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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 11th: Js and Ks (OBI #23)

Last Saturday, July 11th, was the last day on island for a while of my friend, boat partner, and fellow Orca Behavior Institute biologist Julie. When we heard the J2s, J19s, and K14s were heading north up Haro Strait, we just had to hop in the boat to get her one last whale encounter before heading back to California. We met up with the orcas right outside of Mitchell Bay.

K26 Lobo and his sister K36 Yoda

With the boat this year, we've had plenty of whale encounters near Henry and Spieden Islands, and it's becoming one of my favorite places to watch whales. Spieden Island just makes such a pretty backdrop! It's funny, I don't remember seeing whales in this area especially often even when I worked on a whale-watching boat, but now I'm getting to know their habits as they travel through this area quite well.

J49 T'ilem I'nges with his family

We were following the J14s and K14s as they went north in two tight groups, but suddenly J2 Granny, who was up ahead, stalled out and waited for them to catch up. All the whales milled around for several minutes, as if deciding whether or not to continue north. Finally, they decided to keep going, and all the J2s and K14s swam on in one group all together.

One big group of whales!

Mostly they were in travel mode, but one whale did a huge spyhop, lifting her pec fins partway through:

Suddenly a few whales popped up closer to us. Luckily we already had our engine off (and were making a hydrophone recording) so we stayed where we were as they passed by.

We got a great look at little J49 T'ilem I'nges (whose name means "singing grandchild" in Coast Salish).

J49 T'ilem I'nges

As we left the whales heading north, we saw some more blows a few miles behind us. It was the J19s, and it was nice to see L87 Onyx in tight with them. Onyx has been off by himself a lot this year, sometimes a mile or more away from everyone else, so it was nice to see him in with some other whales again.

On our way back home, I stopped to take a photo of a flock of birds, and while we were drifting we passed a small raft of floating kelp. I got startled when I saw what looked like I dead harbor seal pup floating in the wrack - and was even more surprised when it lifted its head! It was still alive, but was very tiny and looked malnourished. Look at all those folds of skin when it should be plump and round.

It was sure a cute little guy. There was no mom in sight, but there's not much we could do. I did report it to the local stranding network, but likely they'll elect to just let nature take it's course. Hopefully he wasn't abandoned, but the reality is not all seal pups make it.

Cute! But we had to leave you alone little guy :(

1 comment:

Julie said...

great post of my send-off orca morning! can't wait to be back for more!