For any use of my photos, please contact me at monika.wieland (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, March 23, 2018

March 18th: J-Pod in Boundary Pass

On the morning of March 18th word came in of lots of whales southbound in the Strait of Georgia. J-Pod had been up north for over a week; could this be them finally coming back down? Luckily for me there was still space available for Maya's Legacy trip out that afternoon to go and see! We headed north in nice calm waters to Boundary Pass, and it didn't take us long to spot our first fin: J27 Blackberry.

J27 Blackberry in front of Saturna Island

After spending a few minutes with him and the J41s who were in shore, we fell back to the next group made up of the J17s, J38, J45, and L87. They were all spread out and slowly moving down Boundary Pass. As a freighter came around the corner, they could have easily moved to get further away from it. Instead, J38 Cookie swam directly at it. For a moment, we thought maybe he would surf the freighter wake. He didn't, though we heard that later in the day L87 did on a different ship! It really makes you wonder: surely a vessel that loud would have some impact on their ability to hear and be heard, yet often they do nothing to avoid those or any other ships, or even seek them out. We are spending so much effort trying to make the seas quieter for these whales, and in the meantime some of them are choosing to swim right alongside the loudest ships in our waters!

J38 Cookie and freighter

Behind this group and inshore came some of the J16s. J26 Mike and J36 Alki were on our offshore side.

J36 Alki
We had moved from group to group in part to search from the J16s. Inshore of us were J16 Slick with her other two daughters: J42 Echo and J50 Scarlet. They went down for a dive, and then something amazing happened.

The trio of whales had been hugging the shoreline, but after a long dive, they surfaced maybe 75 yards away aiming right at us. We had a woman on board who is facing her second battle with cancer and whose favorite whale is J50 Scarlet. Slick and Scarlet came right alongside the boat. Surely it was a coincidence - but then again, I've seen things exactly like this happen so many times that you begin to wonder.

J16 Slick approaching
J50 Scarlet surfacing behind J16 Slick
J16 Slick and her youngest, J50 Scarlet
J16 Slick from behind
While we stayed parked with our engines off, the whole family group converged and surfaced on the other side of the boat.

Despite being overcast the lighting was exquisite, and I snapped some of my favorite pictures ever of J26 Mike.

Just beginning to surface
J26 Mike
J26 Mike
After this incredible pass, our time was up, and we slowly made our way back across Boundary Pass watching out for more of the overall very spread out whales. We ended up seeing whales from every matriline to confirm that all of J-Pod was present. On our way home, we got to head by Spieden Island, and while there's always something to see, this swing by had it all!

Hauled out harbor seals

The least common of the three exotic mammal species on Spieden: the Japanese sika deer
Family of river otters

While Mouflon sheep can be seen on the island year-round, we saw two things you don't get to see every day. One was the cute baby lambs that grace the island in the spring:

Tiny mouflon sheep lambs!
And the other was a pair down on the rocks. They do this sometimes to lick the salt, but these two seemed to be also eating the seaweed!

Of course, no trip to Spieden Island in the spring is complete without a visit with the Green Point Steller sea lions. The sun even peeked out to make for perfect lighting.

Throughout the afternoon J-Pod continued their way around Turn Point and down Haro Strait, and in the evening they were audible on the Lime Kiln and Orcasound hydrophones with some great vocalizations. Here's a clip of what we heard

All in all, you couldn't ask for more on a Sunday afternoon, let alone one in March! It was such an unexpected treat all the way around.

No comments: