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Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 11th: Half a Superpod

For a little over a week I only saw the whales very far (more than a mile) away, but the stars aligned for me again during my lunch break on August 11th. It started out with three humpback whales off the west side! They were also pretty far away, but always a treat to see from shore.

Then I saw some groups of orcas slowly, slowly heading north. At first I thought it was all of them, as everyone but the L54 sub-group of L-Pod had been around. I soon realized while there was a lot of whales (about 30), it wasn't enough to be everyone, though members of all three pods were present! They all split up into yet another new grouping, with about half of them in Haro Strait. I later heard the other half were partying up in Rosario on the other side of the San Juan Islands!

Adult male approaching!
The first group to approach was a large one, and they weren't in any hurry to go anywhere!

I was thrilled to pick L41 Mega out of the crowd. He's a member of the L12 sub-group of L-Pod, whales I used to see more than any others during the summer. Not so this year! The L12s have been scarce in inland waters - this was only the second time I've seen Mega this year!

L41 Mega and Soundwatch
Lots of dorsals!!

I thought it was really funny that while this big group was meandering along the shoreline, J2 Granny and L87 Onyx came rocketing up from the south and into the lead. She often leads the way north, and she had clearly decided it was time to go!

J2 Granny and L87 Onyx cruising up the west side

Luckily the whales were heading slow enough that I could beat them a little further north and see them again - this time even closer to shore! I actually had to wait a bit, because they were going so slowly - here's who kept me company in the meantime:

Black oystercatcher
But before too long - whales approaching! Simply the best feeling.

A huge cartwheel by L94 Calypso:

L94 Calypso
I got a better look at the whales this time, and realized Mega's family group was hanging tight with the J22s, also known as "The Cookies". J22 Oreo has one of the most unique eyepatches, with black "beauty marks" in it (click to see a larger view):

J22 Oreo
More dorsal! I think this is Mega.

Underwater whales! I love it when you can see the whales underwater, even if it's just an abstract patch of white. I believe this was J34 Doublestuf swimming upside down:

These moments always pass so fast! These are all uncropped photos now...

J32 Rhapsody

I almost got a fantastic shot of L119 Joy! I like it anyway, even if her nose is out of the frame. She was cruisin'!

L119 Joy
Not far from Joy, the youngest whale in L-Pod at two years-old, was the oldest whale in L-Pod: L25 Ocean Sun, estimated to be about 86 years old.

L25 Ocean Sun

L25 Ocean Sun

 It was cool to see the two males hanging out together. They both surfaced right in front of me!

J34 Doublestuf
L41 Mega

L41 Mega
J34 Doublestuf

This would prove to be the last party day - for now - as most of the whales would leave the next morning. Not all of them, however! I'd be in store for another magical encounter just a few days later....stay tuned!

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