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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whales Go Up and Whales Come Down

On Monday after work we went out Land Bank on the westside after hearing the whales had been around a lot that morning. Some whales had already passed heading north, but right when we got there the J14s were passing by in a tight group close to shore - it was an awesome sight.

From front to back: J37 Hy'shqa, J30 Riptide, and J14 Samish - prints of this photo available here

I couldn't *quite* get all five members of the J14 matriline up in the same shot, but here are four of them:

From front to back: J37 Hy'shqa, J30 Riptide, J40 Suttles, and J45 Se-Yi'-Chn

There was a gap after that, then another big group of whales came, including many members of J-Pod and the L12 sub-group of L-Pod. J27 Blackberry and J34 Doublestuf, two males from J-Pod, were doing a lot of rolling around with L77 Matia, a female from L-Pod. At one point Doublestuf lifted her out of the water:

Matia lost her first calf last year, but maybe she'll be having another one in about 17 months??

Shore-based whale watchers at Land Bank's Westside Preserve

Yesterday afternoon I decided to try my luck on the westside again. The L12s came back south on Monday, but the rest of the whales had continued north and I expected them to be making their way back down towards San Juan Island. Soon after I got to Lime Kiln lighthouse the L12s started coming up from the south, but just as they got into view they did the expected (for them) and turned back south again. I just saw a few breaches and cartwheels in the distance before they disappeared. Up north, J-Pod had split into two groups. One group went down Rosario on the east side of the San Juan Islands, and they other group was heading north (away from the lighthouse) at Moat. I was just getting ready to leave since the whale prospects looked slim, when I heard that the Moat group turned south.

Settling in for a bit of a wait, I passed some of my time by turning my camera to the big waves in Haro Strait. There were a lot of kayak groups out for day trips, and I suspect  some of them probably shouldn't have been out there. This group decided to turn back but they were still dealing with some pretty rough seas. It didn't look like much fun to me!

Since we're in inland waters here we don't often get much wave action along the rocky shoreline, especially in the summer. Yesterday was an exception, so I took some wave photos while I was waiting, too. Here's one of my favorites:

Finally around 6 PM we could see some blows to the north, and by 6:30 the whales were passing us, porpoising south through the waves against the strong flood tide. This isn't a black and white shot, but it almost looks like it since it's taken into the harsh late afternoon light:

The highlight of this passby was seeing new mom K27 Deadhead and her calf K44 porpoising side by side. The little guy was almost completely hidden by the splashes they were creating, with usually just his dorsal fin visible. Here's the one shot I got that shows a little more of him:

K25 Scoter was one of the last whales to pass by, and he was porpoising a ways offshore. It was a neat sight with the Olympic Mountains lit up in the distance behind him:

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