Do Not Copy

Do Not Copy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

8-13-17 SRKWs and Transients Comparison Practice

Sunday, August 13th
...having no whales in the area of Lime Kiln recently has given opportunity to have more conversations with people who come into the lighthouse...
...many people have asked, "how do you tell the difference between an SRKW (Southern Resident Killer Whale) and an Transient?"
...one of the people was a man who lives on a nearby island and has recently had, on many occasions, killer whales passby...as he was taking some notes on what to look for he mentioned that he uses 'post-its'...so I called him Mr. Post-Its - (I'm terrible at remembering names, that is unless it's an orca's name.)
...well, Mr. Post-Its told me that when he was younger he wanted to be a marine biologist but his life took a different turn and added that it has been all good...so, I suggested that now was his time to use some of his training from years ago and be that 'marine biologist' right from his front window...
...so for Mr. Post-Its and anyone wanting to see some of the differences, here's a general comparison sheet (printable) to help you get started...
...and now here are some practice whales for you...
...these are only a sampling...but will maybe give you an idea of some of the general differences you might see...










 
...the answers...you'll figure them out...sometimes you have to look for those 'tiny things' that will reveal - Transient or Resident?

 


Saturday, August 5, 2017

8-5-17 Please Don't Throw Away the SRKWs

Saturday, August 5th
...that about sums it up - so far...

...the worst year ever for seeing the Southern Residents.
...the worst year ever for returning salmon.
...the smoke from the fires on the BC mainland and in Washington state makes everything orange...and with no wind it has like this for several days...
...the T18s came up island the other day...

...inside of Low Island, which is off of County Park...

BUT I find it difficult to not talk about the Southern Residents...they are not here and there are huge implications for why they aren't...
...my last blog post mentioned the bait fish moving up, and lots of it...well, that has stopped... (remember, I'm only talking about a stretch along the west side of San Juan Island)...no matter, this stretch is not at its level of sea life that it has been in the past 13 years that I've been watching...

...some L Pod whales came in the other day...that night at midnight they came up to the lighthouse...their echolocation clicks were extremely loud and they lasted a good while...they were in the area until after 3 a.m. fading off the Lime Kiln hydrophones...seen later that morning heading back out to sea...

...test fishing indicated Chinook salmon had been coming in...looks like the whales followed them...I heard from several that the whales were seen with fish in their mouths and/or chasing fish...now that's a good sign...
...the not-good sign is that they were heading back out to sea the next morning...

...no one knows what will occur next...will it all of a sudden change?...it certainly can...and it also can stay the same...what is important is that no matter where the whales are they must eat to stay alive. 

...we can only watch and wait and see what unfolds as the weeks go on...

...a few images from the PAST...



...keep watch on what's around you...from the small up to the large...indicators...indicators...

...the Transients have filled the empty space...but they aren't the Southern Residents...
...please don't throw the SRKWs away...no matter who tells you something 'can't' be done is only saying words...it's the actions of people who can make the change...
...when someone tells you to 'not even bother' ...well 'be bothered' - bothered by their words of discouragement, push on...it's only their opinion...
 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

7-25-17 Grab Your Binocs

Tuesday, July 25th

Grab your binoculars and go to the shore line and see...

...those images taken from 'the wall' at Lime Kiln Pt. State Park this morning...people were coming down and looking...looking out...looking for the 'big things'...but when they were directed to look closer and look down...some were quite amazed at what they saw!
...I couldn't show them whales...at that time I didn't even have a clue where they were...but I could show them the 'tiny things'...
...often those 'tiny things' are what gets ignored, when in fact so much depends on the 'tiny things'... (look down at the shore wherever you are to see what you can see...)

