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Monday, June 10, 2013

6/9/13 ~ J16 Slick and J42 Echo

On Sunday, June 9th, after a leisurely breakfast, we again headed out to Land Bank on the west side to look for whales. Yet again, our timing was impeccable; we had been planning to read and wait for whales, but we never had a chance to pull out our books because we could already see blows in the distance. The J16 family group was in the lead, with adult male J26 Mike first of all. They slowly, slowly meandered their way north in the beginning of what would prove to be three hours of J-Pod going back and forth between Land Bank and Lime Kiln.

At one point, it looked like a repeat of the day before, with the whales angling in towards Lime Kiln after passing us at Land Bank. So for the second day in a row, it was pack up and run in a good old fashioned "whale chase". The whales were indeed closer at Lime Kiln, but while I took some pictures, they were still pretty far away and mostly silhouetted. All the different groups of whales started angling further offshore, making me think they might head west and leave (which they did end up doing overnight), but in the meantime I saw two whales turn in and head straight for the lighthouse. The lighting was just right that I could see it was mama J16 Slick with her youngest, six year-old female J42 Echo.

I couldn't believe it: two days in a row sitting on the same rock facing the lighthouse, and two days in a row with the chance to photograph whales, lighthouse, and whale-watchers all at once. If possible, I think I like this one even better than the lighthouse/whale shot from the day before - the sun is out, there are two whales in it, and one of them is tailslapping!

There's no better feeling than watching whales head straight towards you like this! We were sharing the experience on the same rocks with a nice couple from Montana. Everything was perfect for me to get a shot of them with J16 Slick as she surfaced right between them. I gave them my e-mail address and can't wait to share this picture with them when they get back from their trip!

J42 Echo was even closer to us, and you could see her underwater. I LOVE being able to see the whales underwater, and while the photos sometimes turn out, other times it just looks like this - there IS a whale under there:

I was still excited by this shot where with a trained eye you can tell she's on her side just below the surface. I've indicated with arrows what the different white patches are you're able to see - the white near the tail is part of the underside of her tail. She was close enough we could actually see her pumping her flukes as she swam!

And one more shot of J16 Slick - again, close enough my camera was only zoomed in to 135mm in this uncropped photo:

J-Pod would eventually head north, but then come back south in the middle of the night to head west out towards the open ocean, perhaps to go pick up K-Pod who we haven't seen in inland waters yet this season? So my amazing whale-watching streak comes to a close for now, after six straight days of phenomenal shore-based encounters (seven of the last eight days, in fact!). I'm sure they'll be back before too long, but in the meantime, there's always something else to look at. Next up: another year bird and another interesting find at the office!

1 comment:

jill said...

Oh thrilling! wish I had been there, kayaked past the lighthouse last spring in May but of course didn't see any orcas. I have a friend, a wetlands biologist, who is moving with her family to Friday Harbor this summer, going to share you blog with her.