Photo by Dave Ellifrit


Photo by Dave Ellifrit

half breach off Landbank
half breach off Landbank

Photo by Dave Ellifrit


Photo by Dave Ellifrit


Encounter Summary: 

Tom Cogan called Dave late morning at home with reports of whales on the west side of San Juan Island. Dave headed down to Snug Harbor and, after evicting a mink who was trying to take up residence in the bow of Orca, left at 1305.Orca arrived on scene with the leaders near Bellevue Pt. at 1318. This was J16 and J50 and they were milling in the calmer tide swept waters near shore. Haro Strait was just a little sloppy more than a half mile offshore. Orca soon left them and went to the next group in line who were the J19's off LandBank. J19, J41, and J51 milled around in that area for about twenty minutes before Orca moved on toward another group of whales near shore off Edwards Point.These whales were J14, J40, J17, J44, J35, J47, J31, and J36 and they were social, tactile and rolling near the shoreline. J28, J46, J37, and J49 were right behind this group and soon joined. J39 and J45 were fooling around together about a hundred yards offshore of the larger group. J26 and the J22's appeared soon afterwards. J26 goofed around with J39 and J45 briefly before joining the larger group. All the J14's, J17's, J22's, J31, J39, J36, and J26 headed north slowly up the LandBank shoreline in a loose group.J2, J27 and L87 were foraging offshore in sloppy seas. A humpback whale was passing south offshore in the area of J27 and L87 and this was reported as being Big Mama again. After a brief effort to move offshore and get photos of J2, Orca headed back north toward the leaders at Bellevue Point. J16, J50, and the J19's were right near the bluff there and J42 soon joined them. J16 and J50 began some really rough play where J16 tossed J50 out of the water a couple of times and pushed her around on her nose a bit. The J19's and three J16's hung out together near Small Pox Bay and Low Island before separating again. The J16's headed north and spread out a little and the J19's temporarily disappeared.Orca left the J16's in Andrews Bay just a little north of CWR at about 1530 to drop back and find other whales. After moving slowly south and a bit offshore into a slight slop that would not go away, Orca found the J19's again who had dropped back and offshore and were still off Sunset Point.Over the course of CWR's last two encounters with the J19's, J51 has been spending a lot more time closer to J41 rather then J19. It is now looking like J41 could very well be the mother of J51 after all and J19 was just providing help in the early days of the calf's life. A few more good encounters with the J19's should clear up the matter. Things like this are not as uncommon as was previously thought and CWR has documented several cases of older females being the closest adult to the brand new calf while the real mother was nearby in the first couple of encounters with the calf. A first time mother was involved in most of the cases. Although we thought J41 was a tad young to have her first calf, this is a classic example of why it is probably wiser to wait for a few encounters before declaring a new mom when two different reproductively aged females are involved with a brand new calf. Sometimes it is quite obvious who a new mother is, sometimes it is not.After leaving the J19's again, Orca found most of the J17's and J31 closer inshore near Sunset Point. The rest of the large inshore group Orca had earlier in the day reappeared and was now spread out in smaller groups in Andrews Bay off CWR. J26 and J34 were a pair and were fooling around with one another. J38 and J44 also paired up and were goofing around inshore of most of the other whales.Up near the north end of Mitchell Bay, most of the J17's, the J19's, and J31 joined up in a tight social group that was spending a lot of time at the surface. J47 laid on his back and J46 briefly rested her chin on his chest. It was nice to see the J19's with the new calf being social with other J pod members as they have spent a lot of time apart from other whales in the last few encounters we have had with them.Around 1700, with the photo ID light failing due to clouds, Dave decided to look for the only two whales he personally hadn't seen yet that day-J27 and L87. Morning Star spotted a bull offshore and pointed Orca in the right direction. This was J27 and he was foraging offshore off the southeast end Sydney Island and was taking very long dives in the shipping lanes. After having to get out of the way of being run over by a huge freighter, Orca spotted another bull even farther to the northwest. This turned out to be L87 and J2 and the two of them were foraging along the edge of a big tide rip as lots of gulls circled in the area about a half mile east of Halibut Island.Orca only stayed with J2 and L87 briefly before making another attempt to get a look at J27. He had faded to the east after the freighter had passed and joined the J19's and a few others. However, J27 himself was not surfacing often and was being very elusive and Dave gave up at 1807 after mere proof of presence photos on him. Orca ended the encounter soon after with all the whales spread out in groups heading northwest mid Haro Strait between Spieden Island and Gooch Island.

Notes-Comments:photos are cropped and crooked horizons straightened







Dave Ellifrit

J pod and L87




J47,J49,J50,J51and L87

Haro Strait





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Encounter #13 - March 24, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits