K pod Victoria skyline
K pod Victoria skyline

Photo by Ken Balcomb

L103
L103

Photo by Ken Balcomb

L55
L55

Photo by Heather MacIntyre

K pod Victoria skyline
K pod Victoria skyline

Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Encounter Summary: 

After leaving the Bigg’s “transient” killer whales off Discovery Island, British Columbia, “Chimo” headed ‘deep’ into the Strait to encounter the southern resident killer whales, AKA SRKW and ‘Orca’, reported inbound in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At this time of year, the resident orcas tend to have a travel pattern from the San Juan Islands out to the Pacific Ocean to herd or follow the next pulse of salmon migrating into the inland Salish Sea to the spawning rivers. As with any mammal, one can learn a lot about their prey distribution and occurrence by thee predator behavior! It’s fairly simple - the orcas patterns are going to revolve around the patterns of their primary food source: Chinook salmon year-round, and Chum salmon in autumn. It’s always great to catch them on the ‘inbound’, since they are generally grouped up within their matrilines and are traveling with beautiful respiratory synchronicity.

 

Even though we’ve been doing this for years, there’s really nothing that compares to seeing 30+ individual orcas lined up, side-by-side behind a fading sunset. It’s hard to focus and get down to getting individual IDs because the intensity of the moment can be mesmerizing! However, as the first individuals surfaced closer to us, the cameras started clicking and the video was turned on. It was time to get to work! One of the first individuals we got the pleasure of identifying was little L122 next to his mother, L91. It’s great to see him keeping up now that the orcas are averaging eighty plus miles of travel per day. All in all, we ended up identifying most of K pod except the K14s (they have been traveling with the J2s since this spring), the L72s, L47s, L4s, and L95. It was definitely a productive evening, and the setting sun gave way to a stunning sunset. Orcas, sunsets, and great company … it doesn’t really get much better than that!

11-Oct-15

2

89

17:00

17:40

Chimo

Ken Balcomb

Heather MacIntyre

K, L Pods

Strait of Juan de Fuca

48.20.47/123.19.2

48.21.952/123.15.163

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Encounter #89 - Oct 11, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 272