Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spring in the San Juan Islands

April 5, 2008- This just in! This week I think we can all officially agree that another Island winter has been put to rest with the bold appearance of spring harbingers. How can I be so sure? Read on...

It was no joking matter when I looked out my front windows April 1rst and immediately did a double take. Were those actually fins in the water? (Our house looks out over the Haro Straits on the west side of San Juan Island). The water was calm as glass and the sun was just beginning to add some warmth to the day. I head out onto the deck and am greeted with one of the most joyous sounds one will ever hear- the exhalation of an orca whale about 100 yards off the shoreline. So it was a fin! But wait, there were more- 4 beautiful whales resting right before my eyes.

In the islands, we have transient killer whales who tend to frequent the waters as well as resident orcas. While both are orca whales, that's about where the similarities end. Orca Network has a great article which you can read here or you may want to check out the local experts over at the Center for Whale Research here:

So at this point, I have no idea if I am watching transients or residents- although I wasn't seeing any seals in the area and these guys were hanging out milling for approx 20 minutes. Upon closer inspection, sure enough- it turns out to be Slick (j-16) and here family- which meant that J pod had returned to the island! (Closer inspection required pulling up my handy whale ID guide and closely reviewing the shapes of the fins and variations of the saddle patches- the guide is also available at the Center. Well, that started off the day well! for the next three hours J Pod headed very slowly north on the west side- not too close to shore but they were back!!
Whale notecards card
Finally taking a break from watching the whales, I suddenly notice a strange and yet vaguely familiar buzzing in my ears- and as I walk out further on my deck I am suddenly strafed by a passing hummingbird!!! Sign number two! (By the end of the day we had hummingbird wars going on at the feeders...smiles!) Yes, I made up the requisite batch of food and the saying "build it and they will come" certainly rang true that day!

Later this same week we would see our first yellow finches and even more inspiring, see the beautiful swallows return to the west side! Spring has Sprung! And as of today, J pod is still in the area, with all present and accounted for (with the exception of J43- who the Center has not been able to find yet...fingers crossed!) Check out the local views of Friday Harbor here!

That's all for now!

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