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Sunday, August 23, 2015

August 11th and 12th: Humpback whale and Lime Kiln Js

On August 11th we went out in the morning hoping to find orcas. We searched the whole west side of San Juan and didn't see any black and whites, but we did find a humpback whale! The first one I've seen since March, though others have been around.

This whale was seen on several consecutive days (I recognized it in other people's photos), and should be identifiable based on its unique tail markings. Unfortunately I don't have a good local humpback whale ID guide, so I'm not sure which whale this is.

On August 12th members of all three pods were heading in from Victoria, and I waited at Lime Kiln hoping they would go north. Most stayed further south, but about half of J-Pod did pass the lighthouse heading north before flipping and going back south to join the others. They were mostly further offshore when they went north - except for L87 Onyx. He surfaced offshore to the south of us, and then when he next came up, it was in the kelp just north of the ligthhouse!

L87 Onyx

When they turned to come back south, however, they all angled in towards shore! The best feeling ever, watching close whales approach.

We got a beautiful look at J2 Granny:

Then we observed an interesting little interaction. J41 Eclipse was traveling with J31 Tsuchi, and Eclipse's calf J51 was wondering all over the place away from mom. He stopped at one point to spook all the sea gulls (well, all except one) off this raft of sea weed, and was playing with the piece of driftwood floating here as well.

J51 was playing with this raft of sea weed - several gulls flew off it, but one stuck his ground
Perhaps mom had enough at this point, however, because Eclipse did one huge breach. (Pretty special to see my favorite whale breaching in my favorite place - and in such spectacular lighting!)

J41 Eclipse breach

The next time the whales surfaced, J51 was right back in mom's slip stream, and didn't stray away the rest of the time they were in sight! Perhaps it was a total coincidence, but it sure seemed like Eclipse was telling her calf enough was enough, it was time to come back to mom.

Finally, the pass ended with a close look at J37 Hy'shqa and her calf J49 T'ilem I'nges. It's funny - J49 was the smallest whale among the Southern Residents for 2 full years, as no other calves were born and survived during that time. As soon as the other J-Pod babies were born, he suddenly looked a lot bigger! I wonder how he adjusted to not being the baby of the group anymore. He is still a little guy though - just 3 years old now.

J49 T'ilem I'nges

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