Friday, August 22, 2008

Southern Resident Orcas Return to the San Juan Islands!

After a weekend of warm, cloudy weather and no whales other than a large group of transients (meat/ marine mammal eating whales) on Sunday, yesterday morning we were treated to reports that there were southern resident orcas on the west side of San Juan Island.  Milling well offshore of False Bay, the whales took their time approaching the Island- but by 11:30 0r 12:00, the first whales could be seen- close to shore and headed North towards the lighthouse.

And what a show we were about to experience- one of the best land based whale watching days so far this year.  We ran to Lime Kiln Lighthouse, known for it's west side viewing opportunities. Luckily, the summer crowds are beginning to dwindle and the parking lot had lots of room! Heading down to the rocks, we could hear the first blows (orca whale exhalations) through the trees. That was just a taste of what was to come!

Once we arrived at our viewing spot on the rocks, we were treated to the first close pass- Ruffles (J1) and some other J's were intermingled with L's- so we knew there were members of two of the three pods here. Traveling close to shore, the whales took their time, making a very slow pass by the shoreline. Granny (J2) was further offshore but in the lead as usual! We saw Faith, Canuck- whales were truly everywhere! But the best was yet to come as we waited out the rest of the whales to see if everyone would head north. This year it has certainly NOT been uncommon for J pod to make a beeline for the Fraser River, leaving any accompanying pods behind! Although there have been some unusual travel patterns with various L's and K's traveling with other pods for long periods this summer.  We crossed our fingers, looked south and waited...and within 1/2 hour the rest of the orcas passed by. And did they pass by!  At least 25 whales made their way into shore- J's and L's intermingled- coming within feet of the rocks at the park. One whale even treated us to a breach within feet of our vantage point. Of course, given the travel patterns this year and very few close passes at the light, I had only brought my 300 mm lens- so the whales barely fit into my pics!!!!  But simply listening to the blows and watching all of their faces rise from the water as the orcas made the pass was enough- sometimes you just have to sit back and take it all in, forgetting the "perfect photo quest."

Southern Resident Orca Calf and Mother Card card
Another spectacular day in the San Juan Islands!Subscribe in a reader


Jeanne said...

...yes, it sure was an awesome day, and you are so right about just listening to the whales. Doesn't it just stay with you?

Sandy Buckley said...

So agreed...Thanks Jeanne! Sandy