guy, tucked in on the far side of mom:

As you can tell from the above photos it was a pretty dark and stormy summer day. This whole week is forecast to be pretty gray, leaving many of us wondering if summer is ever really going to arrive this year, or will we only get it a day or two at a time? The clouds made for some pretty stunning lighting as sunset approached, just not what we would expect for July!


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

That Dall's had me fooled!

I was under the impression that transients and residents had been split into two species or was that in another part of the world. we've got about a dozen currently hanging round the far north of Scotland (Orkney & Shetland Isles) - far too far to travel to and probably easier to get to the San Juans anyway!!!



The K said...

Didn't you get the memo? Summer was on Wednesday, July 6 this year ;-)