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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April 18th: T65As, T65Bs, and T75Bs

It's been a busy month, which means I've gotten way behind on blogging! I've got so many photos to share, so I'll see if I can't catch up a bit this week. I'll start back on April 18th when in the evening we got out on the water on our boat and met up with the T65As, T65Bs, and T75Bs (a total of 10 or 11 whales) in the northern part of Haro Strait.

A friend of mine had spotted them from shore on the west side of San Juan Island and thought she had seen close to 10 whales, but when we got out there we could only see four - members of the T65As.

From left to right T65A, one year-old T65A5, and four year-old T65A4

They were cruising north at a good clip, but all of a sudden something caught their attention. And just like that, the other whales appeared too:

Right off Kellett Bluffs, they started pursuing something with huge surface lunges:

We could see some splashing that wasn't coming from the whales, and soon I could tell that it was a Steller sea lion that they were after:

Sea lion (left) and lunging orca (right)

It's amazing to me how small the Steller sea lion looked next to a whale! I'm usually impressed with their size, weighing it at up to 2000 pounds.

Interestingly, it was the T65As that I saw briefly harass a Steller sea lion off Lime Kiln a few weeks ago. With so many young whales in this group, it seemed to be a training exercise as they all played cat and mouse with the sea lion. There was a lot of white water throughout the very dramatic pursuit!

I got so close to getting an amazing photo on this next one where one whale breached as another one simultaneously cartwheeled, but it turned out blurry!!

At least the breaching whale did so again, and that photo turned out:

The young whales were definitely enjoying the chase:

The little calf in the picture above is T75B2, probably only about two weeks old in this photo. It's nice to see a killer whale baby boom across ecotypes (residents and transients) this spring!

Two week old T75B2
I was surprised they let this little one get as close to the action as they did - while it seemed to be "play" for the whales, the teeth of that sea lion can cause serious damage, especially to a little whale! The sea lion was dwarfed by the adult whales, but the calf looked smaller than the sea lion.

Another blurry shot, but enough to show that the calf and the sea lion are about the same size, with the edge likely going to the sea lion
After about half an hour, the game was suddenly up, and the whales all at once decided to move on and let the sea lion go. A couple of them passed closer to where we were parked as they continued north, including T65B:

A nice cropped "ID shot" of T65B, the younger sister of T65A
I thought this amazing evening with the whales would be my "whale fix" for a while, but little did I know that the very next day all of J-Pod would show up in Haro Strait! Stay tuned with my next post, which will cover my "checking in" with one of the J-Pod calves :)

1 comment:

Vera said...

Great post with super pictures. Amazing one of the pink baby. I am glad that you have been getting so many amazing whale encounters.