Posts Tagged ‘L pod’

L-Pod Orcas and Minke Whale!

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The M/V Kittywake left Friday Harbor this afternoon in search of an elusive Minke out in Griffin Bay! We soon caught up with the small whale feeding on sand lance, krill, and small schools of herring right off of San Juan Island. The Minke gave us lots of great views surfacing many times, giving our guests some great photography moments. It’s always a great day when we start off seeing whales ten minuets into our trip!

After we left the Minke Whale to continue foraging, we saw some Harbor Porpoise surfacing in the distance as well as Harbor Seals forging in the tidal up-welling zones.  The Harbor Seals quickly surrounded our boat, peering up at us with their large eyes (which makes them look so endearing)!  While we moved away from them, one Seal emerged with a large salmon in his mouth!

Of course, the best part of the trip on M/V Kittywake was when we got on seen with our Southern Resident Orcas. L-Pod was still off the West side of the Island foraging on the Chinook Salmon. We got some great views of Mystery and Wave Walker (L-85 & L-88), or large male Orcas.  All in all, it was a great day out on the water with everything from Sea Lions to Orca whales seen by all of our guests! I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittywake

San Juan Safaris

L Pod Near False Bay

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Another great day on the water for the M/V Sea Lion’s passengers and crew! It started off a little daunting when the fog bank had yet to clear before our afternoon trip, but Captain Craig timed it perfectly! Once we passed the southern tip of San Juan Island the fog bank cleared and it was smooth sailing till we arrived on scene with a few members of L Pod.
Our afternoon trip got to witness excellent foraging displays by the L-12′s, who were constantly corraling their prey below the surface. It was a great opportunity to witness their feeding displays in action!
However, it wasn’t till our evening trip that we got a more intimate look at L-88, Wave Walker! Wave walker is a mature male, who was born in 1993, and seemed to have taken a liking to the M/V Sea Lion. He gave passengers aboard a multitude of excellent looks and even followed our general trajectory as we motored away. I don’t think anyone aboard walked away without a great shot to share with family and friends back home!
Overall it was a great trip for both our afternoon and evening trips and I can’t tell how great it feels to see some black and whites back in the area!

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

Orcas on the West Side of San Juan

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The M/V Kittiwake departed from our Friday Harbor location today with spirits set high with an awesome whale report early on. We confirmed the report later when we got on scene with our L-Pod Orcas! It was going to be a great day!

After going through the renowned Cattle Pass and a little bit of fog, the Kittiwake made her way to the Southwest side of San Juan Island off Pyle Point. It’s always a great sight to see your first dorsal fin and our guests were amazed at their grace and beauty. Our L-Pod Orcas were traveling close together tail slapping, spy hopping, and porpoising out of the water. L-87 (Mystery), L-85 (Guia), L-2 (Grace), L-88 (Wave Walker), and L-77 (Matia and her Calf) were all identified while on the water.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

The Orcas Are Back!!

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Captain Craig, Naturalist Andrew, and myself were all very excited to share with our guests that a group of resident orcas are back! As some of our readers know we haven’t been seeing our resident orcas recently so this news definitely had all of our staff very excited!
We caught up with part of L-pod just north of False Bay on the west side of San Juan Island. The whales were close to shore when we first arrived but then a male surfaced closer to our boat. Andrew and I were able to identify this male as L-88, Wave Walker. We could identify him because of his open saddle patch on his right side. Wave Walker did show us his tail a few times with doing some tail lobes.
Seeing as this is the first report of our residents in a while, the conservation K-9 boat, Moja, was out. This boat had Tucker the black lab on it and they were following L-pod. Soundwatch was also out monitoring all of the private boats as well as the whale watch boats. Soundwatch is a program out of the whale museum and is an education system on how to view our resident orcas properly.
After watching L-pod travel back and forth, we motored back home. All of our guests were excited that they were able to view part of our resident orcas. Andrew and I still are excited they are back and can’t wait for the rest of them to return!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

Amazing Night with Transients and Residents!

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Blogging is always so much easier as a naturalist when you have amazing trips. I must say, I have been extremely fortunate throughout the 2013 season in having great trips. Tonight was another one of those top five best nights. Our Southern Resident Killer Whales surprised us all, as they usually do, by swimming the (roughly) 90 mile voyage from the western side of Vancouver Is. BC into the northern waters of the Puget Sound. It’s not uncommon for Killer Whales to swim 100+ miles a day; they can swim up to 30 mph and hold their breath for up to 25 minuets! Our Residents weren’t the only ones who made the journey into the Salish Sea however, our Transients did too!

When Captain Mike and I got on seen with the Orcas our guests were thrilled. We were watching a group of 12 transient whales that were different from the whales we had just seen the day before! There was one huge male in the group whose dorsal fin was very large and angular and another whose was “sprouting” into maturity. It is rare to see transients in the Puget Sound to begin with, seeing two different nomadic groups in two day is even rarer. Likewise, seeing a group of twelve transients in one pod is even rarer since they normally travel in smaller groups, making it easier for them to hunt their food.  It was just a crazy night! Not only were these whales here, but they were within a couple miles of our Resident Orcas, which was also very daunting. Normally, the two groups will avoid each other entirely. For those of you who are just starting to read these blogs, Transient Orcas feed solly on marine mammals. Our Resident Orcas feed only on fish, specifically Chinook Salmon. The two whales have completely different life styles, cultures, genetics and social structures.

Since the odds were stacked in our favor, Captain Mike and I decided to go check out our Resident Orcas- L-Pod. They were off of the north end of Stewart Is. and heading southwestern. When we got there, they were breaching in synchronicity, vocalizing like crazy, tail slapping … you name it, they were doing it! L-Pod member, Cruiser, was there as well as many females and a 2012 calf that was having tons of fun. It’s amazing to me that these whales are still able to carry on and live as they are. These whales are up against a lot. The Puget Sound is actually a “hotspot” for pollution. Chemicals such as PCBs, PBDEs and other biotoxins/flame retardents make our Southern Resident Killer Whales the most toxic Killer Whales in the world. Still, they survive and live on. Celebrating their way through life, and we are fortunate enough to be able to watch. It was an amazing night, full of wildlife and wonderful sights. What a great way to end a day, with one of the world smartest mammals, our Killer Whales.

 

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

“Spirited” Whales and Wildlife of All Sorts!

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Today was a beautiful day to be on the water with plenty of action, and Caitlin, Captain Mike and I were out to experience it all! We left the dock and headed out to the south end of San Juan Island. As we went through Cattle Pass, there was a plethora of wildlife to be scene. A mated pair of Bald Eagles flew above the water in front of us and landed on Goose Island. Also on Goose Island were lots of hatchings! Fluff balls of down feathers and young, disoriented, hungry baby Galls covered the island! Now, normally I’m not particularity fond of Galls… but seeing all of the adorable hatchings bring a new side of “cuteness” to these terribly misunderstood creatures!

It’s also “pupping” season, and we saw many Harbor Seal pups with their mothers swimming and up on the rocks! Harbor Seal pups can swim within minuets of birth, but have been known to ride on Mom’s back holding on with their tiny flippers! This may seem well and good, but in 3-4 weeks that mother is going to abruptly wean and leave her pup, so he/she had better be paying attention and not catching too many free piggy-backs off Mom!

After we spent time with the Eagles and Seals, Mike slowed the boat down once more for something else; Harbor Porpoise surrounded our boat, and one even breached! There is nothing like seeing a 150lb Porpoise jump out of the water! That was a first for me! It’s actually unusual for Harbor Porpoise to spend that much time near a motor vessel, usually their very shy and disappear when large boasts are near; we were all very happy!

When we finally caught up with the L-22′s (Spirit, Skanna, and Solstice), and it was as if they were welcoming us. Right off, Solstice lept into the air in a full breach! From then on, lots of cartwheeling, breaching, spyhoping, rolling and tail slapping that occurred from all three of the L-Pod members! They just love the attention! Watching these three whales never gets old. They’ve been the only three killer whales in the Puget Sound for a while now, but they certainly know how to put on a show! I’ll visit these whales any day! They’ve really becoming quite partial to me.

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

Whales on the West Side

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

It was a beautiful day out on the water today with clear views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, the Olympics and the Cascades! Myself, Caitlin, and Captain Mike were eager to see some wildlife and so were the guests. Heading southward, we got an awesome viewing of several hauled out Harbor Seals on Turn Rock! We made our way around the south end of the island past scenic Cattle Point continued northward along the west side. Here, we were lucky enough to spot 3 members of L-Pod!! It was Spirit L-22 and her two sons Solstice L-89 and Skana L-79. Our guests got several great views of these 3 resident orcas, who spent quite a long time surfacing and milling about.

A couple guests asked the question, “So are there any animals above killer whales on the food chain?” I told them that in fact, other than humans, orca whales maintain the spot as top predator on the marine food chain. Aside from the 2 most commonly seen ecotypes of orcas here in the Salish Sea (Southern Residents which eat mainly Chinook Salmon and Transients with eat marine mammals) there is another ecotype called an Offshore Orca whose diet consists mainly of sharks. All in all, we and our guests thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon trip with whales, seals, and beautiful weather!

Meg – Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

Tucker, The Orca Poop Sniffing Dog!

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

The great weather continued today as Captain Jim, passengers, and I sped up along the west side of San Juan Island to meet up with a few L Pod members. As you might have read in earlier posts, L-22, Spirit, and her two sons, L-79, Skana, and Solstice, L-89, have been consistently found milling along the west side of San Juan this summer. Today was no exception!  They seemed to be the only show in town, since all the boats were out and about, including the University of Washington, Center for Conservation Biology’s boat.

The Center for Conservation Biology is a program that utilizes canines to help acquire fecal samples left behind by our Southern Resident Orcas. The researchers will follow in a zig-zag pattern downwind of the orcas, so that Tucker, the poop sniffing dog, can smell the samples. It is said that Tucker can smell a sample up to a mile away!  Once upon the sample, Tucker is rewarded with a game of tug-o-war while researchers use their specially designed poop scoopers to grab the sample. Not a bad life! From these samples researchers are able to study stress, nutrition, and reproductive hormones found in the resident orcas. It is an important study that can help shed light on the instability of our resident community, as well as, give whale watchers pause as they watch Tucker go about his daily job!

 

Caitlin, 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