...some of the big things some folks saw yesterday and again today, not only from Lime Kiln but also from County Park, and from their sounds I think they liked those 'big things' too... :)
Monday...
Tuesday...
...and L Pod...well they came down last night...I heard them over the Lime Kiln hydrophones at about 11pm...they headed back west today...
...but maybe they will be back sooner...lots more gulls today and cormorants too, even some harbor porpoise, a minke whale, and let's not forget those 'tiny things' and the 'big things'...they are all connected.
...and J Pod, well they are still in the Salish Sea but not where you could see them from shore today...some folks on boats got to see them...maybe tomorrow J Pod will come our way...
...let's hope the salmon will be abundant enough for J Pod to stay...
 
 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

7-23-17 J and L Pod Whales First Time This Year

Sunday, July 23rd
...yesterday, I happened upon this image from a few years ago...the orcas and gulls...and you know I have been watching for gulls that haven't been around much on the west side (a designated section only)...what had been common in the past just wasn't this year...and that means the lack of sightings of the Southern Residents and gulls and all kinds of things...so I started watching for gull activity, etc - hence the image...
...this morning when I went scanning I could see and hear gulls down island, much more activity than I had seen this year...yesterday in the mid-afternoon I heard over the Lime Kiln hydrophones one little squeak...immediately I went into orca-mode (whatever that is!) but didn't hear anything else the rest of the day...
...well, L Pod whales were seen off the lower west side in the early morning this morning (so I wonder if the hydrophones had picked them up briefly from a great distance-will never know)...and then J Pod whales were spotted in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, coming in, but they would take a while to get to the west side of the island...
...in the morning there were only a few L Pod whales who started coming up island...some of the L4s - Nugget L-55, Lapis L-103, Lazuli L-123, Surprise L-86...here's a few of them...

...a couple hours later J Pod entered Haro Strait and their calls could be heard over the Lime Kiln hydrophones...and of course, the L Pod whales could hear them too...there was no rush toward one another...some of the J Pod whales soon began angling toward the west side and the lighthouse...and here's who arrived first and 7 minutes ahead of any of the others...

...behind Shachi were some moms and their little ones...and it was a riot trying to figure out who was who - bright, glaring sunshine didn't help either...
Kiki J-53, Scarlet J-50, Sonic J-52, and their moms plus a few others were moving about so erratically you might have thought there were 4 or 5 little guys!...but there weren't...tried finding Eclipse J-41 and Nova J-51...saw them later in the day but not in this moms/kids early up island group...
...and soon they turned and went back down island...Shachi did too.  I remember seeing this occurring with Granny sometimes too (I called it flexibility as a leader!)...
...Soundwatch was out there heading off private boats before they got into the whales...thanks Soundwatch!  You don't get the kudos you deserve for all the hard work you do for the whales.

...soon the whales came back up island and socialized along Land Bank and Lime Kiln Pt. State Park...It is the first time since September 2016 that these J and L groups have been together in these waters!
...it was so busy with whales you didn't know which way to look next...they were definitely into socializing big time!


...they 'stayed and played' for a good while and then went back down island again...yes, again...
...and when they came back up Js and the Ls were all mixed together....it was now after 4pm and this time they would continue up island...the tide had changed to a flood and some of the whales just went with the flow, allowing the current to carry them along...others zoomed on by...


 ...as the last of the whales were going north I noticed the gulls...
...all the family groups of J Pod were present plus Onyx L-87 and the L Pod whales who were present were the L26s, L72s, L4s, and L47s...of the Ls I didn't see everyone of them but some members of each of the families...

...they looked very energetic, more interested in social time than foraging time...though what orca would pass up Chinook salmon if they saw some!

...they went north in the evening, perhaps to the Fraser River maybe to feast or to check it out...they'll be back down...just when is what we want to know...
...always on the lookout...even in my sleep!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

7-19-17 L Pod Whales Yesterday

this post is about Tuesday, July 18th
...here's more about the day full of L Pod whales along the west side of San Juan Island...
...they had been coming in through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, all day long...not sure if they would make it all the way in and across...had last seen them at almost dark on July 17th...
...so early in the morning on the 18th they were down island off False Bay area, spread out and foraging...after a while a few began slowly coming up island...
...Racer L-72, Fluke L-105, Kasatka L-82, Finn L-116, plus Nugget L-55 and one other were slowly going up island...but it was several hours before a small group made it almost up to the lighthouse...

...then turned and went back down island with the 'pooch in hot pursuit' (joking!)

...throughout the rest of the afternoon the whales were spread out...a few were up island along the Hannah Heights section...most were down off False Bay or South Beach...and at least one was way off shore...
...similar to the pooch...another unusual sighting...
...the mother and calf were Muncher L-91 and Magic L-122...they had gone up and were going back down island at that time...
...now it's three hours later - 7pm...and Moonlight L-83 and Midnight L-110

...behind Muncher L-47 and Mystic L-115 were Moonlight L-83 and Midnight L-110...they stopped to forage and spent about 10 minutes chasing salmon...
watching them as they worked together was fascinating...
...these two moved on north and it was apparent that others were coming north...this time it looked like all of them - The L26s, L72s, L55s, L86s, and L47s for a total of 19.  
...they were really vocal when they passed the lighthouse and loud too and appeared to be in a very social mood...

...yes, the waters of the west side had come alive...even Rhinoceros auklets had lots to eat...
...the whales didn't go very far and turned and came back down island giving those on shore the opportunity for some wonderful sunset images while watching some very active orcas...
...after dark I heard them over the Lime Kiln hydrophones from about 9:50pm, for about 20 minutes...their calls were very faint...
...by this morning, July 19, it appeared they had headed back out to sea...

...we wait again and we watch the bird activity, the fish activity and the life changes in the waters along the west side...for they may give a clue as to when the next group of Southern Residents comes in...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7-18-17 L Pod Whales All Day Today

Tuesday, July 18th
..yep, the first image I took today 7a.m.
 
...and the last image I took today...at sunset...at the lighthouse...
...worth every minute of waiting, scanning, scanning, waiting...

the day began...the day ended...with a whole lot of action in the middle...


...the L Pod whales, who are in here, did finally make it up past the lighthouse as the sun was setting and then they went back down island... 

will post more later...too tired now :) 


Monday, July 17, 2017

7-17-17 How Quickly Things Can Change

Monday, July 17
...over the last few days more bait fish (tiny silvering flashing herring, I'm told) and a bit larger fish maybe 3 or 4", have been appearing and bigger fish have been going after the larger of the small fish...
...more gulls have been showing up, but not a huge amount...
...a few harbor porpoise too...
...last evening a small group of Transients came down the west side of San Juan Island at just about dark-thirty...
...and today L Pod whales were seen coming in from the open ocean...

...they made it into Haro Strait at about 8:30pm and very faint L Pod up-tick calls could be heard over the Lime Kiln hydrophones...
..now that's a big change - first time of hearing SRKW calls over the hydrophones since July 1st!
...it was an evening of watching the boats as they slowly came across the strait...caught a couple blows and one splash but that's it...still too far out...
...lost sight of them not long after...

...will they be here tomorrow?  maybe, maybe not...can't wait to find out!

Friday, July 14, 2017

7-14-17 Their Silence is Deafening

Friday, July 14

In late June, stepping out the front door, of where I live, I heard some noise and then realized those were the sounds of gulls. That might not sound very unusual but I realized at that moment that I hadn't been seeing or hearing them prior to then.

That noise came from at least 50 gulls that were on Low Island, the small island just off San Juan County Park.  The next day I counted about 70 gulls about 4 miles down island from County Park.

It was at about the same time that J Pod, Onyx L-87, and the K14s showed up.
Related?  hummm...

The whales left the inland waters in the early hours on July 1. 
Early each day I would go looking for the whales.
What I found was that I also began looking for gulls.
There weren't any! (Note: there are lots of gulls in other areas.  I used a certain area:  Haro Strait - the north end of Andrews Bay and to the south off Pile Pt. )

Each day, same time, I would count how many I saw in that area and I didn't care how far offshore they might be. I would spend at least 30 minutes in each area looking and then watched throughout the day for any changes.
It was quite strange - most days I saw none.  One day, one gull was flying down and the next day one gull was flying up. 

