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Sunday, June 9, 2013

6/8/13 ~ A Close J-Pod Encounter

On Saturday, June 8th I headed back out to the west side of San Juan Island because, well, why not? Yet again I arrived at Land Bank and immediately saw a whale beyond the point to the south of me. My timing wasn't quite spot-on this time, however, as the whale and all the others behind it turned south and then headed offshore for a while before coming back. About two hours later, it seemed like the whales must be just around the corner based on where all the boats were, but I and the other whale watchers that had arrived had to wait...and wait....and wait....until finally they appeared! All of J-Pod in one big group.

Island Explorer III looks at J27 Blackberry

A couple of Prince of Whales boats and the Western Prince look at J27 Blackberry

The whales were more than a few hundred yards offshore, but it looked like they were angling in towards Lime Kiln. Usually, I don't try to run from one place to the next, because years of experience have told me it's really hard to run up the hill, drive, park, and run back down to the water before the whales get there. Something today, however, told me to GO! My instinct was definitely right, as right when I arrived on the shoreline the first whale surfaced in front of me just a few yards off the rocks. I don't often post pictures that have the shoreline in the picture, but this one shows you why Lime Kiln is known as the best place in the world to see killer whales from shore:

All the others weren't far behind...

People who didn't know what was going on must have thought me crazy! When I ran through the parking lot I told those who were standing around they probably wanted to head right to the shoreline because there were whales coming. All I remember as I zipped by was the befuddled face on one woman! I flew down to the rocks with camera in hand, via a route I wouldn't even attempt if I had more time, but somehow I made it safely and just in time.

Fifteen year-old male J34 Doublestuf
My "bread and butter" lens is my 18-300mm zoom, and since I zoom and then crop most of the photos I post here, it may be hard sometimes to tell just how close I am to the whales. It's often close, but usually not THIS close. To give you an idea, none of the rest of these photos were taken with my lens zoomed fully in. Most of them were in the 100-200mm range:

Nine year-old female J40 Suttles

Four year-old female J46 Star

Three year-old male J47 Notch

Eight year-old female J41 Eclipse
These following two pictures are also UNCROPPED:

Twenty-three year-old male J27 Blackberry
Twelve year-old female J37 Hy'Shqa
People often underestimate distances over water, but I like to think after years of experience my guesses are fairly accurate. I'm not kidding when I say Hy'Shqa was less than 15 feet from me! I get pretty darn close a lot, but that's the closest I've been to a whale in a long time.

Surely I wouldn't end up with better pictures than this on Sunday's whale encounter, right? Right?


Robyn said...

All I can say is WOW WOW WOW!!

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

OMG AWESOME - lucky you - well done!



HalfmoonLilli said...

and ditto "wow". You must still be tingling. Great shots!
Greetings from Halfmoon Bay, BC