Posts Tagged ‘j pod’

J Pod Braves the Waves

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

J Pod made an appearance this past week traveling through Haro Strait.  With exceptionally high winds this week, the Haro has been rougher than usual, but this did not stop J Pod from trudging through.  In the summer months the Haro Strait is often very calm, as it is very protected by Vancouver Island.  During winter months, the normally placid waters around San Juan, can become windswept and whitecaped.

Of the 3 Southern Resident Pods, J Pod stays closest to home during the winter months.  K and L pods are often spotted off the coast of Oregon and California.  K and Ls are sometimes seen as far south as Monterey Bay California.  Each summer the 3 South Resident Pods return to the waters surrounding San Juan Island in order to feed upon salmon that are traveling to the Fraser River in Canada.   Salmon run past the west side of San Juan Island in high concentrations, making it an excellent place to grab a bite to eat.

We hope to see all of the Southern Residents eating up a storm this coming summer season!


Office Manager, San Juan Safaris

Whales+Snow= A Great Weekend

Monday, February 10th, 2014

J-Pod, and L-87, made an appearance in the San Juans this weekend. Vocalizations were heard over the hydrophone at Lime Kiln State Park Saturday night. As to their current location, some faint vocalizations were picked up on the Port Townsend hydrophone, but nobody has seen or heard from them sense. A group of possibly 30 transient orcas were spotted up in Canadian waters this weekend as well.

While the snow has turned to rain here on San Juan Island, the flakes are still coming down on Mt. Baker. Baker already has 8 new inches in the last 12 hours, and it is supposed to keep on coming. We hope you have a chance to go play in the snow this week!

Office Manager
San Juan Safaris

The Boys Are Back In Town!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Alright so not only our are Southern Resident male orcas in town, but our females too! On both our afternoon and evening trip, guests aboard M/V Sea Lion were swarmed with J, K, and L Pod! Captain Mike had his hands full trying to maintain the designated 200 yds away from the resident orcas when all 82 whales were out and about foraging over Hein Bank. You would think aboard the boat it would be filled with “ooohs and ahhhs” from guests, but infact, it was filled with “Nooo and Ughhh” from all the almost caught breaches in the painfully small viewfinder of their cameras. Breaches happening all around the boat had passengers spinning in circles just trying to catch the ultimate shot. As far as whale watching goes, I’d say its a great day when your biggest problem is the inability to pick a spot to look because there is just so much activity going on around you. Needless to say, it was an amazing day on the water and I am so happy to have been able to be apart of the experience. Perfect photo or not!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Orcas All Around!

Friday, July 12th, 2013

We headed south today and kept high spirits through the cloudy, cold weather. It wasn’t long before we saw our Harbor Seals and Steller Seal Lion at Cattle Pass! The Stellers never cease to amazing me with their size! These guys are just huge, weighing in at almost two ton.

After watching the seals we headed out to find our black and white friends! When we caught up with them, Emily and I quickly identified the J-Pod members that we were watching. Our “Cookie Clan” was there (Double Stuff, Oreo, and Cookie) as well as Blackberry, a particularly large male with a dorsal fin that demands attention every time you see it! Blackberry surprised us all as he rolled through the water a couple times, exposing his pectoral fins.

Since we didn’t see Orcas for a while in June, I am still so grateful to have them back in the Puget Sound and greater Salish Sea area. Every time I see our Southern Resident Killer Whales and get to know their family structures more and more, the more I feel like these Orcas are my family. It’s a weird feeling, having such high regards for a marine mammal. No other mammal (outside of homo sapiens) has such a high variability and complexity within their social structure and society; it’s no surprise I feel like I can relate to these whales on a deeper level. Such a good day on the water!

Birthday celebrations and seeing all of J-pod

Friday, July 12th, 2013

With eager guests, Captain Jim and myself departed on M/V Kittiwake. As soon as we got out of the harbor area, our guests were scanning the tree line for Bald Eagles. We got to Turn Island and guests spotted two Bald Eagles sitting on tree branches close to the water. The guest that spotted the Bald Eagles was celebrating his birthday!
We headed to the south, toward Hein Bank. We had reports the J-pod was spaced out and as soon as we got closer we could see this was true. We spotted a group of three whales and as we were getting closer, guests on board got to see one whale breach three times! Once down there, we had a group of three close to us and other groups further away. Soon we learned we had most of J-Pod heading our way. We saw a mother, Polaris, and her daughter, Star, swim right next to one another.
Our last view was of a group of whales off our stern. This group included two large males, Blackberry and Doublestuff, and their family. This group swam very close together and provided us with a great viewing of four of them. They would surface together and guests got to see all four dorsal fins come up together! I love when we see large groups surface together, seeing all the dorsal fins come up together is just spectacular. On our way home our guests got to witness a “man” over board drill, but instead of man over board we did a balloon over board drill. We always want to keep our wildlife safe so when we see ballons or plastic bags in the water we will pick them up.

Aimee-naturalist, M/V Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

Playful J-pod

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

M/V Kittiwake, guest, Captain Jim, and myself departed Friday Harbor and headed north. Our guests got a great view of the Cactus Islands, Johns Island, and Stuart Island. We caught up with part of J-pod just off of turn point, which marks the most north western point in the U.S. Our guests got great views of the cookie clan, which includes J22-Oreo, J32-Rhapsody, J-34 Doublestuff, J-38 Cookie. This family group was also traveling with another two family groups and our guests were seeing about 10 to 15 whales! Two younger whales, J-46 star and J-47 looker, were showing off for our guests. They were spy hopping, tail lobbing, and breaching. A lot of my guests always ask, “Why do they do that?” I always saying they are trying to look at our guests and showing off for them. On the way home we got to look at two different pairs of nesting Blad Eagles, one on Stuart Island and the other on Spieden Island. Our guests walked off our boat with great pictures of playful J-pod and smiles on their faces!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

Who’s Who in J, K, and L Pod.

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Heading north out of Friday Harbor, Captain Craig, Andrew, our eager guests, and I crossed the Canadian boundary line in search of the elusive K Pod. Up until two days ago, K Pod had yet to show their beautiful black and white faces in our region. Once across the boundary line, we met up with a few K Pod members interspersed with J Pod members. It was great to see K Pod out and about!

After we left the group of  J and K Pod, we decided to try our luck a little bit south where we intersected with a few L Pod members. Although the pods weren’t all together, it was an amazing opportunity for our guests, as well as our crew, to see members of all 3 Southern Residents!

As of now, K Pod has 19 individuals in their pod, which makes them the smallest of the 3 resident pods found in the Salish Sea. The other two resident pods found here are J and L pod. J Pod has 26 members, and L Pod has 37, making L Pod the largest of the Southern Resident Community. Each year, researchers do a roll call to see who has returned, who hasn’t, and if there are any new additions to the pods. As of July 1st, 2013, we have a total of 82 individuals!


Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

J Pod and L Pod, Here To Stay?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Today, Captain Mike, a few quests, and myself headed up northeast towards Lummi Island where we intercepted J Pod steadily moving east. Like Andrew mentioned in yesterdays blog, the community has been anxiously awaiting the return of our residents pods and were overjoyed to hear of a superpod traversing through our area. The resident pods seemed to have split up by the time our afternoon and sunset trip rolled around.

However, that didn’t stop us from seeing whales today! Earlier in the day we were able to meet up with L Pod, who was grouped together closely hugging the shoreline of Saturna Island in a “resting” pattern. Resting patterns are a way that orcas can go into a half awake, half asleep state. Being marine mammals, they need to be able to breathe air consistently.  Using a resting pattern allows orcas to surface, while turning off portions of their brain to recover, and still be aware of their surroundings.

However, in the evening trip,  J Pod was doing anything but resting. On our sunset tour, J Pod, who we haven’t seen for over a month now, gave us a great showing. Below the sheer cliff drops of Lummi Island was a spread out group of J Pod. All along the Lummi coastline our guest were spotting blows, until quite quickly the entire group switched directions and headed towards Sinclair Island.

Over by Sinclair Island, the depth is only 5 to 10 feet in some areas that the pod was foraging! This could be a tactic used by the orcas to limit the amount of space available for salmon to maneuver in. This wasn’t the only foraging techniques guests saw, we also got to see a myriad of barrel-rolls, tail and pectoral slaps, spy-hops, and the occasional breaching! It was a great way to welcome J Pod back to the San Juan Islands and hopefully this active group sticks around for longer!


Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Panoramic Views of L Pod Along the South end of San Juan Island

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Today we left Friday Harbor with a full boat of eager passengers who were determined to see some Orcas, and L Pod did not let them down! Captain Mike, Naturalist Andrew, and myself, did not have to go far to encounter L Pod stretched out along south end of San Juan Island. We stayed with a subgroup of L Pod hanging around Salmon Bank for the majority of the trip. This proved to be an excellent decision when a group of females and juvenile males repeatedly displayed breaches, tail slaps, and even the occasional barrel roll!
L Pod consists of 39 individual and they all seemed to be out and about today. Only L87 was missing, who seems to have done a switch-a-roo and is commonly seen swimming alongside Granny, our 102 year old J Pod member.
Since the Orcas were out in full and dispersed along the horizon, it gave passengers aboard the M/V Sea Lion an excellent opportunity to see panoramic views of our resident pod! I don’t think that it hurt to have glassy water and brilliant blue skies to add to the trips overall success. Looking forward to another great day on the water tomorrow!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Amazing foraging displays from J Pod!

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Unlike yesterdays tumultuous seas, it was a rather pleasant day on the water. The sun came out, and was quickly followed by sightings of J Pod. Soon after heading north out of Friday Harbor, we met up with Granny of J Pod, near Open Bay. Captain Mike, Naturalist Kevin, Naturalist Heather, and myself stuck around to watch Granny for a bit, but she was foraging at a brisk pace so we decided to check out some of her more playful family members further south.
Once we got closer, we were in for quite the show with a plethora of behaviors. There was tail slapping, breaching, and lots of spy hopping! Although as whale watchers and avid photographers it’s great to see these animals jumping and splashing around, it’s important to remember that all those behaviors are tools that Orcas use to forage for their food source. Whether it be tail slapping or breaching, Orcas can use those techniques to corral salmon into tight balls, or ‘bait balls’, to make their food easier to manage. Today we also got to see J pod utilizing the deep waters right off the coast of Kellets Bluff to potentially back salmon up against the coastline. It was amazing opportunity to see the intelligence and efficiency of these animals while foraging! Can’t wait to see what our Naturalists will see next on our sunset whale watching tour today!

Caitlin, Naturalist M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris