Whalewatchers offshore
Whalewatchers offshore

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Spyhop crop
Spyhop crop

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Breaching group
Breaching group

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Whalewatchers offshore
Whalewatchers offshore

Photo by Ken Balcomb


Encounter Summary: 

After spending much of the past day and a half ‘up north’ in the Georgia Strait/Fraser River entrance area, the spread out and mixed assemblage of J,K, and L pod whales moved south toward the Parker Reef area off Orcas Island and gathered into several groups just as “Chimo” and Ken arrived off Point Doughty, Orcas Island. Two groups of whales moved very close to shore off Terrill Beach and proceeded vigorously along the shoreline, while another group of whales swam parallel to them several hundred yards offshore engaging in “percussive” activity – breaching, pectoral fin and tail slapping, and “cart-wheeling” to the squeals of delight from passengers aboard whale watch vessels that remained even further offshore. There were also excited shouts from the people watching the whales from onshore in this area where the whales rarely visit. The groups of whales were composed of mixed membership with occasionally changing composition, totaling about 60 whales – not all were there, as we know from reports of the “L54’s” and the “L12’s” concurrently off the south end of San Juan Island. Ken photo-documented all of J pod, all but two of K pod (minus K16 and K35), the “19 L’s” that have been travelling together much of the summer.

Particular attention was paid to K25, the famous satellite tagged whale (December 2012-April 2013 http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/cb/ecosystem/marinemammal/satellite_tagging/blog.cfm) that demonstrated two round-trips to central California in near-coastal waters and prolonged travels off the Columbia River entrance and the Washington coast in March 2013. There appears to be some tissue reformation underway on K25’s dorsal fin at the tag site. The tagging has documented the extensive use of near coastal waters by SRKW’s for designating Critical Habitat (see also: http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/cb/ecosystem/marinemammal/satellite_tagging/blog2015.cfm).

A mixture of K and L whales swam southwest around Point Doughty into President Channel as the remaining whales headed west toward Bare Island off Waldron Island before turning and also going southwesterly through President Channel. Just before sunset, “Chimo” and Ken spent some time with L91 her new baby boy, L122. Apparently the NWFSC crew determined the sex of this whale a few days ago, but Barbara Bender kindly provided a confirming photograph she took this evening.

Postscript: These whales travelled through the night and were seen heading west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Jordan River by Mark Malleson the following day, 1 October. By that time, the other whales that were off San Juan Island had joined them. On 2 October the assemblage of J,K, and L whales returned spread out heading easterly near Race Rocks in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, approaching Haro Strait by sunset. In the morning of 3 October, whales were reported in groups off the southwesterly coast of San Juan Island, and will be “encountered” by CWR staff Dave Ellifrit and volunteer Kathy Babiak.







Ken Balcomb

J, K, L

President Channel





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Encounter #83 - Sept 30, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits