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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another Summery Week

We've been enjoying another sunny, warm week on San Juan Island, finally getting the summer weather we've long been anticipating! It's made for a pleasant commute to work by bike, outdoor afternoons, west side sunsets, Shakespeare under the stars, and of course: bird and whale watching.

Ravens cavorting above False Bay

I've been seeing as many as 500+ peeps at False Bay, made up mostly of western sandpipers but with some least sandpipers mixed in. It's very cool to see them in such numbers. If there's been anything rarer mixed in, like a semipalmated sandpiper, I haven't been able to find it. But that certainly doesn't mean it's not in there somewhere!

Western sandpiper at False bay
Least sandpiper at False Bay
Just before leaving False Bay one afternoon I spotted a small hawk perched in a tree. I thought at first maybe it was a merlin, but as soon as I got the binoculars on it I saw that it was something else: a sharp-shinned hawk (year bird 189). Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks are notoriously difficult for identifying in the field, but this bird was small, with a small head, thin legs, and, when it flew, quick, erratic wingbeats - all clues it was indeed a sharp-shinned.

Also this week was the San Juan County Fair, a yearly tradition that's a big hit with our local community. In addition to our home-brewed beer winning a blue ribbon, Keith played acoustic guitar for an hour-long set:

Today, I headed out to Lime Kiln hoping to find some whales. It sounded like they were coming down from the north, so I settled in to wait. It was a real surprise when seven whales suddenly came up from the south! It was the L2s and L54s, presumably going north to meet up with the other whales.

L2 Grace and her adult son L78 Gaia
About half an hour later, the whales did come back south. K20 Spock and K38 Comet passed pretty close to shore, while K27 Deadhead and calf K44 were a little further off.

K20 Spock and her seven year-old son K38 Comet
Many whales were way offshore a mile or more, but another big group of whales did pass about 200 yards offshore. IDs were difficult because of the back-lighting, but I saw whales from the J14, L55, L47, and L26 matrilines - if all members of these family groups were there, that would be 23 whales, which seemed about right. 

People wonder sometimes with all the whales I've seen and all the photos I've taken if there's still new shots to be gotten. Of course there is! The whales are always in different groups, doing different things in different places. Here's something I had never seen before - a big male (I believe J30 Riptide) is doing a pec slap as a calf comes to the surface in front of him (click to see a larger view):

There were sort of three groups traveling parallel to one another, each maybe about 50 yards apart. Here's four whales from the "middle" group surfacing together.

Finally, I wanted to announce that next week Saturday, the 27th, I'll be participating in a Northwest Blogger Scavenger Hunt! Or rather, I hope that you will be participating! There are so many great Pacific Northwest blogs, and a few of us, recruited by author Pat Lichen, are banding together in this creative endeavor. On the 27th, a list of questions will be posted on Pat's blog, and the answers will be found on each of the participant's blog sites, including one here on Orca Watcher. Your job is to visit all the blogs, find the correct answers, and submit them by the end of the day of the 27th. In addition to seeing some great photos and reading some interesting writing, all correct answers will be entered in a drawing to win a prize from one of the bloggers. Our hope is that our readers will learn about some of the other interesting blogs out there in a more interesting manner than just off a blog roll, so please come back next Saturday to participate!


The K said...

A nice summery summary. Congrats on your blue ribbon.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

189 Monika, you're catching up now - I'm stuck after a day of bad dips!

Great photos again and congrats on the beerquite partial to drop of quality home brew myself although its many years since I've made any. was hopingto do red curant vodka this summer but neighbour lost all his berries to the birds while he was tooo poorly to attend his garden...shucks