Sunday, May 3, 2009

Afternoon with the J's

I suppose you are wondering what I mean by J's? Stellar Blue Jays? Gray Jays? or the J family down the street? Well none of that is correct...

Today was a glorious afternoon spending time with J-pod, one of the Resident Orca pods here in the San Juan's.

We left Deer Harbor at 1:00pm
with seven Passengers, I was the Naturalist on duty today. Last night I received a phone call from Tom at Deer Harbor Charters he needed a Naturalist today, so after going to work at the Salmon Hatchery this morning, I headed out to Deer Harbor, of course that was after clipping over 1500 Baby Salmon Fry's, This would be my first day out this season, and I was really looking forward to seeing our Residents for the first time this year. After a long absence of 44 days, J-Pod along with some members of K-pod returned last week. Everyone who is involved in the Whale Watch Industry here gets very excited this time of year for the residents to return. J-pod being the most resident of the three pods, sticking around for a great part of the year. This is only my fifth time out total in the two years I have lived here, so for me it was particularly thrilling.

The Day started out very slow. We were in close touch with the other operators, and as of noon, there had only been one reported siting near Discovery Island. Yet we kept our hopes up high, and in the long run our faith and trust paid off. The trip started out with several sightings of Harbor Seals, a few Bald Eagles and then some Harbor Porpoise. We were heading towards Canada, via Spieden Island to view some of the very unusual Wildlife They have on Spieden. Back in the 1960's, Speiden Island was purchased by two brothers for a reputed 10,000 with the intention of starting a Game Safari Resort. This was quite odd, considering we are in the Middle of an Inland sea in Washington. They imported several types of exotic ungulates from such places as Denmark, Japan and Africa. Fallow Deer, A type of Mountain Sheep called Mouflans from Corsica and a little Deer from Japan. People would come and stay on the Island to hunt the animals.. which I think is totally strange. The idea never did prosper and was eventually sold. After leaving Spieden we were still continuing Northwest I believe towards Turn Point and closer to Canada. Finally we began receiving some new reports that the Orcas had been heard on one of the Hydrophones, one of which turned out to be false. Yet, Tom preserved and never gave up hope and finally around 4:00 some of J-pod was sighted. Excitement definitely came over me as I really wanted to see the Whales before I leave for two months to work at Mount Rainier in June. The whales were very spread out, which has been more common lately with the lack of available food prey, nevertheless a welcome site. First we spotted J-30 also known as Riptide. He was born in 1995, so he is still quite the young male, Males have a more impressive Dorsal fin that grows with age, and can get up to 6 foot high. Ruffles J-1 appeared and he has a very distinguishable Dorsal fin at 6 foot with the potato chip design on it. We also saw one of the new calves J-45 belonging to J-14, Samish. The Babies are so cute with their Yellow/orange coloring still. When they are infants they have more of a jaundice coloring to them. She was traveling very close to her Mom. There was some fun behavior and I saw a breach or two . When they feed they go down to around 150 feet where the Salmon are, so you have to be patient to wait for them to come up to the surface again. Once they fed, they were in traveling mode again, so we spent around 1/2 hour with them, which was great! Even with the water a bit choppy it was well worth the patience we endured to see them today.

Photos are from Center for Whale Research site
Whale Museum site
and google royalty


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