On 9/19/14, all of J pod and K pod (minus the K16's?) were in the area, shuffling up and down the shoreline of San Juan Island. Out on the Odyssey, we saw the J17's and J22's in slow resting mode as they made their way north. Blackberry J27 was also moving slow, maybe resting by himself, while his younger brother, Mako J39, was foraging nearby. Also close by were the J16's (Slick J16, Mike J26, Alki J36, and Echo J42) and NOAA, who was trying to D-Tag someone in the family. The four orcas would split up, re-group and split up again, and when the boat would get within tagging distance, Slick , Alki or Echo would throw agitated tail slaps or spy hop high next to the boat. In the evening, all the orcas turned back South and proceeded back down the shoreline of San Juan Island.
During the night, L pod (minus the L54's?) arrived to the area. The next day, J and K pod headed North for the Fraser River while L pod stayed at San Juan Island. Out on the Odyssey, the first orca we identified was Mega L41, who was off foraging for salmon. We left him to it and headed over to a group off in the distance, which turned out to be Pooka L106, Surprise L86, and her new calf L120. Surprise was also foraging a bit and L120 would remain at the surface alone while mom was on deep dives.
While mom was down foraging, the calf worked on its first tail slaps and spy hops and also seemed to be figuring out how to move and surface. However, even when Surprise was up at the surface, the calf was acting rather independent, as it surfaced off by itself a few times instead of with mom. L120's older brother Pooka L106 was nearby but he did not interact with the calf. L120's aunt Ophelia L27 eventually made her way over to the other three and together all four headed North. As we headed back for the dock, we saw Mega again, who had joined up with Ocean Sun L25 while we were away. Solstice L89 and Spirit L22 were also close by.
As we watched the J17's and L43's mingle, Racer L72 spy hopped, either Polaris J28 or Fluke L105 spy hopped, and Star J46 got very active with multiple breaches, cartwheels, tail slaps, and belly flops. I thought that they might have been excited to see Group A (minus the J16's who were alone up in Georgia Strait) and K pod, who had just arrived back at San Juan Island from their trip to the North and were not to far away. That evening, J, K, and L pod did end up all meeting offshore of the West side of San Juan Island.
At the end of our encounter, all four orcas unexpectedly popped up next to us and circled around for a bit, possibly looking for salmon. At one point, Fluke arched his back for a deep dive and lifted his tail high into the air, much like a humpback whale. This behavior, called fluking, is one I have rarely seen the orcas do! Usually when the orcas dive they just arch their backs and disappear beneath the surface.
On the 24th, I headed out with some friends to see if we could find orcas for one of my last encounters before I headed back to college. On my way out to the dock, I spotted a North bound humpback whale known as Split Fin BCZ0298 from shore at Lime Kiln State Park. Another humpback, probably Yogi BCY0409, was up in Spieden Channel too. Once on the boat, we aimed for the South end of San Juan Island, pausing to watch Split Fin for a few minutes. He/she had turned South after I left the park, but was now headed back North again. Soon we were with all of J pod and the K16's offshore of South Beach as they headed North. Granny J2 was in the lead along with Shachi J19, Eclipse J41 and Blackberry J27. Onyx L87 was there too but far off inshore by himself. Next came the J17's, then the J14's, Opus K16 and Sonata K35, Cappuccino K21 and Mike J26, and the J22's. We saw a a spy hop from Granny, a breach from Doublestuf J34, a cartwheel and lots of inverted tail slaps from Cappuccino K21, and lots of tail slaps from Sonata K35.
Near Open Bay, the other orcas slowed down, while Granny J2 continued North. Before long she was a few miles ahead of everyone else, leading the way for the Fraser River. This is a common occurrence, but it makes you realize that she spends a good part of her time alone while in the lead at times. We joined her for a bit before we headed back for the dock. Along the way, we passed all of J pod again and they began to catch up with Granny J2. Just outside Snug Harbor, Split Fin the humpback appeared again, obviously having turned around and headed North from Lime Kiln where we last saw him/her. Split Fin did lots of feeding before turning back South.
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