Posts Tagged ‘L pod’

The Gang’s All Here–Southern Residents off Stuart Island

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

Today we left the Friday Harbor dock and motored north on a report of whales heading in to Boundary Pass from East Point. By the time we got that far north, they had already reached Stuart Island. When they reached Turn Point, they began to head south in to Haro Straight. Although they were very spread out, we could tell that we had a large number of whales in the area, members from J, K, AND L pod. We were able to at least identify the J16s (my personal favorites), the K14s, and Crewser (L92) and Racer (L72), but we know that there we many others. Guests were fascinated to hear the breaths as each orca broke the surface. All whales get some water trapped in the divot that forms on top of the blowhole’s opening. That being said, they must be able to clear the water before they inhale again so that they don’t drown. They are estimated to exhale at about 200 miles per hour, a huge difference compared to the 40 mph at which we sneeze. After the trailing whales passed us, we turned around and headed back to SJI. On the way back, we got to see some harbor seals resting atop the Cactus island kelp forests, as well as saw 4 Bald Eagles and listened to them call–a great way to end a great trip!

Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

SuperPodia

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

If you haven’t heard yet it’s Superpod week on San Juan Island. This is now an annual event that brings together whale researchers, whale watchers, whale enthusiasts, conservationists, documentarians, and sincerely concerned citizens to Friday Harbor for a week of films, talks, and get-togethers to learn and discuss how to better protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales. So, in all, a big meeting of whale intentioned folks. It’s a big week for the island and a big week for those who care about the whales, but I’m not sure if the orcas know we’re constantly talking about them, but today maybe they did. We started out on a cool sunny morning from Friday Harbor with not a lot of news about the the location of the orcas, we heard some rumors of a group down south near Eagle Cove, but then also heard that there was some activity up north by Open Bay. So Capt. Brian, Alex, and I set off intrepidly to the northern bound whales. We met up with the leaders around Kellett Bluff. We followed this group of milling J podders and some K pod south for a ways but broke off to look at another lone group nearer to shore. As we watched these few whales with awe we noticed another group moving up from the south and then boom 20 orcas lined up! Members from all three pods joined forces to make….wait for it… a Superpod! This group was amazing as 20 plus dorsal fins would rise in unison from the depths. Different whales took turns be the front and sometimes it was the new calves all signaling with tail slaps. They swam northward and once they passed the bluffs, Bam! they picked up speed, some went this way some went that way a few adult males started racing! It was just too much! But it was a wonderful reminder how much both, we as humans and these orcas share in common, especially our desire to be close to family and friends, our need to commune and share a common joy.

 

Peace for all whales and humans alike,

Naturalist Erick

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Superpod, Super Day

Monday, July 6th, 2015

This trip was one of the best whale watches of my life. We motored off to the southwest side of San Juan Island, where we met up with the Southern residents, (and a minke whale!) At first, we could just see one or two whales here and there, surfacing sporadically. In time, however, they began to surface more often, and more predictably, more seemed to appear, and before we knew it, we were watching a greeting ceremony. Whales joined up to form larger and larger pods, and then each larger pod came together from different directions to form superpod! This year, the residents have been more fragmented than usual, meaning that you’re more likely to see just one or a few matrilines at a time, as opposed to all of J pod, for example, or all of the residents traveling together. This looser social structure seems to follow a pattern of low food availability, so to see them all come together like we did today is both super cool, and good news. It is also believed that superpod is a breeding event, members of J pod mating with members of K pod, and L pod, but never within pods. This joining of the residents was followed by ample surface activity, breaches, tail slaps, pec slaps, rolls, and spyhops. We spent our entire trip (excluding travel time) watching the whales, and I don’t think guests could have been happier.

 

Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Breaches, and Breaches, and Breaches

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Today we left the dock in high spirits with two options to see whales. Captain Mike certainly made the right choice, and as we came to decision time, the proverbial fork in the road, we headed North into the Haro Strait. The results couldn’t have been better.

Breaching killer whales are always impressive and as we got closer to a few other boats in the whale watching fleet, it was obvious we were in for a show. I counted at least six breaches before we even got close enough for most of our guests to see the whales. By the end of the trip I had lost count at 40.

When we approach a group of Killer Whales that has already been reported, we often know if they are Southern Residents or Transients, and potentially even which individuals are around. Today was no different, we had already heard K and L pods were traveling South off the coast of San Juan Island. However, had we not known Naturalist Alex and I would have looked at saddle patches first to figure out who we were looking at. Every trip offers different opportunities to learn the individuals that reside in the San Juan Islands during the season.

The weather was glorious and an area of the water that can be tumultuous with tide and wind was flat and calm all afternoon. We followed the intermingled pods, watching breach after breach, logging whales, and a lot of foraging behavior on our way South. We left them as they continued on, happy with amazing views of cavorting wild whales before glacier-capped volcanoes Rainier and Baker. And with a quick view of a Minke Whale on the way back, we were home in Friday Harbor.

Naturalist Brendan

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Superpod!

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Today we left Friday harbor with reports of orcas off the west side of San Juan Island.  We heard reports of K pod in the area for the first time this season.  As we headed out our anticipation grew for the possibility of exciting whale viewing.  We got west of Henry Island and came upon the leading group of orcas.  We let them pass by and got to see a large group of orcas that consisted of about 20 individuals.  This group included members of J and K pod.  We then saw a few whales from L pod as well and at that point we knew that we had encountered a superpod.  Superpod is when all 81 whales in the southern resident community come together and socialize in one area.  We watched the amazing sight of all of the orcas breaching, tail slapping, pectoral slapping, rolling and social touching.  We had an absolutely superb day out on the water with the whales!  As we headed back to Friday Harbor we stopped by to see a bald eagles nest and we were lucky enough to see a chick in the nest.  Luckily it was large enough that was visible from the water.  We then got some great looks at a pod of harbor porpoise swimming through San Juan Channel.  Today was an absolutely amazing day out on the water!  First picture taken by Naturalist Sarah.  Second picture taken by naturalist Rachel.  Both pictures were taken on our tour today.

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Residents off South Pender

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Today we left Friday Harbor with a report of orcas traveling south at a fast past around East Point.  We headed towards boundary pass in order to meet the whales as they traveled south.  When we came upon the whales they were very spread out through the northern end of boundary pass.  It is very common to see the whales spread out over wide distances in order to cover the most distance to find salmon.  We watched the J16′s which consists of the matriarch J16  (Slick) and her four offspring J26 (Mike), J36 (Alki), J42 (Echo) and J50, her newest offspring.  J36 also had a new calf this winter, J52 who will be named at the end of this upcoming summer.  We then got to see the L47′s which consists of L47 (Marina) and her three offspring L83 (Moonlight), L91 (Muncher) and L115 (Mystic).  Also with the L47′s is L83s offspring L110 (Midnight).  The L47′s were traveling as a tight knit group at a faster pace then the J16′s were traveling.  After watching the L47′s we then got to see J16 eating a salmon!  We watched the J16′s traveling and socializing together which included some behaviors such as breaching and spyhopping!  On our way home we got to see some seals sun bathing on the rocks and a bald eagle in flight.  Below is a picture of J36 (Alki) and her offspring J52 taken by Rachel on the trip today.  It was a great day out on the water and we hope our guests enjoyed it as much as we did!

 

 

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

L Pod Joins the Mix on the West Side

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Today Captain Pete and Naturalist Mike (along with some other seasoned naturalists) crewed the M/V Sea Lion as we left the dock in search of wildlife. The crew and the passengers were all anticipating a great trip because we had reports of L pod, a faction of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, on the west side of San Juan Island.

The Southern Resident Killer Whale population is made up of three populations that inhabit the waters of Southern British Columbia and the Salish Sea, all of whom only eat fish and especially love Chinook Salmon. They spend the summer following these salmon from the open ocean into the Salish Sea, through the San Juan Islands as they migrate up into the Frasier river in British Columbia to spawn. Where as J pod can be seen throughout the year in these waters, K and L pod tend to spend the winters out at sea or along the coast continuing to feed on salmon as they mature in open water. So you can see why it is so exciting to see L pod for the first time this season: it means Summer is here!

