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Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 23rd: Epic Day With Js and Ls

On the morning of Sunday, July 23rd, word came in that some residents were inbound from Sooke. Then, we heard about whales off the south end of the island - some of them were already here! It turned out that the same 19 whales from L-Pod had snuck in overnight, while all of J-Pod was heading east in to join them. L-Pod hung out near False Bay until J-Pod made their way across Haro Strait around noon. Then, in the early afternoon, they made their way north far enough that we could see them from the shores of San Juan Island.

We've all been curious who might take the "leader" role for J-Pod with the passing of J2 Granny at the end of last year. So far, it looks to be J19 Shachi, who has not only regularly been in the lead, but does it in Granny-style, far out ahead on her own in a no-nonsense kind of way.

J19 Shachi leading the way
Everybody else wasn't in such a hurry, and in fact they spent the next hour and a half basically milling right off Land Bank.

The largest group was a ways offshore, seeming playing around in a tide rip, but suddenly a group of half a dozen whales popped up closer to shore.

This close group then made a turn to come even closer - this is the kind of surfacing I just love to see!


Eventually even J19 Shachi came back to re-join the party, passing right along the rocks as she headed back south again.

A bit later it seemed like the whales had finally decided to go north, as they grouped up into two large groups and rode the strong flood tide up the lighthouse. We were just getting ready to leave Land Bank and try to catch the tail end of them at Lime Kiln when a splash to the north caught our eye. There was a porpoising whale - coming back south again! We ran back down the hill, this time right to the waterline as ALL 35 whales came back south close to shore. I like this shot (click to see a larger view to do it justice) that shows three lines of whales approaching. Talk about excitement!

A pec wave from J27 Blackberry with Whale Watch Point in the background
It's an incredible sight when the whales tuck into the little coves along the shoreline. We were almost looking behind us to the right to see these whales on the rocks!

The most magical moment occurred when a mom and juvenile stopped right in front of us. I didn't even know the water was deep enough this close to shore, but they turned upright and had just their rostrums above the surface for several moments. I can only imagine that underwater they must have been eye to eye. Why they stopped to do this, and why it happened right in front of us, I will never know, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for me!

The day had already earned "epic" status by this point, but it was not over! We had just enough time to grab a bite to eat, download photos of the SD cards, and put on a layer of suncreen before running back out to the west side, this time heading to Lime Kiln and getting there just in time for another close pass by all the whales, going north this time.

Incoming again!
Sometimes it takes a wider angle shot to really capture just how close these whales come to the rocks. That's my husband Jason, and there were more whales around the corner to the left IN Deadman's Bay.

It all happened so quickly because they were almost all in one big group, but for a moment there were whales everywhere, all of them just a few yards away!

L92 Crewser

Conditions were too perfect not to head north and hop into our boat, and we met up with the same large group right off Henry Island.

 It's just indescribable to see that many dorsal fins all together...

....andwhen they're in a playful mood it becomes even more magical...

I just love this shot of the whales in front of my friends Barbara and David's sailboat! Check out the special whale-watch sailing trips they offer at All Aboard Sailing.

And I also love this one, with perfect evening lighting off of Spieden Island:

As good as it felt to have them here, and while they did go north to the Fraser River, their stay was also short. The next evening the Ls made their way back down, heading through Haro after dark and back out the Strait. Js would follow two days later, also bypassing the daylight hours of Haro Strait on their way out and leaving on the 26th. Here's hoping their couple of recent visits are a sign that the second half of the summer will be full of more Southern Residents than the first half was, and that there's plenty of salmon to keep them here!

Next up for me, however, is a trip north. I've long wanted to make a summer excursion to the north end of Vancouver Island, and this year it's finally happening! Fingers crossed I get to hang out a bit with the cousins of the Js, Ks, and Ls I know so well - the Northern Residents!

1 comment:

Vera said...

"Epic", eh? So so happy for you and I wish I could have been there. I especially would have loved to see the whales "up the lighthouse"! Has that ever happened before? LOL