After a relatively dry spell in terms of orca sightings for yours truly throughout the month of July, things seemed to have turned around for me after meeting J49 on August 7th. I've now seen whales for four days in a row! Here are some photo highlights.
August 10: J-Pod heading south at Lime Kiln in the afternoon
After seeing the whales in the late afternoon, I had planned to see the sunset that night, too, but strangely fog moved in really quickly after the whales went by. Usually this time of year fog forms overnight or in the early morning, but this was a new one! It didn't turn out to be much of a sunset, but it was still kinda cool looking about an hour before the official sunset time.....
August 11: J-Pod north and south from Land Bank in the morning
I had a good feeling early Saturday morning so headed out to Land Bank's Westside Preserve. It was funny to pull up and see four other whale lovers at the very same pullout, all hoping for the same thing: one of those early morning passbys where the lighting is just magical. It wasn't quite to be, because whales didn't show up until about 10:30 and they were quite a ways offshore. Only half of J-Pod passed by before turning around and coming back south, slightly closer this time.
The whale that passed closest to shore was J2 Granny, who spent some time foraging in a tide rip:
I also got to check in with now five day-old J49. Its little dorsal fin is just visible against mom's gray saddle patch here:
It's amazing to me how tiny a six-foot, 400 pound animal can look!
August 12: Js and Ks from Lime Kiln at sunset
Saturday night reports came in that early in the morning K and L Pods had been seen heading down Johnstone Strait, coming south through the Inside Passage towards the San Juan Islands. K-Pod made amazing time, meeting up with half of J-Pod in Boundary Pass at 5 PM on Sunday. The report was Ls were there, but when they all made it to Lime Kiln just at sunset, it was only Js and Ks. It was nice to see some whales I haven't seen much of this year, like K21 Cappuccino:
While the sun was going down, a male surfaced right in the "sun track" on the water, leading to this spectacular moment:
Some kayakers who enjoyed the experience stayed on the water for quite a while after sunset, giving them a beautiful (if chilly) paddle back to the county park after the whales continued south:
August 13: Southbound Superpod at Lime Kiln
L-Pod surprised everyone by being with Js and Ks Monday morning, perhaps having come down behind Ks after all. When I got word at lunch that a very active superpod had turned back south and was heading for the westside, I played hooky for a few hours from work to go see them. By the time they reached Lime Kiln, they had spread out over many miles both north/south and east/west, spanning across most of Haro Strait. Luckily some whales were pretty close to the San Juan shoreline. They were battling a strong flood tide, so those that really wanted to head south took to porpoising:
I caught sight of another group rounding the point to the north super close to shore. One of them breached a couple times. It turned out to be the L47s, another matriline I haven't seen much of this year. L91 Muncher, a 17 year-old female, veered right to the edge of the kelp as she passed. Because I cropped the other fully-zoomed photos, it's hard to tell how much closer she is here in this shot that wasn't fully zoomed in (180mm versus 300mm), but she was only about 20 yards offshore directly in front of me. The sound of her breath at that distance was so forceful! I love that sound.
Today, Tuesday, it sounds like the superpod may have headed back out to the ocean, or at least they haven't been found yet today. Hopefully it won't be too long before there's more whale encounters!