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Saturday, October 31, 2015

More September Whales

I'm gearing up to do my annual Day of the Dead blog post, but realized I should recap the rest of the fall first! The Southern Residents were around quite a bit in September, but mostly either out of reach of shore-based viewing or in rough seas, so my encounters with them were more limited than in some years. Here are a few highlights though...

On September 13th I saw Js, Ks, and L54 sub-group from the west side of San Juan Island. This is an example of what the seas were like on days I couldn't get out in our boat!

On the afternoon of September 15th, I picked up a visiting friend in town and we got out to Lime Kiln just as the whales were passing by. Only a few J-Pod whales came north past the lighthouse before flipping and going back south, but one of them, who approached at the very moment we ran down to the rocks, was J2 Granny:

J2 Granny close to shore at Lime Kiln

On September 22nd I got the chance to take my same friend out on our boat, and we met up with a group of L-Pod whales offshore of San Juan County Park. The first whales were saw were L92 Crewser, L91 Muncher, and her calf L122. They were tough to track, as they were swimming sporadically and going down on long dives, but after a lot of patience we did get some nice looks.

L92 Crewser
L91 Muncher and L122
After losing L120 last fall just a few weeks after he/she was born, it's especially nice to see L122 doing well. Fingers crossed he thrives through the winter! L-Pod is where we need successful mothers the most, so I'm hoping this is just the first of many calves for Muncher.

Up off Kellett Bluffs, the whales stopped to forage. We cut our engine and dropped the hydrophone, listening to a bunch of great L-Pod vocals for several minutes when the whales all disappeared. They were on a long dive and got totally quiet...until I started hearing some echolocation that sounded VERY close. "Somebody's right here...." I told my friend, and less than 30 seconds later L95 Nigel surfaced off our stern, both startling and thrilling us. I'm pretty sure I literally jumped!

Why hello there Nigel

The glare was so harsh I edited this photo to be black and white, and I kind of like the effect. What's especially cool is I posted this photo on my Facebook page and the guys in the sail boat saw it! I always love when I get the chance to share photos of people and whales with the people in the picture.

On September 24th, I saw some very spread out and distant Js and Ks heading south from Land Bank. I played with adding a filter to this photo as well, and was also pleased with the effect:

K44 Ripple cruising south

Then on September 25th, I got to see the T49As from the park near my house. It's always a treat when I can see whales walking distance from home!

Male T49A1 heading down San Juan Channel

There's a whirlwind summary of the rest of September - coming up next, October whales and Day of the Dead.