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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Gang's All Here!

The whales were only gone for about three days, but it sure felt like a lot longer than that! It was with much excitement we all greeted the news that were "residents inbound" on Saturday evening. I went out and met some friends, hoping to see them. The first whales that reached San Juan Island - K-Pod - hit land at about False Bay and went south. We were all ready to call it a night when we noticed one of the boats heading home to Victoria stopped in the middle of the strait. There were more whales out there! After watching the sun set, we went to Lime Kiln as some L-Pod whales made their way slowly north in the almost-dark. There wasn't enough light for photos, but I shot this short video with my iPhone to capture a little of the feel of the moment.

Hoping the whales wouldn't go north or west in the night, I went out to Lime Kiln on Sunday morning (the 27th). Good decision! I was only there about half an hour before we started to see dorsal fins to the south. The whales continued to pass by for the next two and a half hours. It soon became apparent it was more than just Ks and Ls here, there were so many whales! That was confirmed for sure when J27 Blackberry popped up:

Blackberry was traveling with his sister J31 Tsuchi, K27 Deadhead, and Deadhead's calf K44 Ripple. That's one thing I love about superpods - it's always so interesting to see who associates with whom when everyone gets all mixed up!

K27 Deadhead

K44 Ripple

My prize shot of the morning - a gorgeous spyhop from K27 Deadhead. Prints available here.

It's great light to watch wildlife in the morning on the west side, and there were more than whales about. The first whales were very spread out, and there were plenty of birds and seals to watch in the breaks. One highlight was when this great blue heron flew by:

The seals were actively fishing, and while this was looking back into the light, it was awesome to see one seal surface with a salmon in its mouth and another one lunging after it as if to steal it (he didn't succeed):

You would think after all these years I would have seen whales from just about everywhere in Lime Kiln, but not so! I usually go to one of a few favorite spots, but on this morning decided to try watching from a new vantage point. It led to some different looks, particularly when some whales circled back to come closer to the kelp.

Two of 'em heading right at ya! Bonus points if you can find the third whale in this photo...
After every group of whales, we'd look south, and see more blows coming! It was just wave after wave of whales!

J40 Suttles, J14 Samish, and J45 Se-Yi-Chn

J14 Samish, J45 Se-Yi-Chn, and J49 T'ilem In'ges
L87 Onyx
I decided to take another video clip of one "wave", and it happened to include a nice pec slap from J19 Shachi. I had to let the edit run a little long to catch the great reaction of the girl on the rocks at the end:

I was really surprised when some unusual whales popped up - the L54 sub-group! This small group of L-Pod whales, for whatever reason, visits inland waters a lot more rarely than the rest of L-Pod. This was their first time "in" this season, actually, though they had been seen off the outer coast earlier this year. It was really nice to see them, and led to some of the best pictures I've ever gotten of some of these whales!

L84 Nyssa - very pleased to see he's found someone to latch on to in the L54s since he has no living family members
L54 Ino and L117 Keta show just how close to shore the whales can come at Lime Kiln
And it STILL wasn't the end - there were more L-Pod whales after that (as well as other groups way offshore during this whole time).

L82 Kasatka and L116 Finn (just starting to surface)
I determined that it looked like all the Southern Residents but the L12 sub-group were present, so that's about 69 whales! A lot of confusion followed however, as small groups went north and south and north and south (mostly not by Lime Kiln, but a few did), that by the end of the day no one was entirely sure who ended up where. But really, it didn't matter, because they stayed, and they were everywhere!

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