June was a fantastic month from start to finish, with Residents around (and on the west side of San Juan Island) almost every day. After last year's record low sightings, it feels an awful lot like the "good ol' days", as many local naturalists have been commenting. Lest anyone get too carried away, salmon numbers have been better than the last three years, but still much, much lower than historical numbers. But we're all certainly enjoying the presence of the whales, and loving the fact that right now at least they're finding enough to eat to stick around!
I took an early lunch from work to go out and join friends at Land Bank, where watched Js and Ls porpoise their way across the strait directly towards us. They spread out all along the west side of San Juan Island, but the group that passed us (including J2, the J14s, and the J16s) kept booking it north.
|A whale wows a couple of kayakers - really adds some perspective so you can tell how big the whales are!|
We were in a cool spot on the cliffs - looking right down into the water underneath us. This harbor seal looked like he was watching the whales, too.
After a stressful week at work, I was beat, and debating between a nap and checking out the west side for whales. Guess which one I did? Luckily my timing was great, as I got there just as the leaders were passing Land Bank heading south. The lighting was really unique, too - the water looked almost metallic.
The closest group included L83 Moonlight, who seemed to be surfacing in as many different ways as possible. She never once surfaced like a "normal" whale, instead lunging and rolling her way to the surface with every breath.
|L83 Moonlight lunges to the surface|
The clouds were just beautiful even though it was a bit gray out:
I couldn't pass up photographing my favorite tree:
My dad came up for a quick visit on the weekend, and was willing to tag along with me for a regular Saturday afternoon. That meant getting a snack at the Farmer's Market, then heading to the west side for more whales! It also meant I got some rare pictures of myself "in action".
At Land Bank the whales were offshore of the kelp bed, until J26 Mike surfaced in shore, wowing both us and some kayakers.
With him was L82 Kasatka....they were swimming slowly, within touching distance, and seemed to be in no hurry to go anywhere. I can't help but anthropomorphize a little bit....sure seemed like they were on the orca equivalent of a "date":
|J26 Mike and L82 Kasatka|
A short distance behind them was a larger group of whales, including a couple other males:
|J27 Blackberry and J34 Doublestuf - amazing to see Doublestuf's fin rivaling Blackberry's in height!|
The whales continued slowly north and looked to be angling in shore. In what has become a norm for me this season, I did the run up the hill at Land Bank, quick drive to Lime Kiln, and run back down the hill to the shoreline to catch the whales a second time, usually closer to shore than the first pass. It worked perfectly on this day.
|A much closer look at J27 Blackberry from Lime Kiln|
J27 Blackberry, his younger brother J39 Mako, and juvenile L106 Pooka were all rolling around and roughhousing together. I love the blue in the water as the sun poked through the clouds!
|An inverted tail slap from L106 Pooka|
|Boys will be boys - bros Blackberry and Mako goof around|
I was so focused on the group close to shore I almost missed this amazing line up offshore:
I don't know what it is, but I'm in the groove with the whales right now, and I love it. Sunday I wasn't even entirely sure what was going on with the whales, but I went to the west side and got to Lime Kiln in perfect time to see J2 Granny and another group of whales head north.
|J2 Granny leads the way, as she so often does|
This time I skipped the running from Land Bank part, and was set up perfectly at the south end of Lime Kiln. The whales were way offshore of Land Bank, but angled in to right where I was sitting on the rocks.
|L47 Marina and L115 Mystic|
Best feeling in the world - heading right for ya!
Sometimes I want to watch the whales not through a viewfinder, but I also always want to take pictures....so at times I try to click the shutter without looking, and hope for the best. I tend to get a lot of lopsided photos of partial whales, but this one turned out quite nicely, and also shows just how close to shore these guys come.
Another shot of L47 Marina:
After this group passed by, I could see many more whales to the south. They were facing south, trying to swim south, but not making much progress against the flood tide. I decided to wait it out, and in the meantime apparently became enough apart of the scenery for some birds to come by and hang out pretty close to where I was on the rocks:
|Glaucous-winged gull: yawning, not yelling|
Finally the whales "gave in" and went with the tide to follow Granny north. They were very spread out and came by in 2s and 3s, but the first trio of whales had me laughing out loud. After trying to buck the strong tide for the better part of an hour, they turned around and drifted north in the swift current, logging a the surface. In my mind, they were saying, "Fine, I'll go north, but I'm not going to expend any effort to it!"
|Resigned to going north|
The youngsters seemed to be loving the strong tide, though, as they were logging at the surface upside down or sideways, not swimming but still traveling quickly. "Look at me mom, I'm going north upside down without trying!" Okay, maybe a sign I'm spending too much time with the whales now that I'm narrating their thoughts for them? ;)
Okay, that recaps just four days of sightings, but gets me caught up to today, which will get featured in its own blog post! So many whales, so little time - not that I'm complaining!