In the last week there have been several days in a row that lots of small fish, some really tiny, going up and some, a bit larger (3 or 4" - maybe), going down. You'd think there would be gulls after them.  No gulls.

On July 13 there was one - just one - group of gulls that were acting as if they were dive bombing small fish.  Also saw about another 15 gulls.  But that's all. 



Questions I have that may take time to answer:
Will the gull activity in this area increase when the Residents begin to come in?

Why is Haro Strait, in this area, so void of sea life?  (void in comparison to what we usually see)

Though the Transients do not commonly use the west side of San Juan Island on any regular basis, why are they using San Juan Channel and Rosario Strait on a regular basis this year? 
(The likely answer is because there is an abundance of seals and porpoises. And why are there hardly any seals and porpoises between Andrews Bay to Pile Pt.?)


Of course the likely answer is food or lack there of.

Then why is the food 'there' and not 'here'?

It seems now I am looking for any sort of ocean life indicator.

The Southern Residents have been gone for 14 days now.
It is hoped they are finding plenty of food.
One can guess that because they are not here, then they likely are finding food, but we don't know for sure.

So we wait.

One day we will hear their calls over the hydrophones again.
Their Silence is Deafening.

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

7-7-17 Transients Have Taken Over

I figure I better catch up before the Residents return :)...one of these days...

...J Pod, Onyx L-87, and the K14s had been north, returning back down along the west side in the morning of the 29th...
...I almost missed them...not a sound until the leader was at the lighthouse...one quick 'eek' and I was off and running...knowing some had already passed the park I got down island enough to catch up to the leader...
...glad I did - it was Lea K14.
...she was up ahead of Eclipse J-41 and Nova J-51, Shachi J-19 was just behind them, but Lea was a good distance ahead and she just kept on going...
I checked with Bob and his intern to verify who they had in the lead and Christy showed me an image of Lea...so their order had been the same when I saw them a bit farther down island...
...behind Shachi was Yoda K-36 and Lobo K-26...and then others...the J16s were together...some of the J17s...
...the whales weren't close to shore and there were several who were offshore, very far off...
...they stayed down island by several miles, started to come up in the afternoon but turned around...then closer to 8pm several came up island and passed the lighthouse...
...if you haven't seen the webcam for the lighthouse ...that evening some who were in close could be seen...eventually all went up island and after dark their blows could be heard as they passed by here...
...they were back up near the Fraser River on the 30th and woke me up 1:30 a.m. (middle of the night 7-1)...their calls were faint, indicating they were offshore and likely heading back out to sea...
...it's now July 7th and they haven't returned...yet...

...for the last several weeks the 'Ts' (Transient, aka Bigg's) orcas have been all over these inland waters...it's like there is a void so they are filling it...
...the Center for Whale Research stated that T37A-1 who hasn't been seen in several years, showed up this week with mom and other members of that family group!...I got down to Cattle Pass just in time to see one of the two groups...
...T37A and T37A-1 as the whales were coming up San Juan Channel...
...one usually has a better opportunity to see Transients from a boat than from shore but sometimes you get lucky...
...in the last few weeks Ts have often been in several places at the same time...just about everywhere except for along the west side...and then the T101s showed up coming up the west side of the island on July 6th...
...I heard a very faint sound and got to the park quickly...they were about 3/4 mile from shore and then moved in a bit closer and slowly made their way up island... 
...following them up island, I found these two bird watchers who turned into whale watchers!...and one of them hadn't ever seen killer whales before!...
...fun to be able to share about the orcas with them...


...then today the T35s and the T38s showed up along the west side, but about 3+ miles out...oh, well...
....Residents with faint calls when they were leaving, Ts with a few faint calls as they were coming up...maybe next time it will be Residents loud and clear as they come in following a huge run of salmon :)
...one can always hope, right?!