We cruised down San Juan Channel around Cattle Point and up into Haro Strait, where we caught up with them at False Bay. We began to see dorsal fins popping up here and there. About 15 Orcas were cruising in a very mellow fashion, interspersed with tail slapping and some dives to snack on salmon, first to the north and then they turned and began heading south. We watched several different groups for a while as they meandered along the coast and got some great looks at these magnificent animals before we decided to let them be and see what else we could find. We cruised over to Long Island to see a bald eagle and its huge nest, and checked out some harbor seals (safe from the Residents) before returning to Friday Harbor.

Always a treat to see the Southern Residents, another Whale of a day on the water!

Naturalist Mike J

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Cetacean Madness!!!!!

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Today Captain Mike, Naturalist Caitlin and I had a trip that we all agreed was the highlight of our season. We left Friday Harbor at 12:00pm and immediately stumbled across some harbor seals hauled out on some rocks. The seals need to lay in the sun to warm up as they have a very minimal layer of insulating fat known as blubber. With another stop to check out some nesting double-crested cormorants and some gulls, we headed out to find a minke whale on a glassy Haro Strait. We caught up with a minke whale while it was feeding and enjoyed watching it surface a few times in beautiful golden light. After about 20 minutes we left the minke to catch up with some orcas! We were delighted to have a report of southern residents (the salmon-eating whales) this late in the season. Though we see transient orcas all year round, the residents are usually here only when the salmon are running June through August. With that being said, we are having an excellent September for whale watching! We were delighted to see L72 Racer and her son L105 Fluke, as well as J28 and her son J46 Star. We enjoyed many breaches and great underwater vocalizations broadcasted from our on-board hydrophone. We had some excellent looks of whale sin both L and J pods. After leaving the orcas in Haro Strait we started to meander our way back to Friday Harbor, finding some northern sea lions and a bald eagle. As we rounded a corner, nearly back to the harbor,  the water around the M/V Sea Lion started to boil with over 150 Pacific white-sided dolphins. The dolphins played in our wake, bow rode, and lept out of the water. We were all so entranced that we ended up extending our trip by about 40 minutes! Today was the most incredible day on the water I have had the pleasure of witnessing. I will be dreaming of dolphins tonight.

Sarah, M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

Sunny Day with L-pod!

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Yet another beautiful late summer day with the Southern Residents! We had a spectacular afternoon full of breaching, tail lobbing and porpoising…. generally very happy orcas! Today we enjoyed the company of a couple of different L-pod families. We spent the most time with the L54s (L54 “Ino” and her calves L108 “Coho” & L117 “Keta”) who were joined by some of my favorite males: L92 “Crewser”, L88 “Wave Walker”, and L84 “Nyssa”. Wave Walker and Nyssa are the last remaining members of their matrilineal lines, so they are often seen travelling with other families. After yesterday’s news of the new L-pod baby we all were keeping our eyes out for the newest addition to the Southern Resident Community, but alas L86 “Surprise!” and her brand new calf L120 were not with the group we saw today. After spending some time with the killer whales we found Steller’s sea lions hauled out on some rocks and were also fortunate to find two bald eagles! The water was like glass all afternoon, and the light was absolutely beautiful. Overall, a great afternoon on the water!

Sarah, M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

Late Summer Resident Whales!

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Saturday September 6th was a great day on the water. M/V Sea lion, captain, crew, and guests enjoyed the sunny weather and calm seas on the south west side of San Juan Island today. The resident (salmon-eating) orcas seem to still be finding food here in the Salish Sea and were back in full force. We had reports of all three pods in the area (J, K, and L)! We spent most of our afternoon with what seemed to be a mixture of K and L pods, with some close looks at K21 and L44 both mature males in the Southern Resident community. But killer whales weren’t all the guests got to see!

We also got to spend some time viewing Stellar Seal Lion males fighting and barking at each other for space on the rocks. The seal lions like to rest and warm up while hauled out on the rocks but the males compete for the highest spot on the rocks. It was amazing to see these 2000+ lb whales battle it out. We also got lucky enough to spy a Tufted puffin!! Extremely rare in this area but our guests got to see a solitary bird hanging with some gulls, and auklets.

Beautiful, fun filled day on the water today!
Naturalist,

Chelsea

San Juan Safaris