On July 9th, J pod (minus the J11s) came back down from the north via Boundary Pass, were at San Juan Island again and then turned back north in slow moving social groups very close to shore. I saw them from shore in the morning at Lime Kiln State Park when they arrived and then aboard Odyssey of San Juan Excursions later when they had turned around. Cookie J38 and Se-Yi-chn J45 were having some male bonding time offshore of the groups inshore that were full of breaches, tail slaps, spy hops, pectoral fin slaps, and more above water behaviors.
On the 10th, the Js came back down to the island from the north via Rosario Strait. From the cliffs near my house that evening, I could see Sonic J52 breaching, tail slapping, and cartwheeling over and over again offshore. Samish J14, Suttles J40, and Ti’lem I’nges J49 also came very close to shore. They all then headed back north.
On the 11th, J pod (minus the J11s) came down Rosario again but once they were at San Juan Island, they headed offshore and seemed to be leaving the area. Eclipse J41 and her son Nova J51 came over close to shore near my house before they turned and headed far offshore with the other orcas.
On the 12th, the J14s, J19s, and Onyx L87 headed north towards the Fraser while the J16s, J17s, and J22s stayed at the island. From the cliffs near my house at noon, I watched as Slick J16, Echo J42, Scarlet J50, Oreo J22, and Doublestuf J34 socialized and foraged extremely close to shore. At one point, Doublestuf J34 got very excited and began high speed porpoising before doing a crazy back dive like leap! The other four were also very excited. The encounter so intense that I teared up after it was all over!
On the 13th, the J14s, J19s, and Onyx L87 returned to the island from the north. The J16s, J17s, and J22s were still at the island and during the morning I watched Notch J47 as he breached repeatedly from shore. All the Js then met up and headed north. As the Js headed north, L pod (minus the L54s, plus the J11s) arrived at the island at sunset. As I sat on shore with binoculars, I could see the spread out Ls as they made their way over to the island. Far off in the distance was Solstice L89, which meant L12s were making their first appearance at the island. As it got dark, I identified Nugget L55 and Kasatka L82 by moonlight.
On the 14th, I was out under permit with L pod (minus the L54s, plus the J11s) as well as the rest of J pod, who had come back down from the north via Boundary Pass. The encounter summary can be seen on the Center for Whale Research’s blog.
On the 15th, all of J pod was back up north. The L12s (including the L22s) remained at the island while the rest of L pod (minus the L54s) was outbound for the open ocean in Juan De Fuca Strait. I headed out with some friends on this day and we saw Spirit L22 and Solstice L89 off of False Bay first. Out near Hein Bank were Matia L77, Cousteau L113, and Joy L119. The two youngsters seemed to be playing with something but I wasn’t sure until later that evening. Not far away were Calypso L94 and Windsong L121, and Mystery L85 was also in the area. We then moved on to a fin whale that had been sighted near Eastern Bank. Around the fin whale were at least five humpbacks, some close, some off in the distance. It was amazing experience to see the fin whale, which was massive both in its body size as well as the towering mist from its exhale. After a while, most of the humpbacks and even the fin whale began lunge feeding!! This was my first time seeing both types of whales feeding in this way and I was even able to see their baleen! The fin whale would lunge forward on its side with its mouth agape and pectoral fin and fluke sticking out of the water. The humpbacks were doing the same thing, as well as lunging head first out of the water and flick feeding with their flukes.
On our way back to the island, we spotted Ocean Sun L25 and Mega L41 and then saw Joy L119 tossing around a dead harbor porpoise. She and Cousteau L113 were playing with the porpoise earlier in the day near Hein Bank but I had not been sure of what I had seen until now. Cousteau L113 was now gone and Joy L119 was playing with the body all by herself. She would surface with it draped across her rostrum, push it around, toss it, and at one point, she even spy hopped with it in her mouth. The body was negatively buoyant so when Joy L119 would drop it, she would dive deep to retrieve it. This was my second time ever seeing southern residents play with a porpoise. It is an occasional behavior that has been seen for years. The residents do not eat the porpoise like transients do, but instead play with the porpoise until the ‘batteries run out’ and then eventually leave it.
On the 16th, the L12s were still at the island and were joined by J pod. As I stood at the cliffs near my house that morning, I watched as the J11s, J17s, and J22s socialized with the L12s very close to shore. There were many breaches, cartwheels, tail slaps, dorsal fin slaps, pectoral fin slaps, and lots of tactile behavior. Tahlequah J35, Moby J44, Notch J47, and Cousteau L113 were the main breachers and all did it multiple times. Doublestuf J34, Cookie J38, and Mystery L85 were also having some bro time offshore. Later in the day aboard the Odyssey, we caught up with the J16s and then Calypso L94, Cousteau L113, and Windsong L121. Then we got news of more orcas in San Juan Channel and these turned out to be the T37As and T65As. We got on scene with them for a few minutes after they had just passed Turn Island and were pointed down the channel. They were in travel mode and first but then may have gone into resting mode.
On the 17th, J pod was up north, the L12s were still at San Juan Island, and some other Ls were inbound. Aboard the Odyssey, we got to see Cousteau L113, Joy L119, and Windsong L121 goofing off while mothers Matia L77 and Calypso L94 were off foraging. Then, towards the end of the trip, Calypso L94 joined the three young ones and the four of them likely chased a salmon before they gathered together into a tight cuddle puddle. That evening, I watched the L12s again from shore. Solstice L89 foraged close to shore and his mother, Spirit L22, was also nearby. Matia L77, Mystery L85, and Joy L119 were offshore.
On the 18th, J pod was back at the island in the morning and had joined up with the Ls that were inbound the day before and headed north towards the Fraser. The L12s remained at the island and foraged back and forth for Chinook salmon. I hope that all the residents are finding enough salmon wherever they are.